“But officer, I was only scooting my bike”

 

Question: Is it legal or technically illegal to “scoot” your bike on a pavement? Scooting is what you can see the adorable granny doing in the video above (thanks @yvessalmon for sharing!)

  • Totally fine! I do it all the time
  • Illegal! I know I may be fined for this

This was the question posed to me by Cas via email. Cas was stopped by two PCSO’s after scooting through Smithfield Market.

It was time to refer to my wonderful Twitterers for answers.

They pointed me to the ultimate website for answers to the questions that begin with “Is it legal to….” – the UK Cycle Rules blog.

Inside the blog was this post on riding on footpaths which says:

“freewheeling or standing on one pedal still counts as riding. (DPP v Selby [1994] RTR 157, 162; Crank v Brooks [1980] RTR 441, 442-3)”

The judgement stated:

"In my judgment a person who is walking across a pedestrian crossing pushing a bicycle, having started on the pavement on one side on her feet and not on the bicycle, and going across pushing the bicycle with both feet on the ground so to speak is clearly a ‘foot passenger’. If for example she had been using it as a scooter by having one foot on the pedal and pushing herself along, she would not have been a ‘foot passenger’. But the fact that she had the bicycle in her hand and was walking does not create any difference from a case where she is walking without a bicycle in her hand. I regard it as unarguable the finding that she was not a foot passenger "

A couple of readers also talked about friends who had received a fine.

Definitely illegal then. I imagine however, you’d have to be caught by a fairly grumpy or “by the book” policeman to receive the fine.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

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30 Responses to “But officer, I was only scooting my bike”

  1. Joff 26/01/2012 at 10:27 am #

    Ok, so is it all about where your feet are? If they’re on the pavement then you’re a pedestrian, if they’re on one or more pedals, you’re riding the bike?

    What about if you’re sitting on your seat but with your feet on the ground, propelling yourself by “walking”, albeit with your body sat on the bike.

    • Andreas 26/01/2012 at 10:32 am #

      Love this comment Joff – I guess this is why lawyers get paid so much. I believe if you are sat on the seat you are technically riding your bike. If you are just thinking of ways to avoid a fine then A) Obviously, don’t do it in the first place! B) Refuse to give any details such as name, address to the police. Correct me someone if I’m wrong but you are completely within your right to do that!

      • Joff 26/01/2012 at 10:48 am #

        I’m just thinking of ways to be a nuisance…

        So what about sitting “side saddle” on the crossbar, going downhill using only gravity? :P

        • Andreas 26/01/2012 at 11:32 am #

          You are being a nuisance!

      • Dave 26/01/2012 at 11:52 pm #

        If the police officer says they are reporting you for an offence (eg cycling on the pavement) then you are required by law to provide your name and address. If you don’t do this you’ll make things a lot more difficult for yourself. You are only not required to if they don’t want to report you for an offence (eg if they just stop and search you, and then let you go).

        • Andreas 27/01/2012 at 12:59 am #

          Thanks for clarification Dave!

        • Ellesar 31/01/2012 at 7:13 pm #

          How true Dave – I once spent an hour in a cell at Snow Hill police station for exactly that!

  2. grobelaar 26/01/2012 at 10:29 am #

    But what is the legal status of a scooter? Or perhaps a skateboard?

    They’re not bikes. I think to ban skateboards the local council needs to pass bi-laws preventing their use in specific areas.

    Is the bicycle defined in law, can it’s status change depending upon how the person is using it.

    • Andreas 26/01/2012 at 10:33 am #

      According to the article on the UKCycleRules blog if you are riding on a pavement next to the road then that would automatically be illegal. But, paths that are off the road are more complicated – that is when the Bi-laws come into effect and in most locations you’ll see a sign telling you cycling and skateboarding is illegal.

      • Joff 26/01/2012 at 10:50 am #

        Interestingly, a pavement near me had a white line painted down the middle. So the day prior, it was illegal to ride on the pavement but this bit of paint makes it legal.

        Still doesn’t stop pedestrians walking on the bicycle side of the pavement :-\

  3. Beth A 26/01/2012 at 10:38 am #

    Not a problem for those of us that ride fixies! (^_-)-*

    @grobelaar Think most places have bylaws to prevent stuff like skateboarding anyway. Councils (and lots of the general public) seem to hate skaters!

  4. hjwatso1 26/01/2012 at 12:19 pm #

    It’s sort of just common sense that “scooting” your bike or sitting on it and pushing it using your feet are not acceptable on the pavement. No offence, but it was a stupid question asked. You really shouldn’t be cycling if you have to ask it.

    • Joff 26/01/2012 at 12:39 pm #

      What if the electric bicycle and you’re riding without pedalling, using only battery power? Would you not be classed the same as a mobility scooter which (I believe) can be used on the pavement?

      • Andreas 26/01/2012 at 12:46 pm #

        You are having a field day with this one Joff!

      • Garryq 27/01/2012 at 3:50 pm #

        Isn’t an electric bike you can ride without pedalling a motorbike?. Electric bicycles are power assisted, not entirely power driven.

        • Joff 27/01/2012 at 4:24 pm #

          Good point. I’m trying to find the differences (aside of the obvious form factor) between a mobility scooter (legal to use on pedestrianised areas) and a bicycle (illegal). My thinking was a bicycle powered in the same way and with the same speed as a mobility scooter would therefore be legal to ride on pavements.

          Failing that, can an able-bodied person use a mobility scooter on the pavement? And what/who regulates what qualifies as a mobility scooter? There are a number of videos on YouTube of petrol-converted mobility scooters… ;)

    • Joff 26/01/2012 at 12:51 pm #

      Lol, its a conversation I’ve had with others (non cyclists) so I’m interested to see where this one goes :)

      • Andreas 26/01/2012 at 1:38 pm #

        Sounds like a down the pub conversation!

        • Joff 26/01/2012 at 2:50 pm #

          Pretty much spot on!

    • Menno 31/01/2012 at 8:21 pm #

      hjwatso1, it was not a stupid question at all, as it’s important to know where you stand/scoot/cycle in the eyes of the law.

      For example, if a footpath is not by the side of a road then it is not illegal to cycle or scoot on it.

  5. Philippa 26/01/2012 at 4:12 pm #

    Oop! I did this past a couple of pc’s in my regular “scooting” spot on my commute, where I hop off to beat the one-way system and am usually running late for my train. I remember thinking smugly “I’m allowed, not riding!”. Wrong…

  6. Lex 26/01/2012 at 4:25 pm #

    I’ve seen people do this to go through red lights, but using the bike as a scooter doesn’t mean that normal rules and traffic flows don’t apply…. it just winds me up that people think laws can be bent because they have found some silly exploit… even if it isn’t covered by the letter of the law, clearly the spirit is that you aren’t meant to ride on a pavement or through red lights, and for good reason, so just be patient and follow the damn rules.

  7. PaulM 27/01/2012 at 2:01 pm #

    There is a more positive way of looking at this, looking again at the judgement in Crank v Brooks in terms of what was being prosecuted.

    If you come to a red traffic light, you should stop, but: assuming that it is safe to do so you could dismount, and start walking along with your bike (normal walking mechanism, ie both feet on the ground and never more than one foot off the ground at any one time) until you are the other side of the traffic light area and can remount.

    For example, if you are stopped by the lights on Holborn in the Red Lion Square area, just short of Kingsway heading west, waiting for the merging traffic from Procter St, you might take the view that as a cyclist staying close to the kerb it would be perfectly safe for you to carry on – the junction only offers traffic a right turn, no-one can pass in front of you. It would be illegal to continue cycling but you could hop off, walk about 10 metres, and then hop on again. Crank v Brooks has you covered.

  8. Bobbyjohn 28/01/2012 at 12:21 am #

    I was a police officer for twenty years and never ‘did’ anyone for cycling on the pavement. I often had occasion to advise people about riding safely amongst pedestrians. I’m a cyclist myself and quite often ride (safely) on the pavement if I feel the road/traffic situation is potentially dangerous. As for people scooting, I would not embarrass myself or them by wasting their time.

    • Andreas 31/01/2012 at 12:03 pm #

      The voice of reason!

      • Cyclist 31/01/2012 at 4:02 pm #

        apart from the bit about riding amongst pedestrians, yes

        • Joff 31/01/2012 at 5:37 pm #

          But mobility scooters mix with pedestrians without issue.
          In my opinion, cyclists should exercise caution and cycle responsibly when on the public highway or on the pavement.

          If a high street is packed full of pedestrians, common sense (to me) says you’re not going to get through on a bike doing 10mph.
          If you’re approaching a hairy section of road and pavements can easily accommodate a bicycle and pedestrians (some cities have shared usage pavements, I’m not sure if London has these) then why not use the pavement for part of the journey?

  9. LondonCyclist 01/02/2012 at 11:04 am #

    “why not use the pavement for part of the journey?”

    because it is, for the most part, unlawful. there are some shared usage sections in London (including one very weird one that opened today in Kensington), but not very many.

    • Joff 01/02/2012 at 3:36 pm #

      But what I’m trying to ascertain is what makes it unlawful for human-powered bicycles when the pavement is legally shared by motorised mobility scooters and pedestrians.

  10. Bobbyjohn 01/02/2012 at 11:57 pm #

    Riding on pavements unlawful?… Yes. But so is vehicular speeding, talking/texting on mobiles whilst driving and driving without due care and attention aka dangerous driving and in extreme cases causing death by dangerous driving. With all this in mind then I will if I have to, cycle on the pavement in a safe and courteous manner so as to protect myself from injury, serious injury or death. It’s called self preservation and as I stated earlier in my twenty years as a police officer I never did anyone for cycling on the pavement. Only gave advice on how to do it safely. It’s called discretion and common sense.

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