by Dave Sutton
Occasionally when cycling you may come across signs like this. Do you know the differing legal status between them? Conflict with other users of the path can arise, due to lack of understanding of the legal status of such signs.
Although The Highway Code shows many of the signs commonly in use, a comprehensive explanation of our roads signing system is given in the Department of Transport’s booklet “Know Your Traffic Signs”, which is available to view online and on sale at booksellers. The booklet also illustrates and explains the vast majority of signs the road user is likely to encounter.
Page 9 of the Know Your Signs booklet states;
“Blue circles generally give a mandatory instruction, such as “turn left”, or indicate a route available only to particular classes of traffic, e.g. buses and cycles only.”
“Red rings or circles tell you what you must not do, e.g. you must not exceed 30 mph, no vehicles over the height shown may proceed.”
“Blue rectangles are used for information signs except on motorways where blue is used for direction signs”
The “Know your Traffic Signs” booklet, will include the words “Must or Must Not” if there is a legal requirement to observe a traffic sign.
On page 36 of the Know Your Signs booklet is the Cyclists Dismount sign with the wording “Pedal cyclists to dismount at end of, or break in, a cycle lane, track or route”
So by not including the words “Must or Must Not” on the cyclists dismount blue rectangular sign, the implication is that the sign is for information only, unlike the red Circle “Cycling Prohibited” which is mandatory.
The likely legal interpretation of the Blue Cyclists Dismount signs are clarified on Cycling UK’s website which states;
“The legal status of a ‘cyclists dismount’ sign depends on the type of sign. Where there is a ‘cyclists dismount’ sign with a bicycle in a red circle, the instructions are mandatory under s.36 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. If not, the signs are advisory and there is no legal obligation to follow them. They may, however, signal a significant increase in the risk of danger, so this does not mean they can be safely ignored. A failure to dismount could be taken into account if there were a collision. When considering the rights of the police to fine road users, it is also worth remembering that the police can fine a road user for anti-social behaviour. In some situations, this could justify fining a cyclist for riding through a ‘cyclists dismount’ sign”.
So why are the signs there on both the bridge and the railway crossing you may well ask? Well, that’s because like all things that are controlled by Government, there is of course a standard to which road signs are placed.
The law for traffic sign placement is contained in the Statutory Instrument (SI) “2016 No. 362 ROAD TRAFFIC The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016”
This legislation details the legal status of such signage, page 205 of the SI shows the cyclists dismount sign and the cyclists rejoin carriageway sign in two variants along with the wording “Diagram 966 Pedal cyclists to rejoin main carriageway or dismount at the end of, or at a break in, a cycle track or route”
The Traffic Signs Manual is a UK government publication on traffic signs giving guidance on the above SI to Highway Authorities. Chapter 3 page 155 para 17.37 it states.
“The sign to diagram 966 (CYCLISTS DISMOUNT) may be used together with the sign to diagram 965, or on its own. The sign should be provided only where cyclists are required to use a pedestrian crossing facility that they cannot legally cycle on, at the entrance to a pedestrian area, at a location with a low headroom or width restriction (e.g. a subway or bridge) or at places where visibility is restricted to such an extent that cycling would be unsafe (see also para 5.8)”.
On that basis the Cyclists Dismount signs at the Newhaven Swing Bridge, would appear to be denoting the end of the shared use path where it becomes the bridge.
If the path at the side of the bridge is a footway, and not a cycle route, then of course cycling on it is illegal in contravention of the Section 72 of Highway Act 1835.
The legal status of riding on the pavement across the river bridge is unknown, as the footbridge is not defined as a public right of way on ESCC Rights of Way map. So in conclusion, the signs on Newhaven Swing Bridge are not a mandatory dismount for cyclists, however cycling across the bridge may be depending on the status of the pavement. As such this is very confusing.