Ask a London Policeman?

Cycling home tonight along the Embankment towards Vauxhall Bridge. Lights were red so stationary traffic, with a marked police car at the head. Registration BU60 BND. Motorbike drives into the ASL. When I asked the policemen in the car whether that was illegal, their reply was that it no longer was - since the Mayor, Boris Johnson, now allowed motorbikes to do this. Could not argue as lights were about to change. Cannot find anything on-line to suggest that this reply was correct. Anyone know whether they are up to date or avoiding carrying out their law enforcement duties?

This post was edited by CycleforFun at 02:27pm 09 Dec 2012.


The policemen are badly wrong, and we've forwarded this comment to our contacts in the Met.

Dear LCC - thank you for confirming what I suspected to be the case. There is a webcam on the junction. Presumably the images would be able to confirm that the events described did take place. Happy to give further statement if required. Police need to take cyclists safely seriously.

  • By Sabine at 06:26pm 30 Jun 2012

Would be great to add a link here or on your homepage as even googling for more info on this topic isn't fruitful - as mentioned in the cyclist's post above.

I think if cyclists know where this is written down and accessible then they at least have something to cite when corresponding with the police - since it seems that not all police officers are aware of this either. 

Highway code rules 178 states:



Advanced stop lines. Some signal-controlled junctions have advanced stop lines to allow cycles to be positioned ahead of other traffic. Motorists, including motorcyclists, MUST stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red and should avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times, e.g. if the junction ahead is blocked. If your vehicle has proceeded over the first white line at the time that the signal goes red, you MUST stop at the second white line, even if your vehicle is in the marked area. Allow cyclists time and space to move off when the green signal shows.

[Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10, 36(1) & 43(2)]"

I reall, really wish the police would enfore this one more. I do understand that motorcyclists/mopedists who filter find them a very convenient place to go but I've very often been in situations where a mopedist has filtered to an ASL I've been in and then either left hooked me, or blocked me from making a right turn (even though I've been in the correct road position for said turn and clearly indicated).

Also, (in general) mopedists seem to be far worse road users than motorcyclists. Something to do with motorcyclists having huge safety concerns themselves and not permanently using proviosonal licenses, perhaps?

Riders of powered two-wheelers (mopeds, scooters and motorcycles) filter and move to the front of traffic light queues for much the same reasons cyclists do.  They also share a lot of the vulnerability of cyclists.  However, because PTWs are harder to handle at low speed (ever see one do a track stand?) their strategy for avoiding being squeezed by cars is a bit different.  The safest option for them is to move smartly away from the car.  If there's a cyclist in front of them they can't do this (trust me, you're not quicker), and they are placed in a difficult situation.

So, invading the ASL is not a matter of convenience, but of their own vulnerability.

You're right about some 'mopedists', as you call them.  I think their behaviour may be due in part to the lack of respect given to them on the roads ...

This post was edited by zippertheslipper at 02:10pm 14 Jul 2012.

I disagree here with zipperslipper. Motorbikes can do something very simple...stop. They are perfectly capable of doing this(put it in neutral) and frankly, if you are sitting astride a machine that can do 0-60 in several seconds, then you don't need to be in the ASL as power and acceleration are on your side.

Of course motorcyclists are vulnerable, but remember, a lot ride at 70 mph plus on motorways (don't you just love the way they switch lanes without indicating?) and then feel suddenly 'at risk' in a traffic jam. From what I've seen in London, a lot put themselves at risk by bad riding.

Motorcyclists use the ASL for pure convenience. As for being in a 'difficult situation', I see lots of bikers do this all the time and they are putting themselves at risk. Everytime I work and drive in London I get some bell-end on a huge motorbike who insists on squeezing through the smallest of gaps. A guy on a big motorbike did this to me as I was driving along embankment, he overtook as we got to a traffic island pinch point, causing me to brake suddenly to avoid hitting him. The safest place for any motorbike in stationary traffic is behind the vehicle in front. The ASL definetly needs to be policed more.

I'm sorry, but there's a sizeable chunk of the biking fraternity in London who are just nutters who need to have some more riding lessons.

Yep - as motorised traffic, they do not have any right to move to the front of a queue of traffic - they are part of it and should only overtake when safe to do so  - which incudes there being a safe legal postion on the road for them to move into  - and that place is NOT an ASL

What ever the law says the met police seem to diagree.

At one of the Kings Cross protest I asked a senior bike policeman the same question.

He stated that he (and other policemen) considered it an insignificant offence and was using his deiscretion in not enforcing the road traffic act.

Is this official policy?

I agree with the point about motorcycles, but this is a minor inconvenience compared to four wheel vehicles advancing into the ASL. Metred taxis are the most common culprits in my experience.

@ZipperSlipper - I'm fully aware why PTWs use ASLs and, when done considerately and appropriately I have no problem with it. The problem is the majority of PTW users do not use them considerately and appropriately - using them when they are first at the lights (so it's not a case of filtering and needing something to go), for instance. Or (and this is a situation I have been in many, many times) cyclist turning right sitting centre right at front of ASL (or slightly further back at those junctions where you can't see the traffic lights from the ASL). Directional intention is clear from road position. PTW (usually moped) pulls up from RHS behind with intention of turning left (may or may not be indicating). In such a situation I would always at that point give a clear right turning arm signal (as I would on initial junction approach if being followed) to ensure my intentions are clear. Lights change and PTW tries to t-bone/left hook me causing me (who has priority) to have to change speed and or direction to avoid an accident (for a car driver this would be a major fail on a driving test, I don't know what the case for PTWs is).

What you say about PTWs being different to cyclists is very true - as Captain Nemo said they are on machines with substantially greater accelerative ability than a bicycle. This enables them to accelerate with the traffic without risk or inconvenience to anyone. (Interestingly what you say about cyclists not being faster I often find that not to be the case at junctions - in the first few seconds the cyclist is often faster than the motorised traffic, within the next 10-20 seconds the traffic accelerates away from the cyclist but then the traffic speed either plateaus through the junction or slows down again due to traffic volume and the cyclist catches up.

@Captain Nemo - surely a motorcyclist and a cyclist can fit through a pinch point simultaneously, unless he was going way too fast or his road positioning was massively off.


@Justin Pearce - I kind of agree and kind of disagree. While it's hugely inconvenient when larger vehicles encroach ASLs I think it's less dangerous since there's presumably a lower collision risk (if the cyclist is handling the junction right) since you can effectively block such vehicles from left hooking/tboning you by holding primary position (assuming a scenario where you're in a queue of traffic at junction)

I don't understand many of your responses. TBH.  What has boy racers' behaviour on the motorway got to do with anything?  Are there ASLs on the M1?  And the difficult situation I was referring to was having a car harassing you from behind and a cyclist (sometime deliberately) blocking your escape to the front -- tell me why should we both suffer?  What purpose does it serve to adopt a primary position against another two-wheeled vehicle?

@Helen2000: Why does motorised traffic not have a right to move to the front of the queue?  By what law did non-motorised traffic gain that right?  Whoever made the distinction? Isn't it all just traffic?

I regret we're not all considerate, all of the time, but as I'm sure any decent cyclist would agree, it's a mistake to paint either group of two-wheeled road users with the same brush.

I believe the point about motorways was that you don't get left behind or overtaken by traffic in the way that cyclists do. (And ASLs on the M1 is a plainly ludicrous concept since one of the features of motorways is that you don't have to stop at junctions so there would be no purpose having ASLs (also cyclists, the sole legal users of ASLs are not permitted on the M1)).

When you have a car harrasing you from behind you, unlike the cyclist, are always able to go at traffic speed and, more importantly, accelerate at the same rate as the traffic. In fact I find the very concept of a motorcycle being harrased by drivers in the same way as a cyclist may somewhat unlikely. It's much easier for them to take a primary road position e.g. at a junction without either feeling that they're obstructing taffic or actually aggravating drivers.

Quite frankly PTW riders often put themselves in the position where their escape is blocked. As a cyclist I try to only filter if there's somewhere I can safely go. Whether that's a large gap between the cars ahead, an ASL or, in very very rare cases (usually when I cock up and there's no where else for me to go or a taxi is filling up the asl), ahead of the stop line. Sure I don't get it correct 100% of the time but it's a start (something some PTW users are better at than others). As any good cyclist will tell you an ASL is a facility, not a target - it's there for you to use, but you should only use it when you can do so safely and appropriately. Also as a cyclist if you enter a busy ASL it's much easier for you to maneaouver to an appropriate road position for your intended journey/negotiate with the other cyclists as the lights change than it is for a PTW user. (Some) PTW users will filter on the right approaching a left turn, wait until the lights change and then try and cut accross all the cyclists. It's to protect ourselves from this that we'll often delibrately block you. Sometimes blocking you will be the safest strategy, sometimes letting you thourgh and blocking the traffic behind will be, it depends on the specific conditions but I will always try and do what seems safest and most pragmatic to me. Adopting primary against a PTW can serve a variety of purposes - it can say "please hold off overtaking for a bit mate", eg. if I wouldn't feel comfortable with an overtake or if I'm going to turn right (usually then accompanied with a right signal)(granted it's more of a message in some circumstances, rather than an actualy prevention as it would be with a car). Most often I'd do it when a PTW has pulled up on the right of me and is indicating to turn left or I'm unsure of their direction while I'm going right or straight on. Here aggresive cycling reduces the chances of him (or her) left hooking me or otherwise hitting me as he tries to go left since it forces him to hang back. You almost certainly wouldn't wait in that position if I were a car, so why do it just because I'm not?

I don't know the legal status of what Helen2000 said but I agree with her on this much: PTWs have no legal right to use ASLs (unless they couldn't safely stop at the first stop line when the lights changed) ([Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10, 36(1) & 43(2)]) and, like cyclists, they should only filter when they've got somewhere to go - and that somewhere is not an ASL.

As I said above I'm sympathetic to PTW use of ASLs but it's still illegal and I'm not convinced it's possible to share them particularly safely (short of giving ASLs to PTWs and having AASLs for cyclists :p).

N1 Cyclist:

The particular incident occurred to me whilst driving our little Astra van along embankment. I was in the right hand lane as I had no need to turn left over the bridges. I saw the PTW in my wing mirror and was amazed when he overtook me as we came to a traffic island. He must have had a metre or so space and I had to brake to avoid a collision. Stupid thing to do really, as if he's waited several seconds, there was more than enough room to overtake the other side of the island.

I agree that a cyclist and PTW can get through said pinch points, but it's risky to overtake in this manner when it's a car.

I believe the DoT had an experiment a few years ago with special ASL's designed for PTW and cyclists but it's my understanding that the conclusion was that PTW's are just too big for an ASL (PTW with panniers is almost a smart car) and it would have been expensive to adapt lots of ASL's.

On my last day working in London back in July, I was passing along the embankment when I noted at an ASL coming off a bridge, one solitary scooter rider in the ASL surrounded by a mass of cyclists. I bet he felt a bit sheepish :).

I have noted a lot of PTW riders suffer from a little-known affliction called MGTTF - Must Get To The Front. They made a big song & dance in London about being allowed to use bus lanes but from my experience, a lot ride recklessly, speed and have scant regard for the cycling facilities which seem to be there for convenience.

One day I was manning the site compound gate on Nine Elms Lane waiting for our work crew to return when about 100m away I noted that a recycling lorry had broken down in the bus lane. Along came a bus with PTW behind it, bus moves out of lane to join normal traffic to get around obstruction. Guess what PTW did?. Slams it into lower gear, accelerates and cuts IN BETWEEN broken down lorry and bus.Stupid, just stupid. I thought I was about to witness an accident. The bus driver gave the idiot a good toot on his horn as well.

  • By tricke at 09:30am 17 Aug 2012

Having been a motorcyclist in London for 10 years, I can confirm that  during that time I felt quite vulnerable. The need to be in front of the queue is genuinine as I can found out once when a lorry knocked me down when I was between him and a car in front of me.

I have been cycling in central London for the past 3 years and personally, provided the motorcyclist is respectful that cyclists have priority in ASL, I dont have an issue with their use.

I feel the same way when I ride my bike in pedestrian areas (whether I have a right to be there or not). Providing due respect and right of way is given to pedestrians, there shouldnt be a problem. Unfortunately, some cyclists that disregard everyone else put us all in a bad light.


  • By Sabine at 07:04pm 16 Sep 2012

@ N1 Cyclist: Thanks for posting the Highway code rule for using ASLs back in July.

Now what needs to happen for the police to enforce it and fine PTW and cars when they use it inappropriately? 

I have never seen anyone getting fined for it, ever.

This content was deleted by CycleforFun at 07:44am 22 Sep 2012.

  • By Ben at 02:01pm 09 Dec 2012

The finer points of the Highway code are, of course, fascinating as ever, but they are rarely any use when it comes to understanding traffic flow and road use.

The broad brush attacks on motorbike riders are also unhelpful - they start to sound very similar to the broad brush attacks on 'hooligan cyclists'.

Understanding the reasons why motorbikes use ASLs might help. As someone who has ridden motorbikes for about 20 years, 8 years of which was spent as a courier, when I used to switch to the pushbike circuit every summer, I have a fairly good idea of the position for both motorbikes and pushbikes.

Motorbikes and pushbikes can and will both overtake queues of traffic. Trying to insist that motorbikes shouldn't do this while cyclists should is futile and hypocritical.

No matter how many times you insist that a motorbike has no need to get ahead of traffic at the lights, believe me, it feels safer that way, and motorbikes DO have a similar urge not to be caught beside traffic at the lights as pushbike riders do. This is based on both perceived, and very real risks of death and injury.

Given the desire as a motorbike rider to stay safe, we will always try to get in front of the cars at the head of the queue, even if this means going through the stop line. I always did the same thing as a cyclist (before ASLs existed), and I'd do the same again. I believe many cyclists will go through the stop line, advanced or otherwise, in this way, for the same very good reason of staying safe.

Similarly, the argument that motorbikes can accelerate faster, and therefore can just wait alongside the traffic till the lights turn green is nonsense. Most junctions have an island, and almost all have a stream of oncoming traffic when the lights change.

The argument that motorbikes do 70 on the motorway is just bizarre - don't get it at all.

Personally, when the only available way of reaching a position where I feel safe is into an ASL, I don't hesitate to use it, but taking the attitude of a guest rather than a resident. Where possible, I just poke my front wheel in, enough to block the car at the head of the queue.

Trust me, motorbike riders will always do this, no matter how much you dissect the highway code, no matter how much you make spurious arguments from a position of zero experience, about how motorbikes shouldn't filter, are at no risk from bigger vehicles, or have no need to do this that or the other. Far better to understand the motives of those you share the road with than shout about the rules from the back of an ambulance.


  • By Ben at 02:06pm 09 Dec 2012

This content was deleted by Ben at 02:28pm 09 Dec 2012.

  • By Ben at 02:07pm 09 Dec 2012

When people ride scooters, for some reason, they seem to feel a strong urge to go ALL THE WAY into the ASL, even when they arrive first to the lights. People who cycle regularly may be able to tell me whether this is different from people on motorbikes, but it seems to be.

Are there any scooter riders here who can explain? I can't work it out.

  • By Ben at 02:27pm 09 Dec 2012

This content was deleted by Ben at 02:28pm 09 Dec 2012.

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