Riding within the Law
The following information and tips have been compiled for the benefit of those visiting from outside the U.K.
Whilst we have tried to ensure the information is accurate, we cannot be liable for any inaccuracies.
It’s the Law…
It is advisable to have a quick read through the U.K. Highway Code before arriving in Scotland. Whilst the Highway Code is not in itself “Law,” failure to comply with the Highway Code probably refers to contravening some Road Traffic Law or at least a failure to comply would be evidence against a rider in any prosecution involving careless or dangerous driving.
It is important to note that references to ‘road’ in the Highway Code and legislation generally include footpaths, bridleways and cycle tracks, and many roadways and driveways on private land (including many car parks). In most cases, the law will apply to them and there may be additional rules for particular paths or ways. Some serious driving offences, including drink-driving offences, also apply to all public places, for example, public car parks.
Drive on the left
In the U.K. we drive/ride on the left-hand side of the road. Whilst this is stating the obvious, there are areas in Scotland where traffic volume is exceptionally light and returning to the carriageway after a photo stop, for example, one can be faced with an empty road and without traffic to remind a rider, it is easy to forget where you are and set off on your usual side of the road.
Helmets require to be worn and securely fixed (straps fastened) at all times, whilst on a motorcycle on the public road – rider and pillion passenger. Failure to comply will lead to a fine.
The speed limits in the UK are generally 30 m.p.h. for towns, 60 m.p.h. for single carriageways and 70 m.p.h. for dual carriageways and motorways. There are other posted limits so watch out for signs as some built-up areas can vary from 20 m.p.h. to 40 m.p.h. and some motorways/dual carriageways have 50 m.p.h. limits. Speed enforcement is carried out by Uniformed Police Officers using many methods, AND both static GATSO Radar units and mobile Laser units (usually fitted with video and installed in vans). Excessive speeding (say +100 m.p.h.) will lead to disqualification from driving and could lead to visitors being arrested, detained and taken to court the following day.
Drinking and driving is a serious offence in the U.K. and visitors will be arrested and taken to court the following day for drink driving offences. You MUST NOT drive in Scotland with a breath alcohol level higher than 22 microgrammes/100 millilitres of breath or a blood alcohol level of more than 50 milligrammes/100 millilitres of blood.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the limits are a little higher at 35 microgrammes/100 millilitres of breath or a blood alcohol level of more than 80 milligrammes/100 millilitres of blood. Some suggest you could have a couple of small glasses of wine or a couple of small bottles of beer, however, we can only advise not to drink alcohol during your bike riding time and avoid drinking a lot at night if you are riding the bike early in the morning.
Any Police Officer in uniform can require a rider to provide a specimen of breath for a breath test. If you fail to provide the specimen or refuse to provide a specimen you can be arrested and as a visitor to the country with no fixed U.K. address, you could be detained overnight and taken to court the next day. If you provide a breath specimen and this shows you to be over the legal limit, you will be arrested and taken to a nearby police station where you will be required to provide a 2nd breath sample which will be analysed by a calibrated machine. If this machine shows you are under the limit you will be free to go, however, if the accurate test shows you are over the legal limit you are likely to be detained overnight and taken to court the next working day.
The courts have the power to disqualify you from driving whilst in the U.K. and to give you a substantial fine. Now it’s not all bad news, Scottish Police Officers are generally good folk and other than in the following cases:
- Causing Death by Dangerous or Careless driving
- Extreme Speed
- Drink (or Drugs) & Driving
you are unlikely to be arrested and locked up for motoring offences. In fact, should you treat the Police Officer with respect and be polite there is more chance they will explain the nature of the offence a visitor has committed and then send them off with a warning.
A uniformed Police Officer can require you to produce your Driver’s Licence and evidence of your use of the motorcycle being covered by a policy of insurance, but if you cannot the law allows you to produce these documents at a police station of your choice within 7 days. However you will have your driver’s licence with you (or we would not have allowed you to rent the bike) and the police officers will be able to check the motorcycle is insured, by accessing the Motor Insurers’ Database, from the motorcycle registration number.
Generally, Scottish Police Officers do not go out on patrol equipped with firearms and the regulations governing the ownership of firearms by members of the public are quite strict. Therefore the attitude and expectations of the police to motorists are different from say the USA. A Patrol Officer in a vehicle will signal to you by flashing their Blue Lights, flashing their left indicator and maybe with a few seconds of the siren. You should acknowledge this signal by indicating left and looking for a safe spot to stop by the nearside (left in Scotland) of the roadway. In the USA a motorist should not leave their vehicle but should remain seated with their hands on the wheel, in full view of the Officer. However, in the U.K., if it is safe to do so, a motorist should stop their vehicle, park it safely then walk back to the police vehicle. We use this merely to illustrate cultural differences in an unarmed society. Motorcyclists should stop and get off their machine, this indicates they are not about to ride off as soon as the police officer leaves their vehicle to walk towards them. It would be taken as being polite to remove one’s crash helmet if a full-face helmet is being worn.
To drive a motorcycle in the U.K. you require a driver’s licence which entitles you to drive a motorcycle in your home country. As suggested above, carry this with you. If your licence does not have an integral photograph of the licence holder, furnishing your passport, although not a requirement, will be of assistance to any Police Officer.
Should you fail to comply with a red traffic light or speed and be detected by Camera or should you park where parking is not permitted, the ticket (Fixed Penalty Notice) will be sent to the registered keeper of the motorcycle (us). We are legally obliged to complete the ticket by stating who had rented the bike at the time the ticket was issued. You will be held responsible for any “tickets” you receive during your rental period. Unlike many countries in the world, there are NO on-the-spot fines. Police Officers might issue a ticket or warn you they are reporting a matter to the court. They will NOT ask for any money. They have no power to demand money for a fine and all “tickets” are paid either by calling into or posting to the address on the ticket. Even if you are admitting you have broken the law and wish to pay the “ticket,” the Police Officer cannot take your money.
Your use of a motorcycle requires to be covered by a policy of insurance. You will have this cover as part of your motorcycle rental. Any machine over three years old requires to have a Vehicle test certificate (M.O.T. certificate). All of our machines are late model machines and unless you have specifically asked us to source an earlier model, our machines will not require an M.O.T. certificate. Each machine is issued with a registration document (Form V5) and this is retained by the owner (Motorrad Central Scotland). So basically all you need to worry about are your valid driver’s licence and passport.
Tyres and bulbs
Whilst our machines are fully serviced and checked over with you before you leave on them, tyres can be damaged and bulbs can fail. It is your responsibility to ensure you check your rented bike every day and make sure all parts and accessories are working correctly. Replacement bulbs (where applicable) are readily available at most petrol stations and in larger supermarkets as well as automotive stores.