Believe it or not, bike racing, time trialling in particular, has an interesting (at least to me!) legal history.
In the late 19th century bike racing was becoming increasingly popular, except that is with the police; there are stories of numerous attempts by the police to disrupt races by means which would certainly not meet with approval today. That led to the banning of cycle racing on public roads in 1890. Interestingly the ban was introduced not by the authorities, but by the National Cyclists' Union which feared that if racing on public roads continued the authorities would introduce a ban on all forms of cycling. The racing fraternity were not to be out done and so introduced a form of racing where riders would start one minute apart and race against the clock, the winner being the fastest over the course on the day. It was hoped that this form of racing would be inconspicuous enough to avoid the eye of the police!
Over the years attitudes towards road racing and time trialling softened and today in Scotland there is a busy and flourishing road race and time trialling calendar from February through to October each year. Those races are regulated by a strict legal frame work.
Section 31 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 provides that any person who promotes or takes part in a "race or trial of speed on a public way between cycles" is guilty of a criminal offence unless the race or trial is (a) authorised by and (b) conducted under regulations made under the 1988 Act.
The relevant regulations in Scotland are the Cycle Racing on Highways (Scotland) Regulations 1960 as amended by subsequent regulations in 1982 and 1996. The regulations are complex (and to some outdated) but in summary to be authorised in terms of the 1988 Act, the race or time trial must be notified to Police Scotland twenty eight days in advance. The police have the power to impose conditions on the event in addition to the conditions contained in the regulations. The regulations provide that the maximum number of competitors that can participate in a race (as opposed to a time trial) is 80 (although Scottish Cycling can authorise no more than 84 competitors in two selected races in any one year). There is no limit to the number of competitors in a time trial.The regulations also provide, in relation to a race rather than a time trial, (and this is where they get really complicated!) that (i) where the route is such that the competitors have to pass a point on the road on two or more occasions, the length of the route that must be cycled before the point can be passed again is ten miles and (ii) where any length of the route includes a road on which any speed limit is imposed "by or under any enactment", the length of that road must not exceed one and a half miles and no part of the road must be within three miles "of any part of any other such length" !!
The complex nature of the regulations is widely seen as an unnecessary obstacle to the development of road racing and time trialling in the United Kingdom at a time, ironically, when this country has the top road racing team in the professional cycling world. British Cycling has been working with the Department for Transport over the last couple of years to introduce new and less complex regulations. I understand that the Department for Transport is supporting the change.
Now where is that silly helmet?