Ticket (not) to ride


‘In Europe po­lice can seize your bike and hold it’

Rid­ing on the con­ti­nent is usu­ally a very en­joy­able way of spend­ing your sum­mer, but if your sou­venirs in­clude a speed­ing ticket can you safely ig­nore the penalty, and what hap­pens if you can’t? The short an­swer is no. Lo­cal law ap­plies to you, wher­ever you are. Whether you are ad­ven­ture bike rid­ing in Morocco, or boule­vard cruis­ing in Paris you are in some­one else’s coun­try, their rules ap­ply. As a gen­eral propo­si­tion, for­eign fines should not worry you overly, un­less they are in­curred within the Euro­pean Union coun­tries. In the EU some of the lo­cal po­lice forces have the right to im­pound your bike on the spot. For ex­am­ple in most Euro­pean ju­ris­dic­tions if you have a for­eign reg­is­tered bike, un­less you can pro­duce proof of own­er­ship (i.e. a V5) the po­lice can seize your bike and hold it un­til you prove you are the law­ful owner. This is not a real risk, in re­al­ity, be­cause most for­eign po­lice of­fi­cers do not want to be deal­ing with a monoglot Bri­ton and hold­ing his or her bike in their cramped po­lice garage. How­ever you can be fined in­clud­ing on the spot speed­ing fines that can run into thou­sands of Eu­ros. A few years ago you could fairly safely ig­nore for­eign fines. Un­less the po­lice seized your bike, they had very lit­tle re­course. They were en­force­able, but they were so dif­fi­cult to en­force that few coun­tries both­ered. How­ever, the process is now sim­pli­fied. The au­thor­ity sim­ply writes to the UK DVLA who then en­force the for­eign fine as though it was one of our own Bri­tish fines, usu­ally through Mag­is­trates’ En­force­ment Agents who are re­mark­ably per­sis­tent if they think you are good for the money. There­fore if you do get a fine from a for­eign force, pay it. Do keep proof that you have paid the fine. How­ever, there is one glim­mer of hope: if you had a lo­cal li­cence you would have points but there is no method of putting points from a for­eign of­fence onto a Bri­tish li­cence. If go­ing abroad it is worth fa­mil­iaris­ing your­self with the cul­tures of for­eign forces. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, for ex­am­ple, the Swedish po­lice are ab­so­lutely rig­or­ous on small but ob­vi­ous de­fects on for­eign bikes. Swe­den is a coun­try where you need to have your GB em­blem on your bike, and fun­nily enough get­ting a GB sticker in Upp­sala is not easy. Dark vi­sors are il­le­gal ev­ery­where in the EU, but it has never both­ered me. If it is sunny, I ride with a dark vi­sor but al­ways carry a clear vi­sor. It is worth check­ing with the em­bassy web­site of any coun­try you pro­pose to go to check lo­cal rules. A google search tak­ing you to the of­fi­cial driv­ing ad­vice site is a good way of avoid­ing po­ten­tial pit­falls. For ex­am­ple in Spain, if you wear con­tact lenses you are obliged to carry spec­ta­cles. So the rules are sim­ple enough. Make sure you can pro­duce all your doc­u­ments, have a GB sticker, ride with cour­tesy (even if briskly) and if you in­cur the wrath of the lo­cal po­lice, know you can be fined and fines can be en­forced.

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