Stop at Red? The Ethics and Politics of Cyclist Red Light Running

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A new campaign has been launched in the UK called Stop at Red encouraging cyclists to sign up to ‘pledge’ their obedience to traffic signals. This campaign raises a whole host of issues for me.  I think it is well intentioned but unfortunately wholly misguided.  I guess I should start out by saying that I run red lights all the time, routinely, and I’m not ashamed of it and I won’t apologize for it.  Of course I never take anyone else’s right of way, and I only run the light if there’s no one coming.   There are a hell of a lot of lights in Bristol that seem to stay red for no particular reason.  Everyone just sits and waits.  We’re very well trained.

The sponsors of this campaign are confusing safe behaviour with law-abiding behaviour.   You can follow every law and still put yourself in a terribly dangerous position (i.e. in the door zone).   By the same token, you can slow and look around carefully at red lights and stop signs and proceed when no one is coming and you’ll likely never get into trouble.   Blindly following the law is a recipe for getting hurt on your bike.  Better to trust your own hearing, sight, and instincts than the government’s rigid idea of ‘health and safety’ which is quickly spiraling out of control, as evidenced by the recent replacement of a Guy Fawkes Bonfire with a video of a bonfire in Devon.

Cyclist red light running to me falls into the category of a victimless crime.  If a cyclist runs a light and no one’s coming, who is harmed?   The moral sensibilities of the people sitting in their cars at the light?  Please.  Where’s the habeus corpus here, people?

I think it is a noble goal to have every road user obey the law and get along great, but unfortunately we live in a society where the needs of one class of road user are prioritised at the expense of more vulnerable road users.   Cyclists are consistently hit, threatened, maimed, their air polluted, environment degraded, and then we say, oh you must EARN the respect of the car driving classes and they may offer you a few more crumbs off the table.  This is a little like saying to oppressed minorities, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” or “if you only acted in x, y, z ways you’d be equal, and all the -isms would vanish”

You know what- look at crosswalks- pedestrians running red lights is rampant.   Why isn’t anyone running a campaign to “improve the image of pedestrians” or raise the lowly image of the pedestrian as a “social out group”?  Of course this sounds ridiculous, about as ridiculous as this ‘stop at red’ campaign would sound to the Dutch, where cycling is a normal part of life that practically everyone engages in.

How did cyclists gain an equal, even elevated status in the Netherlands?   It wasn’t from some preachy campaign to encourage Dutch cyclists to follow the law.  No, it was because air pollution and gridlock was becoming so bad in the 1970’s that the population, and their politicians said enough is enough.  As car traffic was restricted, cycling and walking were prioritized. Now the Dutch have some of the most accessible, livable city centres in the world.   We can only hope that our pols here in the UK see the same light.

Cyclists in the Netherlands are some of the most law abiding in the world.  Why?  Because the law is reasonable and the government treats cyclists as if they have a right to the road.   In order to level the transport playing field, cyclists and pedestrians must be prioritized on account of the sheer physical weight, speed, and danger of cars– their parasitical effect on the body of urbanity.

Cycling groups such as the CTC have led the fight for cyclists to be treated the same as vehicles on the road.   These rights have been hard fought and won.   But being treated the same as a vehicle is a double edged sword, and the sharp end is hurting cyclists more than ever, I would argue.  Cyclists have de jure access to the entire road network (aside from motorways) yet more and more roads are de facto off limits to cyclists and pedestrians.   This is an extremely serious problem in rural England, where villagers who have walked or cycled along country lanes for years now find themselves excluded because of the rapidly growing traffic.  And of course these people often drive as a result, adding to the problem.  Exclusion of anyone not burning petroleum on our ‘public’ rights-of-way while our Arctic ice caps are melting is a scandal and injustice of epic proportions.

The bicycle is a kind of a hybrid animal– somewhere between a pedestrian and a vehicle, and we need to treat it as such.   Blaming cyclists for driving the wrong way down a one way street or running a stop light is a little like telling pedestrians to walk one-way on pavements.  Let’s stop trying to fit the round peg of cycling into the square hole of overly regimented traffic regulations.

The bottom line is that red lights and other rigid, auto based traffic rules are only necessary to keep the awkward and clumsy movements of cars packed into an urban area from killing and maiming more than they already do.  Why should cyclists, who aren’t the cause of this madness, be caught up in the same wide net as cars?  The solution is not to campaign for cyclists’ obedience to traffic lights, but to change the law to better reflect the reality of our transport systems.   In Idaho, the law allows cyclists to treat stop signs like yield signs and red lights like stop signs.  What a sensible idea.  Let’s focus our energies on the suitability of our laws rather than putting our energy into preachy campaigns that blame the victim.

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102 responses to “Stop at Red? The Ethics and Politics of Cyclist Red Light Running

  1. Well put and I couldn’t agree more. A bike is a bike, not a car.

    I tried for a few weeks to stop at every light and stop sign but I slowly came to the realization that it was safer to stay moving and visible.

    If a vehicle would have to alter it’s speed or course to avoid me, I don’t do it. It’s that simple and it keeps me safe out on the road.

  2. David, yes I agree with you that sometimes it’s safer to keep moving- especially if it puts you well ahead of the roaring traffic when the light turns green. However I have to disagree with you on your last point. Taking over the lane when its too narrow to share leaves little ambiguity that any cars wishing to pass must use the next lane. Lane positioning is perhaps the most important way to let drivers know your intentions- more important than, say, hand signals.

  3. ha, I didn’t even think of that. I guess I was thinking more of intersections. But you’re right, and when it gets narrow or I need to make a turn across the lanes you can bet I’m right out there.

    Thanks!

  4. ah men Josh!

    i’m so sick of preachy campaigns but hadn’t quite put my finger on the right adjective to describe them.

    Muni buses have been covered with these “helpful” warnings about getting lights and not riding too close to cars. Why don’t gas stations sell bike lights then, because I can’t find a place to get a replacement bike light after 7pm in this “bike-utopia” city… why doesn’t energy go into that instead of the preachy ad…?

    any way — I love reading your blog. Miss you here in San Francisco.

  5. Hey Arena!! Good to hear from you- I miss y’all in SF badly- I would hop on the next plane back there for a visit, but I kinda made this pledge…..

    Congratulations of defeating Prop. H in SF!! The last thing SF needs is more parking! May the Don Fishers of the world be forced to work in sweatshops until their hands bleed. xJ

  6. I am proud to regularly break red lights and cycle the wrong way on one ways streets. I see it as a form of morally acceptable civil disobedience in the face of car induced gridlock.

    I live in the very dangerous cycling environment of Oxford- supposedly one of the great bicycle cities. On our tight mediavel roads, the dangers come from cars and bikes all moving at the same time. Starting when the way is clear but before the light is green is a major contrbution to overall road safety. It is one of the few ways that cars and bicycles can be kept separated for a while and the bicycles can get ahead of the bottlenecks. It is a positive favour to car drivers too because it saves them time.

    But I sympathise with the perception that cyclists are breaking the law. I would strongly support some kind of acceptance of different rules for when to start. Similarly there is no reason why some one way streets cannot legally permit contraflow cyclists.

    But there is also a weight of numbers issue too. Cyclists rule in the Netherlands because there are enough of them to capture the road and they all break red lights.

    So come on cyclists- join in the resistance and let’s set our own rules.

  7. I’m another confirmed cyclist – primarily in London – who never learnt to drive, but I don’t think I agree with this article. It seems that the arguments made here for allowing cyclists discretion to jump red lights (or for them simply doing it without anyone’s permission) could be made equally for car drivers, and I’m sure none of us want to see that.

    The only distinction I see is that bikes are clearly far less lethal devices, but people are still killed by being hit by bikes, and the driver who hits a bike that jumped a red light is hardly unaffected either (of course this point applies equally to pedestrians).

    And on a purely logical point, I don’t see why the undisputed fact that following the law without using your instincts and judgment is a recipe for disaster implies that we should break the law.

  8. I enjoyed the blog entry and the responses. I ride a bike and regularly crash red lights – just as I take short-cuts across/along pavements, whizz the wrong way along one-way streets and generally do whatever seems quick (I’m not a speed merchant however), safe and enjoyable. The last word is key – cycling is enjoyable partly because of the freedom it offers and the ‘little victories’ those freedoms create. Long live the civilised anarchy of cycling. However, on a recent trip to London I witnessed a ‘flock’ of cyclists jump a red light and avoid utter carnage by a gnat’s whisker: no doubt several of the car drivers involved will be amongst the first to sign-up to this misguided campaign.

  9. Hi Josh,
    Thanks for pointing me to your blog.
    I agree with lots you speak of (yes, bicycling is supreme! and honest people will have a tough time pledging to “Stop at Red”), though you don’t delve into what motorists most resent about bicyclists: riders usurping their right of way, especially when a near miss is involved (or worse).
    Few care if there are no implications, so if you’re to make any headway with an Idaho-esque ruling you’ll need to focus on that fuzzy line between “all clear” and “must yield”. Apparently, too many cyclists are rather poor judges of this. I see it every day, and hear of too many near misses and related cycling injuries.
    In contrast, I’ve been riding thousands of miles every year for 40 years now, much of it as urban and suburban traffic. I stop at most all lights and I stop at stop signs as much as any “law-abiding” policeman (so I don’t think it would be right for me to sign that pledge). I’ve never had a cycling injury at an intersection, yet I’m hardly timid on the road. I get where I’m going about as quick as anyone except for maybe banshee bike messengers (the ones that get there).
    Also, it’s extremely rare that I’ve felt a need not to wait at a light for fear of a motorist hitting me.
    My respect of others’ right of way pays dividends for my own piece of mind and enjoyment of cycling.
    Best wishes in coming up with a better way,
    Joe Breeze
    Fairfax, California

  10. Nice thoughts. Glad to find others out there who see that bikes are not cars and should not be required to behave like them.

    I added a link to this page on my site. The content is relevant. If that’s not OK, shoot me an email.

  11. Charlie from Hackney

    I agree entirely with the observations in the article and a lot of the comments.
    However its important to remember that traffic lights and pedestrian crossings are usually linked in the UK – cyclists treating a red traffic light as a give-way may come into conflict with pedestrians who have got a green-man signal and have the right to cross.
    Cyclists going full pelt through a red light and expecting pedestrians to jump out of the way happens far to often and is really unacceptable.

    Other than that there’s no reason why cyclists shouldn’t treat a red light as give-way/yield – being able to judge whether it’s safe is no different from a junction on a busy road where there are no traffic lights, after all the majority of junctions rely on road user’s judgement, not a light.

    Going the wrong way up one way streets has a similar problem in that pedestrians understandably only look in the direction they expect traffic to come.
    But from the cyclists point of view it’s clearly even safer than a 2-way street as you are confronting traffic head on & no-one will be trying to pass when there isn’t enough space, also parked vehicles are facing you so doors will not be flung open into your path because people haven’t looked behind properly.

    If the rules were regularised it would improve life all round, and reduce hostility towards cyclists – red lights should be give-way for bikes and one -way streets should automatically be contraflow for bikes.

  12. Charlie- Excellent comments- I agree totally! Parliament should let us draft the next version of the Highway Code :)

  13. So long as you err on the side of stopping. You must remember that cars windows get dirty and catch the sunlight and people might not be concentrating and even if they don’t hit you if your running a red light appears dangerous to them it adds to their stress etc. It has to be zero impact….

    ….

  14. Riding your bike the wrong was on a one way street is VERY dangerous, and I hope you get seriously injured for your ignorance.

  15. Merry Christmas to you too, gb.

  16. Just came across this fascinating piece. I agree 100% with Josh’s comments, but would add this – the traffic control system on UK roads has evolved over the last 50 years or more with little if any regard for the particular needs of cyclists. It is therefore entirely logical and fitting that cyclists should treat this system with the same contempt as the designers of the system showed towards cyclists.

    Besides which the proliferation of traffic lights in more recent decades has occurred principally to accommodate an unsustainable and obscene increase in motor traffic in our cities. In many cases Zebra crossings that gave by default priority to pedestrians have been converted to Pelican crossings that give by default priority to road traffic, so making walking even less attractive and encouraging car use.

    I would go so far as to say that it is the duty of every genuine environmentalist to do everything they can to undermine this iniquitous system, including of course jumping (as we say in the UK) red lights whenever it is safe and convenient to do so.

  17. This is an interesting debate. In Australia we have had motorists criticising cyclists in papers over red light jumping but I would bet London to a brick they would run the red if they were left sitting in their car at a set of lights for half an hour or more.
    For the record I do not run red lights however there are times when I am forced to use pedestrian crossing signals to get accross an intersection controlled by traffic lights. I know of other cyclists who will run reds if the intersection is clear. This is usually because the sensors for the lights will only work for cars – cyclists are not heavy enough to trigger them. I feel that we need to do something about how autocentric the road rules and traffic regulating devices are. There is even a move by the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority to change zebra crossings to traffic light controlled crossings meaning that pedestrians will be forced to Jay walk more.

  18. ‘Stop at Red’ completely misunderstands the problem – rather than campaigning for road laws which accommodate cyclists, they are campaigning to force cyclists to conform to the current laws – which are designed for cars. Many (although not all) riders who jump lights have simply seen the truth of this, and choose to take responsibility for progressing when it is safe, just as pedestrians do.

    The elephant in the room is that bikes are *not* cars. The fact that the law largely requires cyclists to obey “car laws” is a problem which should be addressed by new laws.

    Pedestrians already treat the ‘red man’ as a ‘give way’ sign, and there is no reason why cyclists should be persecuted for the equivalent. If cyclists are cutting up pedestrians on crossings they should be hit with fixed penalties – but not for jumping lights when there *are no* pedestrians.

    If ‘Stop at Red’-ites are happy waiting at an empty junction for (five? ten? thirty?) minutes until a car comes along to trip the sensor, good for them. But I believe common sense should allow us to proceed safely through.

  19. I’m in broad agreement with your arguments and objectives, but I don’t agree with your take on RLJ. In particular, you’ve described it as a “vicitimless crime…If a cyclist runs a light and no one’s coming, who is harmed? ” I think you have that wrong.

    First, and most obviously, you may just get the decision wrong. Come on, we all have from time to time – and mostly got away with it, too. But consider the accidents that happen. I have no proof, but I strongly suspect that many of them happened when the rider thought the road was clear. The recent woman who was jailed for killing a cyclist while on her phone was on green – the cyclist had gone through on red. Lots of victims there.

    Then, there is the society thing. We may not like it, but putting ourselves under the rule of law, and being able to benefit from it, is at the core of society. The opposite is anarchy (which possibly has something to be said for it). That’s not to say that an RLJ is an anarchist, but that we depend on obeying laws – even stupid ones – for our society to work. If you, a careful and thoughtful RLJ by your own reckoning jumps the lights – how does the observer know that you made a considered decision ? and do you not suppose that seeing that, your average fakenger won’t use that to bolster his view that riding with a cloak of invulnerability around him is the way to go? My argument is that in a society, you DO have wider responsibility than yourself. Still more potential victims.

    And as comes out through your own argument, the more riders you have on the road, the more that they need to abide by group rules for efficient movement. Again, as in your argument, we don’t have any at the moment, other than “Stop at red lights”.

    Me? I observer lights in town, always give pedestrians priority and make decisions on a case by case basis in other places.

  20. London Pedestrian

    It really isn’t a victimless crime. In the past week I’ve been witness to a nasty accident, several near misses and verbal exchanges. Pedestrians deserve to be able to cross on green without fear of being knocked over or intimidation.

  21. onthelevelblog

    Absolutely London pedestrian- both cyclists and pedestrians deserve to be able to get around the city and the countryside without fear of being knocked over or intimidation. Cyclists (like motorists) who knock down, intimidate, or violate pedestrian right of way deserve to be prosecuted- full stop. It’s abusing the inherent power differential of one’s mode of transport for anyone on wheels to abuse those on foot. I’m just saying- why don’t we make signalised junctions behave like zebra crossings for cyclists- where yielding is the key. This may even heal the wounds caused by the current transport battles, and lead to greater respect of the law. If David Cameron thinks it’s reasonable to jump a red light when no one’s coming, surely we need to take a second look at cyclists and traffic law. But do not misunderstand- abusing right of way and being a bully to those with less power is unacceptable no matter what your mode of transport.

  22. Christopher Reeve

    I couldn’t agree more. I also treat give-way and stop signs as give way signs and red lights as stop signs. At a dangerous intersection of course I’ll wait for the light to change, more than I would if I was a pedestrian. I also agree that cyclists should be able to cycle down the wrong way down a one way street without having to worry that they are breaking the law. As you say, all these traffic rules exist to make driving safer and do not make cycling any safer. It is cyclists who take risks that are dangerous, not necessarily cyclists who break British laws.

  23. Martyn Whitelock

    I regularly cycle through red lights and disobey ridiculous road signage wherever possible and whenever it is safe and practical. My reasons are pragmatic and anarchic – I can make up my own mind about a current set of circumstances and refuse to follow completely illogical laws, ESPECIALLY when these manifest themselves as funding artificial job creation. If the lights are red and it’s safe to go, I’m going and nobody is going to tell me otherwise!

    From a different, more psychological perspective, we need to be exposed to danger in order to learn how to avoid it. There is actually a growing movement against traffic lights and excessive road signage, particularly from the safety and expenditure argument. Bristol has lead they way in e-democracy (and was even voted the leading European city for this) so I wonder if it could lead the way in the UK with a pilot scheme to remove traffic lights? There are numerous suitable locations and the Council is always looking for ways to save money (and make it!). See the following for an interesting read:

    The case against traffic lights – Martin Cassini
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/7187165.stm

    Traffic lights & road signs removed in Germany
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1028740/Accident-free-zone-The-German-town-scrapped-traffic-lights-road-signs.html

    The traffic engineer who hates traffic signs
    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.12/traffic.html

  24. Martyn Whitelock

    p.s. I suppose if I’m to be completely honest, there’s nothing more satisfying than cycling through a main junction which is full of stationary red light traffic – he, he ;) I’d like to think a few of the car drivers observe this (let’s face there aren’t many car passengers!) and start to think about the real advantages of cycling, particularly at peak hours.

    p.p.s. I’m a car driver too.

  25. HOT TOPIC – NICE TO HEAR IT FOLKS!

    I’m just getting to grips with the beauty of cycling round London. Its much safer with the numbers of cyclists now than in other areas of the UK. In London car drivers expect to see you up in front accellerating away across the lights and down the open road ahead. They may all still pootle along in their metal tins wishing they had our freedom!

    I think its time to seize the day and have a well publicised mass demonstration of the situation – cyclists are about to WIN big!

    Are we ready to celebrate the advent of the urban bike as the prime mover on the street?

    Why not share the good feeling and have an organised s t o p a t r e d l i g h t s day before going back to the full advantages of cycling and ignoring all that ludicrously energy consuming and ugly street paraphenalia? Perhaps write to your MP suggesting it.

    We could dish out party food for donations ahead of every traffic queue before departing at selected green light intervals in gentle fashion escorting the poor few remaining tin-bound motorsaurs at team cycling pace along to the next party site red light. A few well placed sympathetic pseudo motorsaurs partying at the front of each queue would lend some safety AND ensure there was implied access for the real relics of the London cycleways.

    Time to applaud out the last of the motorsaurs.

    Pag
    :-P ~
    My car was never this much fun and freedom.

  26. Well, Josh, I think you generally hit the mark with your transport thinking, but I read this article and the comments and went and signed the SaR pledge anyway!

    You make some good points for jumping and it’s not as black and white as the foaming-at-the-mouth-petrol-heads writing their letters to the Evening Pest make out! But here’s my reasons for NOT jumping red:
    1) What made Netherlands cyclists safe is safety in numbers. People here are more likely to make the desired modal shift if they have a positive impression of cyclists. So I agree with your point about we shouldn’t have to “earn motorists respect”, but think the on-the-street impression counts for more than £millions worth of publicity and PR. (I might ditch the yellow jacket and helmet for the same reason!).
    2) In Bristol hundreds of people potentially see our cycling behaviour and the simple act of stopping at red could make a big difference to perception, thus increasing the number cycling.
    3) I cycle to keep fit, and repeated acceleration is good for me.
    4) It doesn’t actually makes much different to my journey time! About 2 minutes on a 30 minute journey from one work base in the centre to another on the fringe of South Gloucs! Think I can live with those 2 minutes of “wasted time”.
    5) Not sure it is wasted time – I frequently think of stuff I could do en route to save time, and there’s a real sense of cameraderie with 3 or more of us together in the red box!
    6) Taking the decision to break the law because you think the law is wrong is a tricky one. I hate the idea of being completely law-bound to the point of an unthinking automaton, but then I hate the thought of being in the same camp as the “Safe Speed” campaign even more!

    I’m going to stick with my approach, but have some sympathy for the negative view of being sheep-like in one’s obeyance of the law, so I could respect some RLJs; I think the ones who slow right down or stop and then take off carefully probably do much to meet both your and my concerns. It’s the arrogant idiots who just shoot right through who P everybody off.

  27. Ychael, you make some good points. The image that cyclists project is important. It should be an image of people who are purposeful and confident in their chosen mode of transport, people who have important important things to do and little time to waste.

    I remember many years ago waiting at a red light alongside another cyclist, even though there were no conflicting traffic movements. As we waited impatiently a rather beautiful women swept past us on her bike, through the red and off into the distance.

    We looked at each other briefly and then both followed suit. It felt so good to take control of one’s life back from the miserable bureaucrats who would have us corralled like sheep in little boxes while motor traffic takes priority.

    I’ve never looked back. Red lights are advisory. They tell you that other road users may assume that they have priority and to proceed, if at all, with care. That’s fine, we can live with that. Let’s not allow them to divide us on this issue. As you say it’s about safety in numbers, so let’s stay firm and united on this.

  28. Hi Chris. I like your story about chasing the lovely cyclist lady!

    Let’s stay firm and united you say? So that would mean going with the majority of cyclists who think we should stop at red lights? Well, I’m with you on that one.

    Thanks for picking up on my sheep point – that is the one thing that rankles, or maybe used to. I think my compassion for those suckers in their cages took over.

    Remember, Chris, they’re all (well, OK not all, but…) potential cyclists and it’s our job to get ‘em out of the cage an onto bikes!

    I fear that the image RLJs are projecting is arrogance rather than the confidence you aspire to and you’re helping keep them in their cages.

  29. Ychael, what makes you think a majority of cyclists would support Stop at Red? Only a couple of thousand have bothered to sign the pledge, out of, what, 10 million cyclists in the UK.

    It’s pretty obvious that a large proportion of regular cyclists now treat red lights with discretion rather than mindless obedience. Those that still haven’t seen the light, so to speak, probably haven’t heard the arguments for a discretionary approach either.

  30. Personally, while I lived in the UK, I always stopped at red lights. However, I think this campaign is wrong-headed for a number of reasons – the most important of which is that it raises an issue that cyclists are all too often beaten with.

    However, it’s hardly surprising that cyclists find problems with traffic lights and other aspects of road design in the UK as none of it is really designed for cyclists.

    Over here, planning takes cyclists into account, and the result is very easy, quick, convenient and safe journeys.

    The result for me personally is that for most of my journeys I don’t see traffic lights. I would if I were to drive, but a greater number of generally more direct and faster routes are open if I cycle.

    Sometimes you do come across a traffic light, and there are ways in which these will prioritize cyclists over drivers. A few of them which I pass near here on main cycling routes default to green for bikes and only allow cars crossing the bike path to go if they drive up and wait for a bit.

    There are also Simultaneous Green phases at some busy junctions which give cyclists twice as many opportunities to get across junctions as drivers have:

    http://hembrow.blogspot.com/2008/08/simultaneous-green.html

    People cycle here because subjective safety is very good and because cycling is more convenient than driving. Planners here give the infrastructure much of the credit for the exceptionally low rate of death and injury on the roads and I think they are right to do so.

    Cycling facilities here are not designed as “lip service” to a minority but to suit the majority for a larger proportion of their journeys than they make by car.

    I’ve yet to find a “cyclists dismount” sign here, let alone anything remotely suitable for Warrington’s marvellous “facility of the month”.

    http://hembrow.blogspot.com/2008/08/cyclists-dismount.html

    As for the Shared Space schemes suggested by Martin Whitelock… There are plenty of them here, and people have plenty of experience of them. They’re not popular with cyclists as putting everyone together leads to lowered subjective safety and a slower journey. These things re-introduce exactly the sort of conflict you’d expect when you read past the hype in teh English language press. As a result, the cyclists campaigning organisation Fietsersbond tends to be critical of these schemes (they used the expression “Architect’s Dream” a while ago to describe them, and described a return of “might is right” to Dutch streets). Looking at the way newer roads are designed, I’d say they’re a late 90s / early 2000s thing which is a bit out of fashion now.

  31. OK, Chris, let’s agree that we don’t actually know, either of us, what the majority beleive!

    You say those that haven’t seen the light haven’t heard the arguments for a discretionary approach – well I’m one of those still waiting; every point you’ve made here I’ve dismissed and you haven’t really addressed any of the points FOR stopping.

    On Dave Hembrow’s blog (take a look, it’s excellent) is a feature about lights which have two phases for cyclists in the light cycle AND allow multi-directional crossing.

    This is the kind of thing we need in the UK and allowing motorists to beat us with the stick of being selfish and arrogant as we pick and choose which road rules to obey will not help us get it.

  32. Ychael, motorists have been beating cyclists with sticks and worse for many decades, from long BEFORE cyclists starting disobeying traffic regulations.

    Yes, there was a time 20+ years ago when cyclists pretty much respected all the rules, in marked contrast to motorists who routinely flouted speed limits and drank alcohol before driving.

    And guess what, the needs of cyclists were completely ignored while vast sums were spent pandering to the needs of motorists.

    Only now that cyclists are beginning to assert themselves by refusing to be bound by rules that give the motor car dominance are we beginning to earn some respect.

    So you see it’s quite the opposite to what you imagine.

  33. “Only now that cyclists are beginning to assert themselves by refusing to be bound by rules that give the motor car dominance are we beginning to earn some respect.”

    I think you’ve sown the seeds of the undoings of your own argument, Chris. If you genuinely believe that a few blokes running red lights is earning cyclists respect then you shouldn’t even be arguing for cycling, because clearly you are going to do our cause more harm than good.

    Get out there and meet the non-cycling majority and you’ll see the public’s opinion of cyclists has never been lower. The hysterical outburst against the cycling demo city bid success in the EP is one indication of this.

    If you shoot through red lights without due care for pedestrians and other more vulnerable road users, you are helping to cause that.

  34. Ychael, your arguments are getting threadbare. No one is suggesting shooting through red lights without due care, as you know perfectly well.

    If that’s your best gambit then you’ve lost it.

    Cyclists have survived over the decades by living on their wits and ingenuity in a fundamentally hostile environment. In many ways we were fortunate in being ignored by the authorities, but those days are over.

    Now we are threatened by anal bureaucrats trying to take control of our mode of transport, trying to corral us into narrow strips, out of the way of cars but in the way of pedestrians.

    We will find ourselves reduced to a semi-pedestrian status, cycling slowly along obstacle strewn paths and forever waiting at signals for little green bicycles to appear, while the wealthy and well connected sweep past in their cars.

    The first stage of the taming of the free cyclists will be a purge against those who use discretion at traffic lights. They must break us first before they can convert the rest of you into the two wheeled automatons of their fantasies, meekly submitting to their traffic control systems.

  35. Chris, you are awesome.

  36. It’s all very witty, but the problem with Chris’s point of view is that it’s the point of view of a tiny oppressed minority. This, unfortunately, is exactly what the British cyclist has become.

    Sadly, a part of the reason why this has happened is that a significant proportion of those few people left who cycle seem to actually want it to be that way.

    You’re on a downward path with this. Mass cycling does not lie in the direction of “living on your wits” in a “fundamentally hostile environment”. You’ll never convince the majority with such views, in fact cycling will simply continue to decline as it has been steadily since the 1950s. Tell non-cyclists that you cycle and they will continue to give you odd looks and get in their cars because they find it subjectively so much more pleasant.

    If you’re to increase cycling then you have to convince those people who don’t cycle now. There is no hope of doing that while cycling is about hostility and inconvenience. It must be a pleasant and convenient experience.

    Providing for cyclists does not mean “a semi-pedestrian status, cycling slowly along obstacle strewn paths and forever waiting at signals for little green bicycles to appear”. The Dutch would never build such a thing because it wouldn’t work.

    Where cycle provision is done properly, you have plenty of space, can ride as fast as you like, and often don’t have to stop for lights either. Surely that’s what we all want ?

    Take a look at this junction near us. It was built in this way specifically so that cyclists can make more efficient journeys, have a higher subjective feeling of safety, and so that they avoid stopping at red lights:

    http://hembrow.blogspot.com/2008/09/rush-hour.html

    At the start of last year it was a big flat traffic light controlled junction for cars and bikes together. Now it’s a traffic light less junction for bikes, while cars are sent by a detour over a bridge and through some extra sets of traffic lights.

    For cyclists there is no loss – only a gain. This is exactly the right thing to do to convince people that cycling is worthwhile.

  37. David, we are in the UK, not the Netherlands. Our predicament is quite different. Our strategies have to be quite different.

    UK authorities have made some half-hearted attempts at creating cycle tracks and they are typically narrow, obstacle strewn, inconvenient and unsafe as I think you yourself have observed. That is the reality that we have to recognise.

    Fantasising about Dutch style systems won’t get us anywhere. Anything of that type constructed here that doesn’t immediately become a car park gets only low levels use initially. So the idea gets discredited long before a large enough network can be developed to make a real difference.

  38. Yes, I know that current efforts in the UK are generally appalling. I generally used to avoid them when I lived in the UK, for much the reason that you give.

    On that we agree, but on the rest I think we’ll have to disagree.

    The strategy of most British cyclists hasn’t changed in sixty years. It’s always been “we have a right to ride on the road”, with a bit of cycle training on the side. Given that this strategy has lasted right through the decline which happened in those sixty years and which still continues, I think it’s perhaps time to recognize that while this may be a reasonable strategy for managing the decline of cycling by keeping conditions tolerable for a shrinking minority, it’s anything but a successful strategy for increasing cycling.

    There is a huge pent up desire to cycle amongst British people but it doesn’t get acted on because they’re too scared to cycle. That’s why places such as the Camel Trail attract lots of people to drive long distances with bikes on the back of their cars in order to ride short distances.

    I used to laugh at people who did this until I learnt to look at it from the point of view of someone who really wants to cycle, but not on the roads. It’s entirely logical from their point of view.

    I think proper segregated paths which were actually useful and went somewhere would get used, and that they would not be discredited. A local example of something which approaches this for you is perhaps the Bath-Bristol path, which I understand is well used, not discredited, and something that campaigners in Bristol think is worth preserving. Surveys in Cambridge revealed that the most popular cycle routes were the crowded, not particularly well surfaced, but scenic paths along the river and through the parks. People would make detours to use these instead of sticking rigidly to the roads.

    Unfortunately, cycling infrastructure has never been done in Britain to a good enough quality, for all the reasons you give and in my view just as important, because they never actually quite get to any destination. That’s why it isn’t successful.

    There is no fantasy involved in what the Dutch have achieved. They have simply taken the requirement for subjective safety to its logical conclusion.

    It’s well worth campaigning for as it’s the only thing that has proven success.

    Anyway, we’re well off red lights now so this will be my last on this subject.

  39. In that case I will have the last word and point out that, firstly, cycling is not in decline but growing significantly, albeit from a low base, and that Paths like the Bristol & Bath Railway Path are not representative of the sort of thing you have in the Netherlands.

    We are talking about how our normal city roads can be made safe and attractive places to cycle.

    I accept that, at least in the flat areas of the country, Dutch style cycle tracks could work if one could create a comprehensive network almost overnight, backed up with alternative parking for all the cars that currently clutter our streets and land use planning controls that make longer journeys unnecessary. But we can’t do that.

  40. Seems to be a theme emerging here, Chris, where your main strategy in debate is to ignore – or even better slightly skew – the previous argument. I don’t think I’ve every actually seen you come up with a decent counter argument.

    I find myself agreeing with Josh on this – you are awesome.

    Perhaps you should make use of these unique abilities and become a politician?

  41. Cycling increasing? I never said it wasn’t – I was talking about the general public’s view of us – that IS going down!

    “Cyclists have survived over the decades by living on their wits…” Agreed. Not really adding anything to the debate.

    “Now we are threatened by anal bureaucrats trying to take control of our mode of transport, trying to corral us into narrow strips, out of the way of cars but in the way of pedestrians.”

    Well, apart from sounding like the Daily Mail, this does raise one of the issues we as cyclists need to debate in this city to have any chance of a good outcome of the Demo City bid millions.

    If we could thrash out our differences and come to some agreement on this we’d be light years ahead of where we are now.

    At the moment, the noise of cyclists’ squabbling around the city must make us sound like the People’s Front of Judea versus the Judean People’s Front, and the outcome will be that the Romans (motorists? council officers? politicians?) will “win”. Whatever that means… Perhaps it means being reduced to a semi-pedestrian status, cycling slowly along obstacle strewn paths and forever waiting at signals for little green bicycles to appear, while the wealthy and well connected sweep past in their cars.

    And all this rhetoric about “free cyclists” and “purges” manages to sound like the unholy lovechild of George Bush and Stalin!

    But there is an important point here, which is that combative talk and affected anti-authoritarian stance may get some people going, but will fritter away our chance of cyclists having any chance of influencing this money.

    Anyway. Maybe we should take this offline and discuss it over a pint sometime, I’m sure we would find some common ground (Josh seems to be enjoying the debate mind you, and it’s his blog, so he can decide when we shut up!)

    Clearly if you gents aren’t the arrogant ***kers who shoot through red lights without due care for pedestrians and other more vulnerable road users, then I owe yous an apology.

    It all comes down to the detail doesn’t it? Just look back up the thread here…

    If you show a bit of respect by going through a red light carefully, that isn’t going to enrage people in the way whizzing through care-free does, and might even get some grudging respect from some for being independent-thinking.

    We can’t impose Dutch solutions on the UK but equally we’d be daft to ignore them completely.

    We need segregated routes for the unconfident beginner cyclists to get their pedals worn in or clearly from posts on other threads they won’t make that magic shift and find freedom (!), but if we focus on that at the expense of safer shared streets they will be more dangerous than ever.

    And so on.

  42. Ychael, you seem to have scrolled past a few posts. My point about cycling increasing was made in response to David who has been carrying on the debate in your regrettably brief absence.

    Perhaps you could point out any argument that I have, as you say, ignored or skewed. I’m genuinely curious to know where I may have done this, since it’s not something I’m aware of.

    With regard to Cycle City money, we have no say over how that is spent anyway. Cycle England and the council’s officers will determine how it is spent, based on the overriding objective of achieving a very short term increase in cycling numbers.

    The council will of course invite known friendly, or at least harmless, cyclists to come and rubber stamp their decisions (on the Stakeholders’ Panel), but that’s the extent of our “influence” other than what can be applied from the outside.

    The desperate short termism of Cycle City means that decent large scale engineering measures like Josh’s imaginative Cycle Expressway or even more prosaic Dutch style cycle tracks are out of the question.

    My guess is that with not much more than two years of implementation they will have to resort to “soft” measures like pro cycling propaganda, or PR if you like. £20 million could buy a lot of professional expertise in that area, although I for one don’t relish the prospect of cycling being marketed like soap powder.

  43. Chris

    I nearly got sucked into going through and pasting in various points you’ve ignored or misread, then I realised I have much, much better things to do with my life!

    One of them is to think about what’s being said about Cycle City and how the scheme’s implementation timescale fit with the timescales needed for the kind of changes the really city needs… and try to work out if anything can be gained from greater input by the ordinary cyclist (sic).

    The other is to not be drawn into spending too much time at the PC and more out amongst nice people and places!

    If you’re worth anything to the cause of more and better cycling in Bristol, you can work it out from the above posts. And I reckon you probably are and can.

  44. As I suspected you can’t find any worthwhile examples to justify your assertion that I avoid answering points. Still your excuse was rather ingenious. I’ll give you credit for that.

    How are we supposed to know what’s going on with Cycle City? Is there an official website where discussions are taking place? Are there open meetings where sensible debate can take place? I think the answer is no, as Josh discovered last night.

    There are of course unofficial websites like this one or greenbristolblog where we can debate Cycle City, but you won’t find anyone from the council or Cycling England getting involved (unless they do so anonymously, which isn’t a lot of use).

    Actually to be fair our “Cycling Champion” Cllr Terry Cook did briefly put in an appearance on greenbristolblog but didn’t seem to know much about Cycling City or the issues underlying it, so we are none the wiser. I suspect he’s been warned off straying into enemy territory so I doubt whether we’ll see him again.

    So you see there is no opportunity to get involved in Cycling City, unless you are perhaps one of the favoured few who get invited to be on the Stakeholders’ Panel. Which reminds me, why do you hide behind such a non name as Ychael? No possibility of a drink with a non-entity.

  45. Sorry if any of this has already been raised in the comments; I haven’t had time to read them all

    Josh, I enjoyed reading your post, but I completely disagree.

    In London, where I cycle daily, the majority of cyclists jump red lights. The result: ‘cyclists are a menace’ headlines in the media and social opprobrium heaped on cyclists.

    Long story short — individuals jumping red lights damage the image of cycling and *all* cyclists.

    And that’s without even getting into issue of safety. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been crossing a road as a pedestrian and been cut up by cyclists jumping the lights. The same happens when I’m on my bike at junctions too, often close enough to cause a near-miss.

    Lastly, jumping red is still illegal, like it or not. Do you think you’re above the law?

  46. Adam – by safely progressing through a red light a cyclist is also assisting traffic flow. Having used cycling as my primary mode of transport for many years in Bristol I am firmly of the opinion that cars, buses and other motorised vehicles are little more than obstructions; often legitimised by the illogical road signage. It’s time cyclists took priority on our urban streets!

  47. As a cyclist I often stop or slow down for pedestrians, particularly on shared spaces where pedestrians are apt to walk where they like, when they like (and why shouldn’t they?). On the other hand I don’t see the point of waiting at a red light when there are no conflicting pedestrian or vehicle movements.

    By contrast, motorists are more inclined to obey the red light signal but much less inclined to give way to pedestrians. Motorists routinely harass and endanger pedestrians who get “in their way” and it’s common to see pedestrians trying to cross a road caught in the middle with traffic passing either side and car after car just ignoring their predicament

    So you have to ask which set of attitudes is more reprehensible, the pragmatic live and let live approach of most cyclists or the arrogant “get out of my way” attitude of most motorists. I think the answer is quite obvious, which is why the Stop-at-Red campaign is so misguided.

  48. If you are on the road you should follow the rules of the road.

    It is not up to the individual to decide which rules apply or dont apply to them.

    Dont like it, get the bus

  49. So David, would you agree that all drivers who break the speed limit – even by one mph – should also take the bus? That would leave us with very quiet, safe communities indeed, as I don’t know a single driver who has never broken a speed limit.

  50. Ahh that old chestnut…..

  51. someone told me recently that some research was suppressed in London because it make clear that there was a gender different attitude that made it more dangerous for women to cycle. Apparently women are more likely to be rule abiding and stop at red lights. This was shown to be a dangerous mistake and increased the level of death and serious injury to women. No-one will ever persuade me to mindlessly stop at red lights. I cycle safely and considerately and intend to keep it that way.

  52. Daisy

    Someone told you that jumping red lights is a safe thing to do, I think that they do not like you then, more cycle users are kill doing this then are kill riding on road in London, but I think you do not wish to know this.
    I know this as I did hit someone that did not stop at a red light in London and they die by being run over by the wheels of the lorry I was driving, and the police told me that they get 2 to 3 cases a week.
    Car, bus and lorry drivers think that if the lights are green they are safe fron people coming over a red light so they are not looking out for you.
    The car, bus, or lorry that will hit you in time will persuade you to stop at red lights

  53. Jim, no one is advocating passing red lights irrespective of the circumstances but to use discretion. There are situations where passing a red light is not only safe but safer than waiting for the light to change to green.

    Since you offer your own experience as an example, might we ask whether you contributed to the tragic consequences in some way, perhaps driving too fast for the conditions? In urban areas especially we must all anticipate people passing red lights, whether we like it or not.

  54. The red lights are daft, ill designed (well, just not designed to cater for cycles) but if you run them even when you’re safe to go people will become more comfortable running them and some fool will get knocked down. Besides I was just about to have rant about cars not respecting cycle green men, I need my moral highground. Campaign for better light systems I say, as it will provide a more respected voice than futile anarchy in this case I think.

  55. Chris

    I was doing 30mph at the time in a 50mph area, I think that the guy look at me going slow and was thinking that I can make it over the lights.
    People forget that lorrys take time to stop, and also think they will stop for me.
    I was a driver for 10 years and this was the only time that I hit anyone.
    The police told the court that his friends told them that he was know for saying ” its better not to stop at red lights if you think its safe not too, and doing that I can save 15mins going to work” .
    I not that happy that you feel that this may have be down to me, I have to live with seeing a man die under my wheels after he had jump the lights, if he had NOT then he still would be a father to the 2 kids he left behind!
    What would you say if a lorry or car driver was to say to you “no one is advocating passing red lights irrespective of the circumstances but to use discretion. There are situations where passing a red light is not only safe but safer than waiting for the light to change to green”

  56. Jim, to answer your question, if a lorry or car driver was to say “no one is advocating passing red lights irrespective of the circumstances but to use discretion. There are situations where passing a red light is not only safe but safer than waiting for the light to change to green” I would be very worried.

    You may therefore think I’m a hypocrite, but I make a big distinction between the rules that should apply to large, heavy and often fast moving vehicles like cars and lorries, and the rules that should apply to cyclists and walkers.

    For example it is not illegal for a pedestrian to cross a road against a red light or indeed in any other circumstances. The logic behind that is that pedestrians do not themselves create a danger to other road users because they travel slowly and have very little mass (say 75 kg) so the force (mass x acceleration) with which they might collide with someone is unlikely to do any damage.

    Lorries have huge mass (up to 40,000 kg) and at 30 mph that represents a devastating force in a collision, about the same collision force as 5,000 pedestrians, so the operation of lorries needs to be much more tightly controlled.

    Cyclists, with an overall mass of maybe 100 kg and a speed of say 15 mph represent a potential collision force equivalent to perhaps 6 pedestrians but still a tiny fraction of the potential collision force of a lorry or car. That’s why a high level of traffic regulation is not appropriate to cyclists.

  57. For example it is not illegal for a pedestrian to cross a road against a red light or indeed in any other circumstances.
    Sorry but its illegal and the fine if the police was to do anything about it is upto £100.
    But your still saying its OK to jump red light as it the job of the driver to see, when you do this. last night I was coming home when a person on a bike jump the lights with NO lights on his bike and just miss being hit by a car, the car drive hit his bakes to miss him and was hit by the car behind, the bike user just when on his way almost like he did not see the cars.
    Still as I said before one day you will be hit by something and if you live that will persuade you to stop at red lights, but thinking about it you will say that its was all down to the driver and not you.

  58. Jim, you’re wrong about it being illegal to walk across a road against a red light in the UK. Check out ‘jaywalking’ in Wikipedia.

    I’m not saying that in a collision between a motorist and a cyclist/pedestrian the motorist should always be blamed. But we should expect motorists to take a lot more care to avoid not only collisions but actions that intimidate or harass cyclists and pedestrians.

    Being a cyclist necessitates taking all sorts of calculated risks, even to simply proceed along a road in a perfectly legal manner. Taking a calculated risk when passing through red lights is no more dangerous and is no more illegal than say driving or parking on the footway which almost all motorists now do routinely.

  59. There are some red lights in Bristol I ignore completely and don’t even bother to check. They’re safe to jump whether red, orange or green so why bother checking?

    Here’s an example: outside the Sugar Factory heading towards the Bear Pit:

    http://www.streetmap.co.uk/newmap.srf?x=358720&y=173267&z=110&sv=358720,173267&st=4&ar=Y&mapp=newmap.srf&searchp=newsearch.srf&ax=358720&ay=173267&lm=0

    Others I always stop at as it’s not possible to jump them safely, it’s wise to stop at most of the approaches to the Bear Pit roundabout for example.

    If a red light is so meaningless to me as a cyclist that I can safely ignore it completely, not even bothering to check what state it’s in, what’s the point in encouraging me to stop there?

  60. Martyn Whitelock

    I’m really fed up with people ‘having a go’ at cyclists for proceeding with caution through totally unnecessary red lights. I’ve seen so many pedestrians jump the lights and the city centre is awash with drunken people who have absolutely no regard for drivers and other traffic… but that’s ok because our society endorses alcohol as a legal drug.

    I really do think the law should be changed to give cyclists the freedom they rightly deserve as sustainable transport users! What about organising a campaign?

  61. You are completely misguided; running reds is not a victimless crime – people have been seriously injured or worse, killed, by idiots trying to scrape a few seconds on the way to work.

    Every time I am waiting at a red and someone cycles past me, I have ALWAYS caught them up after the light goes, and with relatively little effort.

    The rules of the road are meant to be blanket for everyone because not everyone has the same sense of safety discretion, so asking people to trust your common sense is unfair.

    I hope one day you go through the triangle, and someone walks in front of you and you face plant into the ground, and for that person to then come punch you in the head.

    If you are going to drive on a road designed primarily for cars, but also for many different machines apart from bikes then you should wholeheartedly agree to follow the laws that govern it. How is it at all safer to go through a red light????? It’s not at all and you are exactly the kind of person that creates drivers that give me grief when I’m on my bike even of I am sticking to the highway code.

  62. I don’t think cyclists should even have the right to go on the roads, they’re too slow and vulnerable, and often too erratic.

    I once had my passenger side wing mirror punched by a cyclist when sat at lights so he could pass and run a red light. It’s an absurdly dangerous and reckless thing for them to do as they can and do cause accidents as other road users have to avoid them.

  63. Martyn Whitelock

    Philip- Drivers get stressed out because of all the restrictions they face and then take their anger out on cyclists. If you really think about it, who is the obstacle?… the cyclist or the lone driver surrounded by several cubic metres of metal and air? Personally, I wish nobody any harm and think your attitude of hatred is probably why so much road rage exists in the first place.

    Mainland European and North American countries have already proven shared traffic space works and there is a recent successful scheme on the Ashford Ring Road. There are plenty of benefits to drivers who don’t need to stop and start, waste fuel or unneccessarily pollute the atmosphere. Let’s hope Bristol and the UK follows suit and the Councils can devote more funding to better provision for cycling – the transport of the future!

    Probably the best read here:
    http://www.fitroads.org/NoIdleMatter.pdf

    …more here:
    http://www.kent.gov.uk/transport-and-streets/transport-and-road-planning/major-projects/ashford-ring-road.htm

    http://www.hamilton-baillie.co.uk/

    http://www.nce.co.uk/uk-traffic-engineers-lack-skills-for-shared-space/265916.article

    http://www.rethinkingcities.net/upload/Shared%20Space%20ArticleTim%20Long.pdf

  64. Pingback: The physics of running red lights | The Bike Show - a cycling radio show and podcast from Resonance FM

  65. I lived in the States for a while and consequently drove and rode there. Turning right on a red is legal (not sure if universally so but in RI and Mass is was) whether in a car or on a bike. This seems to me to be very sensible and should be adopted everywhere.

    I don’t I agree with jumping red lights, whilst it’s not legal to do so, unless perhaps when there is absolutely no other traffic at all at the junction. All you really achieve is to piss off other road users, who may take their frustrations out on other cyclists if not you.

    • Hi Neil,

      My understanding is that right turns on red are legal everywhere in the US, barring Manhattan. You certainly notice the difference as a pedestrian having cars cut across your path at an intersection. As a cyclist, drivers in the states think you need to move out of the way at a red light so they can make a right turn in front of you, which is really annoying.

      I hear what you are saying about jumping red lights, but again if it doesn’t actually affect the driver do they have a right to be pissed off? If they are, isn’t that simply jealousy that they’re stuck in some clumsy metal box and you’re a nimble cyclist? Or at least a form of moral puritanism? Nevertheless it sounds like we agree on the fact that the laws need to be changed to make cycling safer and more attractive.

      • “Right on Red after stop” is permitted legally in all but a handful of US municipalities (mostly major cities like New York City — and it is all five boros there, not just Manhattan!) or where prohibited by sign.

        Motorists expect to be able to make that “right on red” turn regardless of whether or not there is a cyclist waiting for the light to turn green to go straight. (In a lane marked “straight or right” with a “straight ahead” lane to its left, right-turning motorists will often honk and try to force a straight-ahead motorist to crash the next lane over or to right-on-red so they can make their right turns before the light turns green.)

        Mostly the issues I run into are the motorists who believe they are the only ones who should be on the road, and able to travel whatever speed they please (BTW, these guys honk at other motorists who aren’t doing 15mph over the speed limit, so it’s not just bikes!), the motorists on a single-lane road who honk because they don’t have enough room to safely pass me (even if I’m hugging the curb), and the motorists who — in order to pass me — go willy-nilly into the next lane over, heedless of other motor traffic.

        This is not to say that I haven’t had motorists try to honk me off the road and onto the sidewalk, or come from behind to cut me off to turn into a driveway or drive-through (and since I’m in front of them, there’s no way for me to see any signal they might have made!). To be fair, I think a number of the right-turn offenders don’t register that there is a cyclist in front of, or beside, them, or they misjudge my velocity and my ability to slow or stop to accommodate them.

        Aside the major thoroughfares, I venture my biggest hazards are pedestrians (either walking on-street on the paved shoulder, or popping out from between parked cars to cross the street), cyclists riding against traffic on the wrong side of the road (i.e., passenger/”slow” side of the road vis-a-vis properly-directed vehicular traffic), and the “door zone” where there is a queue of cars stopped at a red light and I’ve had little enough warning to need to coast between the traffic and the curb-side parking to come to a safe stop.

  66. Martyn – when I drive I do not mind someone cycling in lane. I do mind someone cycling around my car when the traffic is slow moving, because I have to keep a constant eye on them.

    When I cycle, I don’t mind having to wait an extra minute. I completely disagree that it is somehow safer to cycle through a red. That may be true if it were just cars, (very well driven ones as well), but it’s not; people also walk, skate etc. and creating your own set of rules is what causes collisions.

    One of the main reasons I wait though, is that I try to give the impression to other road users that I actually am not a wannabe new york courier – and that I think is about the only sensible way of ‘earning car drivers respect’.

    Road rage does not exist because of something I SAY, but rather because of what we DO. I am intolerant of someone who aggravates other road users who subsequently have no patience for me.

    Prime example, I saw a man jump a light on his bike the other day then sail straight through a roundabout forcing everyone to emergency brake. Standard behaviour of people who can’t actually be bothered to stop.

  67. Pingback: Why Cyclists Run Red Lights – robbo.com

  68. I saw a cyclist run a red at a pelican crossing the other day – he hit an elderly lady in the face with his elbow. That’s my reason for detesting the idea that cyclists should be allowed to run reds.

  69. It’s as simple as this: cyclists want to be able to do what they like, when they see fit. That is completely unacceptable – and I talk as someone who doesn’t drive – I walk and occasionally cycle. A cyclists shouted at me the other day for walking, for a just a few seconds, on a cycle path. How can this be justified? The argument made in this blog is just another example of a cyclist saying ‘let me do what I like!’.

  70. Philip Holton

    “I do mind someone cycling around my car when the traffic is slow moving, because I have to keep a constant eye on them.”

    Well, poor you – having to maintain a constant awareness of the environment outside your vehicle must be terribly stressful for you. Perhaps you should seek stress counselling.

  71. Tom C

    “Well, poor you – having to maintain a constant awareness of the environment outside your vehicle must be terribly stressful for you. Perhaps you should seek stress counselling.”

    You wouldn’t say that if you had a nice £300 gouge down th side of your car…

  72. Why do you cyclists think you are above the law? You don’t pay to use the road yet you demand it as if its your God-given right!

    The least you could do is follow the rules like every other road user wether a car, truck, motorcyclist or whatever. You don’t see different types of vehicles bending the rules and coming up with an excuse as to why the rules shouldn’t apply to them.

    I’d love to run a red light in my car if there was no-one coming the other way, but you know what? Its against the law, so I don’t.

    I don’t drive on the footpath if theres too much traffic on the road, because its against the law.

    If you want some respect from motorists, then follow the rules and stop your arrogant use of the roads.

    I’ve never seen a happy cyclist by the way, your all so full of agro and carry on like the world owes you something, well it doesn’t.

  73. I’ve also written a piece on this important issue. It is clear that each cyclist has their own rules on why and when they go through a red light. I think the Stop at Red campaign is dangerous because it is not always the best solution.

    http://twowheelsandbeyond.blogspot.com/2010/05/red-light-rules-and-who-makes-them.html

  74. Pingback: Redondo police threaten respectful crackdown on cyclists; Toronto bike-killer goes free « BikingInLA

  75. “Cyclist red light running to me falls into the category of a victimless crime. If a cyclist runs a light and no one’s coming, who is harmed?”

    Cool – so can car drivers do the same? We sit in our metal boxes, “well trained”, at red lights, even when nothing’s coming, so can we indulge in “civil disobedience” too?

    D.

    • onthelevelblog

      D you can run red lights if you want to, but you deserve the full weight of the law and the scorn of your colleagues and friends for doing so. Motor vehicle design and lack of interior visibility make it unsafe to gauge when cross traffic is clear, and the weight and power of your car make any mistake possibly fatal to any other road user unlucky enough to get in your way. Red lights were installed for a reason and that reason is cars.

    • “We sit in our metal boxes, “well trained”, at red lights, even when nothing’s coming, so can we indulge in “civil disobedience” too?”

      You think car drivers don’t do this? All the time? If so you must drive around with your eyes shut – which might explain a lot.

      Some not very subtle differences between the two situations:

      1. A motorist is enclosed in a ton and a half of metal. A collision will be expensive, may be painful, but will hardly ever be lethal – for him. If a cyclist collides with a car, ending up in hospital is probably the best he can hope for. He will almost invariably come off worst.

      2. If the motorist is running red lights, it’s because he doesn’t want to stop; he will usually be racing them, and consequently driving at reckless speed. The cyclist, on the other hand, will usually stop and proceed with caution (barring the lunatic fringe) and will not be running or imposing a risk significantly different to a pedestrian.

      3. The motorist who does run a red light and encounters another road user can become a bloody-minded bully, even when he’s in the wrong, increasing the risk of an accident. Sad, but that’s the effect that being enclosed in a metal cage has on some people. Any cyclist tempted to do this knows he will probably die, so he will avoid conflict.

      But it’s not necessary to point out the disparity between the two situations, the asymmetry in risks, or the fact that the consequences are not comparable. You already know.

      • “You think car drivers don’t do this? All the time? If so you must drive around with your eyes shut – which might explain a lot.”

        Of course they do. The difference is that we aren’t advocating those drivers breaking the law. You are advocating cyclists breaking the law. And the reasons you give are specious.

        “1. A motorist is enclosed in a ton and a half of metal. A collision will be expensive, may be painful, but will hardly ever be lethal – for him. If a cyclist collides with a car, ending up in hospital is probably the best he can hope for. He will almost invariably come off worst.”

        The fact that a wreck on a bike is likely more deadly isn’t a reason for a cyclist to to break the law. In fact, it’s more a reason to be EXTRA cautious and try to follow the rules of the road even more closely because even a minor slip up can be deadly.

        “2. If the motorist is running red lights, it’s because he doesn’t want to stop; he will usually be racing them, and consequently driving at reckless speed. The cyclist, on the other hand, will usually stop and proceed with caution (barring the lunatic fringe) and will not be running or imposing a risk significantly different to a pedestrian.”

        This is BS. A motorist running a light does so because he doesn’t want to stop. BUT SO IS THE CYCLIST. A cyclist isn’t running a light for some altruistic reason. He doesn’t want to stop either. He’s being just as selfish as that motorist. And the idea that cyclists are breaking the law but are conscientious while they do it is ludicrous.

        “3. The motorist who does run a red light and encounters another road user can become a bloody-minded bully, even when he’s in the wrong, increasing the risk of an accident. Sad, but that’s the effect that being enclosed in a metal cage has on some people. Any cyclist tempted to do this knows he will probably die, so he will avoid conflict.”

        No, the cyclist that wants to avoid these conflicts does so by obeying the laws. If you’re purposely breaking the law you’re already acting in a selfish manner and are certainly not more likely to defer to another person when you get caught in the wrong. If you were likely to defer and avoid conflict you wouldn’t put yourself in situations more likely to have conflict in the first place.

      • onthelevelblog

        Brief replies:

        1. The difference in protection and damage potential is more reason for a cyclist to think for themselves, not just blindly follow the lights. What’s safe is not always legal and what’s legal isn’t always safe. I always look left and right even when the light is green.

        2. A cyclist who runs a red light when no one is coming is not hurting anyone. A pedestrian who does the same is not hurting anyone. A motorist who does so is upsetting the rules that have been developed to stop motorized traffic from making our cities a worse bloodbath than they already are.

        3. Again, no one is advocating for cyclists to ride through an intersection when someone else has right of way. That would be stupid, and inconsiderate. We are just advocating for the law to be changed so that those traveling around without motors should be able to proceed through junctions when safe.

        Many cyclists (and motorcyclists) run red lights because the lights don’t detect anything less than a car. Then drivers develop this stereotype of ‘law breaking cyclists’ further marginalizing those on 2 wheels. If the law doesn’t respect us and keep us safe, why should we respect the law?

  76. Red lights are a necessity in order to control traffic and prevent more accidents. The majoority of traffic are cars and therefore the traffic light system is designed with that in mind to prevent cars maiming even more people than they already do.

  77. “Cyclist red light running to me falls into the category of a victimless crime. If a cyclist runs a light and no one’s coming, who is harmed?”

    I think the same should apply to scooters, motorcycles, cars, and lorries.

    • onthelevelblog

      Hi Juan- You know I sort of agree with you- let’s rip out all the stop signs, traffic lights, sidewalks, and just go back to the way it was- streets as plazas where people could hang out and go about their lives. That will mean drivers will have to take responsibility for ensuring their own and others’ safety, not rely on the nanny state to tell us when it is safe to go. The one thing that traffic lights have done is to enforce the priority of motors over people. I don’t want to be a slave to the traffic light! Do you?

      • I do not want to be a slave to anything. Not only that. We should not feel compelled to obey any law or regulation where we think the infraction would be a victimless crime. I believe everyone should take responsibility for their own and others’ safety, not just car drivers. Don’t you?

  78. I ride my bike daily in London traffic. If most cyclists could be trusted to look out for other road users and behave accordingly then I would agree with all this victimless crime stuff.

    Sadly my observation, sadly reinforced every singly day, is that most cyclists will ride through most red lights as long as there is no traffic crossing in the other direction likely to cause them damage i.e. cyclists will stop for cars, motorbikes, buses and lorries, but not for pedestrians. Even if they have children on their shoulders or are pushing prams. Victimless crime my arse. How cocky and stupid can you be?

    I’m going to start a programme of pushing cyclists over if I’m walking across a road when I have a green light and a cyclist crosses his red light. Watch out in Shoreditch you tossers.

  79. This is not a cars vs bikes issue. Pedestrians are people too, and we have a right to safety when crossing on green. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve seen cyclists sail through red (i.e. not even treating it as a stop sign) in central London, including weaving through a crowd of pedestrians at a busy crossing. I was knocked over a couple of months by a cyclist who came from nowhere as I crossed on green, and my wrist has not yet recovered. I have also had several near misses. I don’t feel more menaced by any other group on the road, and while my sympathies as an environmentalist are with cyclists rather than motorists, I have no respect for those who go through red. Either you are in traffic or you aren’t, and if you are going to be in traffic you have to obey the rules which exist for a reason. A big part of that reason is to make people’s movements more easily predictable, and this is what cyclists seem to forget. Because of cyclists’ behaviour, I never know whether they will stop at a red light, or join the pedestrians crossing an intersection, or ride up onto the pavement. It has made me a paranoid and very jumpy pedestrian. None of your arguments take into account the danger and insecurity imposed on pedestrians by anarchic cyclists.

    • onthelevelblog

      I totally hear you. I have also felt threatened by disrespectful people on bikes. I guess my point is that people following the law doesn’t equal respect- what if the light turns green and there are still peds in the xwalk for example? If people just had respect and empathy for other road users, like you see in many northern european cultures, then we wouldn’t be at each others throats.

      I truly believe that the ‘motors first’ mentality of much of the industrialized west has pitted us against each other. The time for change is long overdue. -j

  80. Richard Lionheart

    Here is an example of red light silliness. In London many signals are now set to allow a pedestrian crossing phase on all four approaches. All traffic is at red, while all pedestrian crossings are at green.

    However, much of the time there is noone actually crossing! So if you are on a bike and want to go ahead there is absolutely no harm being done by so doing. It is safe for the cyclist because traffic is stopped by the red. Even if people ARE crossing, it is perfectly safe to go ahead slowly and to yield to them as you would at a zebra crossing, (or sidewalk crossing in the US).

    It would be LEGAL for me to dismount and WALK with my bike across the lights at 4 mph. Yet it is not legal for me to be actually SEATED on the saddle of the same bike, moving at the SAME 4mph walking speed. Alice in Wonderland?

    [A sideline : I learnt when I was a boy that standing on one pedal and scooting along without sitting onthe saddle did not legally consitute 'riding' a bike, so it can be done anywhere - including on pavements. I would be interested to know if anyone knows whether this is the correct legal situation in the UK because I often do this!]

    The traffic laws were designed for 4 wheeled vehicles. They are out of date, and need to be brought into the 21st century. An outdated and irrelevant law does no good for society, it just helps to create disrepect for the overall principle of law.

    Change RED to YIELD for bikes!

  81. I was at the junction in London at the top of Shaftesbury Avenue a few years ago, on a Thursday afternoon. When the lights turned red, the cars came to a stop, the pedestrian crossing beeping sounded and I started to cross. I’d taken one step when a woman on a bike came fast along the gutter and nearly collided with me. Basically she had gone fast across the crossing with the lights on red, nearly hitting me in the process. I did shout that the lights were on red and that she shouldn’t have been riding there, but no idea if she heard me.

    This isn’t the only time I’ve seen some cyclists run red lights at busy crossings either, and I don’t understand the mentality behind it. To think the highway code does not apply to cyclists is not only actually wrong, and dangerous, it’s also extremely arrogant – especially when pedestrians have to jump out the way of cyclists powering through crossings as if they have a right to be there when people are crossing.

    If you run a red light, no matter what vehicle you’re in: car, cycle, motorbike, tractor, whatever, expect a traffic accident. I have no sympathy for cyclists who knowingly run reds and then get injured or killed, sorry; it’s their own fault.

  82. Just found this article while looking at “running red light” comments by ticked off motorists who choose to write comments following “bike” news stories.

    Sadly, running red lights is NOT a “victimless” crime. As Pogo might have mused, “There is a victim and he is us…”

    Running red lights is the social/transportation equivalent of sticking your middle finger up the nose of every motorist waiting for that light to turn green and shouting “F$%# YOU” in their ear as you zoom by.

    I believe this one act of legal disobedience does more to harm our “reputation” with “the public” than any other behavior.

    Does it make sense to do it? I can’t argue with the author’s “logic” – nobody coming… you’re not going to get clobbered… why not? Besides, “pedestrians” cross against lights all the time.

    In the U.S., bikes preceded cars on the roads. In the Bike Boom of the late 1800′s cycle events made the society pages of the New York Times and cyclists banded together to generate the power and momentum of “The Good Roads Movement” which made political hay and got roads paved. Bicycles were recognized as “vehicles” and given the same basic rights and responsibilities as other vehicles in most states.

    There is a movement afoot though to remove bikes from the roads – to create facilities for bikes like paths and trails and force us to ride there. This “right” to ride on the roadways is not absolute, and many of us fight every day to keep it in the law, and make sure public officials don’t forget that we have this right.

    So, I encourage you to practice “safe bike.” Our “image” and “reputation” ARE important… it’s what drives politicians in their decision making process when considering new laws – more restrictive laws. Under the “parens patriae” guise “protecting” cyclists, politicians often find the “safest” place for us is OFF the roads…

    Good Luck & Good Riding!

    Steve Magas
    The Bike Lawyer
    OhioBikeLawyer -dot-com

  83. I walk everywhere, and can’t count the number of near misses that I’ve had with bicyclists who think only of themselves. A bicycle may not be a car, but it IS capable of killing and maiming a pedestrian or rider when used recklessly. Some of you may ride through red lights when it’s “safe” to do so, but many bicyclists ride through them when it is NOT; when pedestrians are in the crosswalk with the walk light for example. If obeying traffic lights isn’t uniformly observed, then you have idiots riding through them as well as people who claim to do so “safely”. Your “good” red light running encourages fools to do the same. No pedestrian should have to jump our of the way of bicyclists who speed through crosswalks, go down one way streets the wrong way, go through red lights, or ride on sidewalks where they weave in and out of people who are walking. Red lights serve a purpose, the rules of the road apply to bicyclists too, and it is not up to you to decide when and where you will observe them. It isn’t “about you”. It’s about ALL of us.

    • Agreed. I am disabled and live on a very busy road in south London. The crossing outside my house is a death trap because cyclists constantly shoot out across the pedestrian crossing even if the green man is lit up, and because so many buses and vans go down that road, it’s often impossible for cyclists to see if there’s anyone on the crossing. I have been hit or nearly hit or yelled at by cyclists, more times than I can count. Last year I saw a cyclist speed out into a pedestrian crossing in Sheen without looking and go smashing right into a guide dog guiding an elderly lady! (I think the dog survived.) Later that year I saw a cyclist come round the corner by St Paul’s in Hammersmith, the road that leads over Hammersmith Bridge into Barnes, which if you know the area is a sharpish curve, with the intention of speeding through the red light which is just after the curve, and he ended up having to throw his bike across and to the ground because once he got round the curve he realised there was a ton of people on the crossing (like a solid mass of bodies – that crossing is ALWAYS packed) and if he hadn’t, he would have plowed into them. As it was he probably hurt himself quite badly, but entirely his own fault – who takes a curve at speed, knowing there is a pedestrian crossing right after the curve and the light is red! (There is a wall on the curve which is at a height which means you can see the lights before the curve, but you can’t see the actual crossing and whether there are people on it till after you get round the curve.) I have no objection to cyclists running red lights IF it’s 100% obvious that it’s safe (absolute clear visibility, and you know for a fact there are no pedestrians nearby) but too many cyclists seem to think pedestrians have no right to exist!

  84. Last time I ran a red light in busy traffic, my chain fell off. I rather felt I deserved it.

  85. as always we have a battle of opinion between the wise and the puritans.
    very refreshing to hear intelligent cyclists present their case.
    if every individual took the extra effort of careful consideration before action instead of succumbing to the laziness inherent in blindly following blanket rules then i believe the world would run much more smoothly and as a consequence, its inhabitants much more satisfied.

    fight for your right to exercise your mind people

  86. Pingback: Paris to Allow Cyclists to Run Red Lights | TheCityFix

  87. Pingback: Semafori e ciclisti: rispetto delle regole o regole per l’uomo? | Nuova Mobilità

  88. Pingback: The Idaho Law: allowing safer choice and happier travel « The Meggs Report

  89. Just a quick follow-up to this exciting and perennial discussion,given the new legal situation for cyclists in France (relaxing regulations at red lights in Paris as a first step).

    Safety really is dependent on giving cyclists freedom, from everything I’ve learned. I traveled to Idaho to study the law there allowing cyclists to treat red lights and stop signs as yield signs, and looked for evidence of .

    Examples:

    1) In London, cyclists are more likely to be killed by lorries if they obey red lights;
    2) In Boise, Idaho, cyclists are much safer than comparison cities.
    3) Reducing needless, unwarranted obstructions to cycling increases cycling producing further health and safety benefits
    4) Cyclists in Austin, TX were less likely to be struck in ride-out collisions than in another city where cyclists were more obedient. “Drivers appeared to have adapted”, a new sense of the idea of “safety in numbers”
    5) Psychological studies show drivers react differently and more dangerously when faced with a cyclist than with another (enclosed) motor vehicle.
    6) Conflicts are highest at intersections and most intense when all move at once with the light
    7) Cyclists waiting at intersections are exposed to higher levels of pollution
    8) Cyclists stopping repeatedly are more at risk for a variety of injuries including repetitive stress injuries.

    I discuss these topics more and give links to presentations, advocacy/policy letters, and a draft research article, at my own blog:
    meggsreport.com/2011/09/29/the-idaho-law-allowing-safer-choice-and-happier-travel/

    Jason Meggs

    ===
    Jason N. Meggs, J.M., M.C.P., M.P.H.
    University of Bologna / UC Berkeley
    DICAM – Transportation Engineering Group
    Bologna, Italy

  90. Just a quick follow-up to this exciting and perennial discussion,given the new legal situation for cyclists in France (relaxing regulations at red lights in Paris as a first step).

    I traveled to Idaho to study the Idaho Law allowing cyclists to treat red lights and stop signs as yield signs, and looked for evidence of whether it is beneficial or harmful to give cyclists that choice. I further reviewed the literature seeking answers to the same questions.

    From everything I’ve learned, safety really is dependent on giving cyclists freedom.

    Examples:

    1) In London, cyclists are more likely to be killed by lorries if they obey red lights;
    2) In Boise, Idaho, cyclists are much safer than comparison cities.
    3) Reducing needless, unwarranted obstructions to cycling increases cycling producing further health and safety benefits
    4) Cyclists in Austin, TX were less likely to be struck in ride-out collisions than in another city where cyclists were more obedient. “Drivers appeared to have adapted”, a new perspective on the idea of “safety in numbers”
    5) Psychological studies show drivers react differently and more dangerously when faced with a cyclist than with another (enclosed) motor vehicle.
    6) Conflicts are highest at intersections and most intense when all move at once with the light
    7) Cyclists waiting at intersections are exposed to higher levels of pollution
    8) Cyclists stopping repeatedly are more at risk for a variety of injuries including repetitive stress injuries.

    I discuss these topics more and give links to presentations, advocacy/policy letters, and a draft research article, at my own blog:

    http://meggsreport.com/2011/09/29/the-idaho-law-allowing-safer-choice-and-happier-travel/

    Jason Meggs

    ===
    Jason N. Meggs, J.M., M.C.P., M.P.H.
    University of Bologna / UC Berkeley
    DICAM – Transportation Engineering Group
    Bologna, Italy

  91. Can we have a little consideration please!?

    Rules are for the guidance of the wise and the close adherance of the stupid/moronic! Fine run red lights people, but give me the motorist the defence that running you over when you appeared out of nowhere that your death was a case of natural selection! Likewise if you hit a pedestrian walking on green, you should be fined £100 plus compensation to the pedestrian to cover their losses. There is an individual who runs red lights habitually in Gloucester and we come close at least twice a week…must have similar journey times. He comes from behind a bush onto the road like a maniac regardless of the lights and wears dark clothing. It’s only a matter of time!

  92. common senscycle

    Cyclist stopping at a red light/stop sign is always a safety issue. Not wanting to stop is all about a convenience issue for the cyclists who don’t seem to know how to safely cycle. Stops have been a part of cycling forever and it has never been as highly debated an issue as it is currently. It seems that it was never a problem for previouse generations to ge their very heavy bicycles moving from a dead stop but the current generation of cyclists seem unable to get their carbon fibre racing bikes moving from a stop it seems. I think it is all about appearances. These so called cyclists run around in their in high end cycling clothing looking like they just finished a bike marathon and are afraid people will realize what frauds they are whne they can’t even cycle their machines away from a stop. What a joke this discussion is. Learn to bicycle and behave properly and give up all the stupidity about it being better for everyone. It is only better for those who dont have the stamina and physical fitness to be cycling in the first place.

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