Red Light, Stop Sign, Yield, Give Way, Cédez le Passage
This thing about cyclists not stopping for red lights seems to go on an on and on. When you’re sitting inside your air-conditioned SUV / open-topped sports car / beaten-up 1987 Volvo, and you get to a red light, you have to stop. Everyone knows that - apart from minicab drivers. But then you see some eejit of a cyclist rides around you to the front of the queue, gets to the stop-line & takes a peek either way at the traffic, and then seeing that the way’s clear, they ride out and off on the rest of their journey.
It’s just so annoying - all cyclists are obviously just a bunch of law-breaking hoodlums, with no respect for other road users (who were ahead of them in the queue). And some of them don’t even wear helmets either!
So when the lights eventually change, you drive off. Except, having been delayed at the lights, you now have to push it a bit harder. But that’s not really a problem, ‘cos that 30mph (/50kmh) speed limit in town is really only advisory, isn’t it?
OK, so we’ve over-generalised a bit here. It’s actually not all cyclists who ride through red lights - provided that you live outside of That London, it’s probably only a small minority in the UK. And when cyclists do ride through red lights, I like to think that it’s not because they’re just a bunch of anarchists, but because it might actually be safer to do so, as it puts them out of the way of vehicles whose drivers don’t know they’re there. And it’s actually not all motorists who flout the speed limits. Just most of them.
But here’s an interesting idea . . . in the US, I believe that you can actually turn right on a red light - as you’re not crossing the path of oncoming traffic, you treat it like a “yield” sign. And in France, the red light sometimes flashes to indicate that you can do the same - treat it like a cédez le passage sign. Hmmm. . . . and then today, the EcoVelo Blog had this article about the same rule applying to Stop signs - cyclists might be allowed to treat them as “yield” signs instead.
Is this a good thing? Well in a car when you stop, it takes a huge amount of energy to get going again & up to cruising speed. But all you have to do is press your right foot down. The same thing applies on a bike, except you end up sweating a little, because you have to press your right foot down, then your left, then your right . . . So on those grounds I’d be all for it. I always stop at red lights - even late at night when there’s no-one around, and having the option to treat them as “give way” signs instead would make for much easier journeys - I’d now be able to go through cautiously.
I can see two problems though. At some junctions - especially where one road is narrow, the stop line is set well back so as to keep you clear of large vehicles’ turning clearances. Passing the stop line would actually put you in the path of these things even if it initially appeared safe to move forward. Secondly, it would actually further increase the US & Them of cars and cyclists. The fact that when unprotected by several tons of metal, it makes sense to have different rules for vulnerable road users, I’m not sure that most motorists would see it like that. It’s their problem, but I have the feeling that they’d do what they could to make it our problem. And that’s not a good thing.