Why cyclists should stop at red lights

While we are strong supporters of balance in the debate, there’s no point denying that some cyclists need to realise you should not cycle pass red lights or cycle on footpaths.

Here’s Tim Culhane, a Dublin-based software engineer who is blind and partially deaf, explaining how a cyclist hit his guide dog and his justified reaction:

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  1. This is a timely and apposite reminder to cyclists to keep off footways and to stop for pedestrian crossings.

    I you were to knock down an elderly pedestrian they are likely to suffer a long-bone or hip fracture and those breaks take a long while to heal assuming that the unfortunate pedestrian doesn’t die from a fatty-embolism.

    You have to respect pedestrians in the same way you expect drivers to respect your vulnerability. It cuts both ways.

  2. Absolutely. Every commuter has a duty of care towards all others and especially to those commuters who are more vulnerable. Bad cycling behaviour towards pedestrians is as bad as bad driving behaviour towards cyclists.

  3. Above all, ALL road users – including and especially cyclists – need to show courtesy at all times. The above incident is a terrible occurrence and my regrets and the tweeter is correct to be aggrieved. Yet, sadly, I see similar infringements on the streets of Dublin on an almost daily basis. Courtesy at all times, cyclists, please!

  4. Red lights are sometimes red when there’s no-one there. Or they’re there to govern the flow of cars. Red lights are not always for pedestrians and they’re often set up in a way that ignores bicycles entirely.

    While cyclists (and cars) should always give priority to pedestrians, it’s not sensible to say that cyclists should stop for every red light.

    I cycle. I drive. I walk on the pavement with small kids. I’m careful and courteous at all times. I’ve never hit anyone with bike or car. There are red lights I often ignore when I’m on a bike. So shoot me.

  5. A red light is a red light. The law is the law. Anyone, even a cyclist breaking a red light when no one is watching is still breaking the law. Cycling on the pavement is equally unacceptable. It’s hard enough to gain any respect from motorists without being constantly being undermined by people who think they are above the law.

    This evening at approx. 4:45 I had a speeding motorist go past me at less than 6″ on the Rock Road. Unfortunately this is not an isolated event. Hard to believe I was actually adjacent to the path in the cycle lane when he tore past me at 50 – 60km/h. It left me shaken, so I can understand Tim’s frustration with the idiot who struck his dog. God preserve us from these idiots whether they drive, motorcycle, walk or cycle.

    So, I disagree strongly with IOK. Please stop setting such a bad example for other less experienced cyclists or even your own children.

    David, why should cyclists “especially” need to show courtesy at all times? It should be the same for everyone.

    I totally agree with Mike McKillen and ThomasG. Totally sensible.

  6. Of course we should stop at a red light or pedestrian crossing… and stop means STOP, but if there are no crossing peds or any sign of cars coming whats the harm in pushing on? Come on, a bit of common sense here please? As for cycling on footpaths the only place I do this is where its actually more dangerous for me to cycle on the roads…..Finally In 30 years cycling I’ve never hit a pedestrian. ever… even on a footpath,

  7. Yup – I have to admit I go through red lights… usually to get ahead of the cars who are so willing to cut me off or box me in that it’s just safer if I get ahead of them. Cycle on pavements? Never. Compromise pedestrians? Never. Get pissed off by this debate of david and goliath? Always.

  8. The Law is the Law guys. Sometimes it may seem stupid but that’s why the country’s in the state its in. The Law is not for only those that are too dumb to do otherwise. It really does make sense to have Laws that we can all live by.

    I used to go through red lights maybe 20 to 30 years ago but since I have had children of my own I realised that it would be better to practice what I preach. We all need to move in the direction of abiding by the Law, otherwise its really is the Law of the Jungle out there. And well bikers are small fry.

    Of course if we go down the “French” path and make it legal to go through red lights, that would be a different matter. I even see the merits of some cyclists cycling on paths too, Tim’s experience aside
    . I hate to see young school going kids (helmet on the handlebars) cycling along side trucks, busses and some of our less than Law abiding motorists and motorcyclists.

    By the way, its nice to see the comments, even the ones I don’t agree with. Keep them coming please.

  9. The law is the law…but sometime the law is an ass. The law does not cater for cyclists and the vast majority of roads are designed to prioritise the moveemnt of motor vehicles over all other users. I have no problem with cyclists going through red lights when it is clearly safe to do so.

  10. I cycle to work every day and I admit that I do not always stop for red. Ironically I actually feel safer going through red and cross a road at my own pace when there is no traffic coming. When I wait for green I often am cut off by cars who want to maneuver themselves through traffic at the cyclist’s expense. At least when they have to stop, I am safe and only have to mind left or right, not anything from behind trying to hit me or cut me off.
    I would prefer to just wait, but I honestly do not feel safe. I really wish that there would be a great shift in mentality towards other road users here in Ireland, but judging by what I see I fear this will never happen.

  11. One can only hope that his guidedog isn’t too traumatized by the accident and no longer useable as a guidedog because of a fear of crossings

  12. In some places the solution to a lack of cycle lanes is to put a line down the middle of the sidewalk. Would it be ok to cycle at high speed on such a bike lane just because there’s a painted white line? Despite the fact that pedestrians could be merely inches away? Not in my view, but it’d probably be legal enough for John Murphy to do it.

    Conversely it’s not rare for me to cycle past guards, on the path, with kids on the back of the bike. I’m going slowly, I stop or slow even more when there are pedestrians around. I’ve never hit or scared anyone. I’m very visibly being sensible. If the road was safe I’d go on the road.

    So far any guard I’ve seen has given me a nod as I go by. A nod, not a ticket. Their approach is sensible. If I was going fast or presenting a hazard to pedestrians they’d be right to stop me, ticket me and fine me. I respect their judgement and their authority and they apparently respect it too.

    Similarly with red lights. Sometimes it’s sensible to go through a red light so that you’re clear and safe when the cars all start their mad rush through the lights. Sometimes there’s no-one around and – as a bike – you can see and go perfectly safely. It’s NEVER ok to rush through a red light when there are pedestrians crossing but it’s also not ok to rush through a green light if there are pedestrians crossing.

    Some common sense is what’s needed. Not a blind attitude of “the law is the law”. That’s just a recipe for even more lack of respect for the law.

    As for some fecker hitting a guide dog and running away, there are words for people like that. “Cyclist” probably isn’t one I’d choose as the most descriptive.

  13. IOK is being real, John Murphy think for yourself and I hope the world never becomes as black and white as you see it.

    It’s about being sensible, thinking, looking and seeing. Just because a light says green it may not be safe to go through it. Some traffic lights are stupid and should be ignored. It’s only by resisting idiotic zoning/planning laws that they change, that is my experience in London, when the critical mass of cyclists instigate cycle lanes on one way streets or force toucan crossings to be installed. Don’t be a passive user of the roads, demand change and improvement. Cycling around should be as stop and start free as possible to encourage as many people as possible to take and keep it up.

    Also over the many years that cyclists have been breaking red lights the statistics hold up: Nothing really bad happens when a percentage of the cycling population breaks a light bar the extremely rare incident, none of which I can find any mention of without some more serious research. Far more dangerous is the unwitting commuter who has stopped in traffic instead of filtering through to the front only to be squashed under an HGV, instances of which are too many to ignore.

    We need to encourage a cycling mentality of awareness and independent thought, it is entirely wrong to stick up coloured lights and expect people to trust in them entirely. I have seen too many instances of motorists completely ignoring every element of road safety designed to protect cyclists and other vulnerable road users. Had I children I would encourage them to be assertive and independent thinkers on the road, not to just sit there and expect other road users to protect them, that would be naive. Lights be damned I’ll go when it’s safe for myself and others.


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