Only 1-in-8 cyclists run red lights says study of 60 Irish junctions

Only 1-in-8 cyclists were observed passing through red lights according to research which recorded the movements of 25,126 cyclists at 60 junctions across Ireland

The research was conducted for the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and outline results were published in weekly RSA column in the Irish Independent motoring section yesterday.

The RSA spokesperson wrote: “The final study looked at the behaviour of cyclists at traffic lights. It too was an extensive study that examined 25,126 cyclists at 60 sites in 9 cities/towns across the country. The report says that 1-in-8 cyclists were observed passing through a red light. This was highest in Limerick (44pc) and lowest in Cork (5pc).

It added: “Male cyclists were more likely to break a red light (14pc vs 8pc) and cyclists using public bikes were more likely to break a red light (16pc vs 11pc). Of the cyclists that broke a red light, 52pc went straight through the junction and the presence of a cycle lane did not appear to affect the incidence of red light breakage.”

“It’s worth pointing out that these observations were recorded in June 2015 so pre-date the introduction of the new fixed charges for cyclists. They were introduced in July of last year. We will be conducting a follow-up round of studies again soon.”

In the first nine months of the fixed charges, commonly known as on-the-spot fines, there were only 382 cyclists found proceeding past traffic lights with the red lamp illuminated and another 18 found doing the same at bicycle-only traffic lights. The level of fines is generally viewed to be low at a rate of around an average of  2.4 fines f0r all offences covered issued per day.


  1. Any time I have been dragged in to an argument about this, based on the principle that since I’m a cyclist I can be held accountable for all cyclists, the discussion tends to go like this. “Cyclists never stop at red lights!” / “That’s not true, for example I always do.” / “Well obviously I don’t see you because I never see cyclists stopping!” / “I find that pretty hard to believe, I see plenty of cyclists stopped on my way in to work” / “Oh they don’t count, junctions where cyclists have to stop because of traffic don’t count, I’m talking about places where there is nothing stopping them” / “So your complaint is that cyclists go through red lights when the junction is clear? It is based on the idea that people should follow the rules regardless, which is actually my attitude, but I know that you, you personally, will stop on a double yellow line to run in to the shops, you routinely do 140kph on the motorway and you ‘miss’ no right turn signs when it suits you so it just seems to me that you are being a hypocrite”.

    I was stopped at a pedestrian crossing on Thomas Street this morning, this stayed red for quite a long time, the single pedestrian was long gone by the time the light went green and of the 6 cyclists that arrived at the junction during that time I was the only one not to go through it. Two others stopped when it went red and broke the light after the pedestrian had finished crossing. The rest arrived afterwards and seeing no pedestrians crossing broke the light. Now I (obviously) don’t agree with that, just because you don’t see a pedestrian crossing doesn’t mean there isn’t one and I don’t believe that rules are made to be broken, however I won’t claim this is dangerous behaviour. The point is that likely all the motorists also stopped here get a another example to add to the pile of ‘evidence’ that all cyclists break the lights. The fact that when I crossing the Liffey every cyclist at the junction waited for green does nothing to reduce this because “of course they stopped, they had to”.

    If you were to add up every junction I arrived at this morning and counted how many cyclists broke the light versus how many total I can believe the 1 in 8 figure, although if you were to ask me for an unscientific guess I’d have said it was more like 1 in 4. This won’t impact motorists attitudes though, since they will only remember the deserted pedestrian crossing or the empty junction where every cyclist who arrived went through.

  2. I’d be interested in seen how many of these red lights were at T junctions that had a cycling lane going straight. which means the cyclist didn’t have to cross the path of traffic. in an ideal world junctions like that would have a physical border preventing cars from entering the bike lane and thus negate the need for cyclist to stop.

  3. I gave up on “collective responsibility” of my fellow cyclists some time ago. So when ‘reports’ such as this appear I just shrug my shoulders and ask what is the figures for motor vehicles?
    I refuse to be marginalised and forced to defend the actions of others.

    I fear that IE is going the same draconian anti-cycling guff that Australia seems to be on. Where insisting on helmets, hi-viz and correcting people’s behaviour is seen as the panacea.

  4. Running red lights is an issue for sure. It’s a shame that it has become so unbalanced with the media in Ireland & UK putting cyclists in their cross-hairs. You then get people bleating out what they hear on radio/newspapers ad naseum without applying their own analysis.

    I also find it very strange that the consequence of an impact isn’t factored into the argument. Car/van/2 tonnes of metal accelerating to make it through a junction and then going through on red at 40+ km/h vs 90kg of bicycle+human going through junction at 15-20 km/h

    My theory is that this situation has manifested itself due to frustration levels of being stuck in gridlock and seeing cyclists not being constrained in the same way.

    It would be fantastic if cyclists were allowed to do “left turn on red” as per – obviously if it is done in safe manner and respecting other road users. Such a change sounds too progressive for Ireland though

  5. @HivemindX
    At pedestrian crossings I always wait for any pedestrians that are crossing and then continue, even if it’s red for me. It makes no sense to stay stopped. If I swung my leg over the saddle onto the ground, took 2 steps forwards on the path as a pedestrian and then remounted my bike = all perfectly legal and exactly the same from a safety perspective as if I just carry on on my bike once the pedestrians have crossed. I sometimes also dismount at lights and walk across junctions as a pedestrian, but it makes F-all difference if I dismount or cycle across at walking speed. There is no difference and yet one will get motorists all hot and bothered and they say nothing about the other.

  6. @Citizen Wolf – The problem with everyone deciding what rules they will obey and what ones they won’t is that some people have a very relaxed attitude towards what is acceptable. I see cyclists doing things that I consider unacceptable. Like the muppet last week who took a left turn on red right in to my path requiring me to slam on the brakes, or the people I see threading the needle around pedestrians that are in the process of crossing, or those who think there are no pedestrians but they didn’t see the person about to step out from behind the truck stopped at the lights. Not to mention the motorists who think it makes no sense to park 200m away when they can stop on the double yellows outside the creche ‘just for a minute’. By your reasoning why should cars stop at pedestrian lights when nobody is crossing. In fact I often wonder why they do, motorists in general don’t give a damn about speed limits or parking restrictions so it can’t be that they respect the law too much.

    Of course the obvious reason to stop at a red light where nobody is crossing is that it is the law. I would feel a bit of a hypocrite complaining about close passes by cars (which the drivers no doubt feel is perfectly safe) while also ignoring the rules and cruising through red lights when I feel it’s safe.

  7. **muppet last week who took a left turn on red right in to my path requiring me to slam on the brakes** This was demonstrably stupid by said person. Why are you mentioning it? We both agree. And no, it doesn’t relate to what I said.

    **the people I see threading the needle around pedestrians that are in the process of crossing** I don’t & didn’t advocate that at ped crossings. Why again are you bringing it up? I specifically said I stop for peds. And again no, I wasn’t advocating a free-for-all. But….. then again, it’s perfectly acceptable to thread in and out between peds in many places such as parks….. Why is that?

    **those who think there are no pedestrians but they didn’t see the person about to step out from behind the truck stopped at the lights** Demonstrably numpties who weren’t showing due care and attention whilst on a bike. But this particular example is why I NEVER go thru red lights when in charge of a car, because such a mistake could kill or seriously injure.

    **Not to mention the motorists who think it makes no sense to park 200m away when they can stop on the double yellows outside the creche ‘just for a minute’.** You’re bringing up a lot of ‘what if’ scenarios which have nothing to do with my point. There are plenty of rules and regulations that people interpret in different ways. Even the rules that are there, YOU don’t slavishly follow. Do you ever do something that would otherwise be illegal if it were to allow access/ advancement of an emergency vehicle? Of course you would, because you’re a careful attentive individual who uses his judgement. That’s exactly what I do. By rejecting my proposals just because others aren’t as careful as me is no more cogent to the argument that any idiot who breaks any law that’s already there.

    **Of course the obvious reason to stop at a red light where nobody is crossing is that it is the law.** Look to London where research has shown that women cyclists are more likely to be killed by vehicles precisely because they follow the law as stands more rigorously than male cyclists and thus end up putting themselves in danger. I reject your argument of ‘because it’s the law’. Of course we need rules, laws and regulations, but they have to make sense and be fit for purpose. Stopping at red lights for cars makes sense because cars are inherently dangerous. That’s why traffic lights were originally introduced – because cars are bloody dangerous and need to be controlled. There were no traffic lights for peds or bikes previous to that. Stopping at traffic lights that were designed with cars in mind (that’s the reality of it) doesn’t always make sense when you’re on a bike. And just because some idiots take extreme risks on bikes and egregiously go through dangerous junctions on red doesn’t negate the argument that red lights at other junctions make no sense for cyclists to follow. Look to Paris and Copenhagen. Why do they have turn left on red for cyclists – because it makes little sense for the bikes to stop because they pose such little inherent risk. Cars on the other hand do pose inherent risks and thus need far greater regulation and stringent controls.

    Go back to what I said previously – do you object if I stop at a ped crossing, quickly dismount and remount on the other side of the lights? if so why? And if not, why not? For the moment disregard all the other criminals intent on killing everyone in your family or robbing your house the minute you go to work in the morning. They’ll do that no-matter what the law.

  8. @hivemindx. It is also the law not to cross a continuous white line in the centre of the road (except in emergency) and when overtaking a cyclist to give cadequate clearance. There is a 4km stretch of road on my commute where it is not possible to pass a cyclist without breaking one or other law . I’ve been commuting for 15 years and no car has EVER obeyed the law and stayed behind until it was safe under the guidelines (this includes gardai). Do I think they all deserve a ticket or a prosecution? Absolutely not. Most drivers pass with safety and respect as not all sections of road are dangerous to cross the line when it comes to passing slow and small vehicles.
    The point is, there are plenty of situations like this both on the road and in life where the letter of the law is sidelined except in the case of recklessness or being obstructive.
    I often break red lights, but never dangerously.More because I value my own life rather than being worried about injuring others and always careful not to impede any other users right of way. Once a car behind blew his horn at me for going slowly through the a pedestrian crossing on red so I stopped and went back and waited. He then started blowing his hot at me to get out of his way when I didn’t move off fast enough or get out of his way.

  9. @Citizen Wolf – None of the things I brought up are irrelevant. They are all examples of how people break the rules when they think it is no big deal exactly like you admit you do.

  10. I’ve asked the RSA several times for the raw data of their survey, I believe it’s a sham, and they have only set up their observation of cyclists at traffic lights, rather than a fair sample of the entire country. So the actual number of cyclists breaking red lights will be lower.

    If you consider all the cycle journeys taken on roads with no traffic lights, then no cyclists on these journeys break red lights.

    But unless the rsa release the data, we’ll never know.

  11. Did the RSA record the numbers of motorised vehicles breaking the same sets of lights for comparative purposes?
    Dublin Cycling Campaign regularly surveys sample junctions in the inner-core of Dublin City and records ALL road-user behaviour at traffic signals. We do it for 15 min time periods. Motorbike, taxi and bus/coach drivers are nearly as bad as cyclists in running ‘red’ or amber-gambling.
    The proportion of motorised drivers who end up in ASLs (bike-boxes) due to failure to bring their vehicle to a halt behind the primary stop-line is also high indicating that there is misunderstanding of what ‘red’ means.
    Let’s remember that the Rules for the Road were brought in to deal with the hazard presented by the advent of motor vehicles weighing at least three-orders of magnitude greater than a bike and travelling at speeds in excess of 30 km/h.
    Remember the requirement for a flag-man walking in advance of the first horseless carriages!
    The 15 kg bike travelling at 10 km/h presents a low risk to other road users.
    I am very concerned that National Bike Week is being used as an opportunity to negatively ‘spin’ about cycling by vested interests who seek to punish all cyclists for the misdemeanours of a few.
    I for one no longer support the concept of NBW because it has been hijacked in this way.

  12. Hi Mike
    In what way has the bike week been high-jacked? I’ve had no dealings with bike-week activities before as I’ve lived overseas for a long while until recently, so I’m curious as to what you refer. I noticed last year (not sure if it’s connected to bike week) that a big organised cycle in Dublin it was mandatory to wear helmets. I was going to go and show some support for the event, until I found out that helmets were mandatory. Is this the sort of thing you mean?

  13. CitizenWolf – I was on the inaugural National Bike Week (NBW) steering group until a decision was made by government to seek Coca Cola funding of the extension of the Dublinbikes scheme. I could not support this sponsorship so I protested that it was an unhealthy alliance and stood down!
    NBW had significant funding in the early years so it was well run by a event management company.
    The amount of funding has been whittled away over the last few years and it is now a pittance. So much for the government’s good intentions towards cycling promotion in the face of climate-change imperatives.
    Last year we had the introduction of FCNs directed at cyclists announced during NBW. NBW is meant to be about promotion of cycling.
    The lunchtime run on Wednesday was a farce. AGS was opposed to any rolling closure of junctions and only with a last minute intervention by the then minister did a route emerge – and it was kept away from the centre of the city and helmets were demanded.

  14. Helmets demanded?!?! FFS, on what lawful grounds could they demand that? That’s ridiculous! The dangerization of cycling continues a-pace. :(

  15. Hi Mike
    Regarding your comment there about AGS objecting to closing junctions etc – didn’t they close off streets for the Gumball rally?

  16. Even cyclist have problems with idiots on bikes, just don’t tarnish us all with the one prejudiced brush. The following clip is my recent experience with a right “numpty” who wanted to fight me because I called his reckless behavior into question.

    We have enough racism, religious bigotry and discrimination in our green and fair isle without creating another oppressed minority. Enough already of this demonizing cyclists because of the bad behavior of the few.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.