COMMENT & ANALYSIS: A reader sent us this shocking video of a cyclist running a red traffic light:
…despite perception this is not a one-off. If motorists breaking red lights isn’t an issue why do they keep running into Luas trams? Data from a red light traffic camera along the Luas red line shows cars, vans and trucks running red lights a larger problem:
There’s a perception issue. It’s like the saying “The finest trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist” — the danger of speeding a motorists breaking red lights is the devil which we are collectively blind to.
I woke up to the issue of motorists breaking red lights not as a cyclist but while pushing my first child around Dublin city centre in a pram — the red light breaking by motorists ranged from at speed to creeping over pedestrian crossing while you were trying to use them with a pram.
And guess what? When I confronted those motorists for driving towards my child in the pram the typical reaction was similar to the reaction people get from cyclists doing the same thing.
We’re all humans regardless of what mode of transport we use on the roads, but there’s collective hysteria over cycling, while our motoring culture has us collectively blind to how serious issues with cars are.
Humans break the law and make mistakes — in cars, vans, trucks and on bicycles. A bit of perspective is needed — a human behind the wheel of a powerful and heavy car or truck has far more changes of causing death and serious injury than the same human on a bicycle.
This is not whataboutery or flinging mud at motorists. We’re not saying it’s ok for cyclists to break the law — nothing in this article should be read as condoning cyclists breaking red light and we support the systems of cyclists getting finned on-the-spot and in court . There’s good reasons why cyclists should stop at red lights — for example, here’s one.
We also have a wider point here: When there’s a campaign for greater safety for cycling — anything from passing distance laws to people looking safer cycling routes — motorists and others say something like “what about cyclists breaking red lights”. Like this letter to The Irish Times:
— #FreeTheCycleLanes (@freedom_cycler) March 12, 2017
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Far too many people think there’s equivalence in car driving and cycling a bicycle. It’s sad that we have to point this out: Basic physics dictates that a car overtaking a bicycle can endanger the bicycle user, but a bicycle can’t endanger a car user in the same way if they chose to overtake a car which is stopped or slow-moving. And if the car is not turning, there also should be little danger to the cyclist doing the overtaking.
All of this hysteria isn’t just the work of individual letter writers alone. Over time, the anti-cycling rhetoric from pundits and broadcasters — including George Hook, Fintan O’Toole, Olivia O’Leary, Michael O’Leary, etc — has an effect on otherwise reasonable people. Some people disagree with this, but the history of collective hysteria and the marketing and advertising industry should disprove any doubt. We also have state bodies engaging in victim blaming.
Different people and groups pushing to make cycling safer and generally promoting cycling is getting a backlash from our motoring culture. This is not a new trend. When covering the invention of jaywalking, the BBC quotes Peter Norton, a history professor at the University of Virginia.
Norton said that a petition for 40km/h speed limits in Cincinnati in 1923 alarmed the motoring industry so much that it scrambled to shift the blame for pedestrian casualties from drivers to walkers. He told the BBC: “The newspaper coverage quite suddenly changes, so that in 1923 they’re all blaming the drivers, and by late 1924 they’re all blaming jaywalking.” Sound familiar?
It’s the response a large section of our car culture gives when people look for safety measures for walking and cycling.
We started this article with the words shocking in our opening line, but something which is truly shocking is the five hit-and-runs involving motorists since December. But we as a nation have hardly blinked an eye at this behaviour — the recent hit-and-run collision hasn’t engaged the letter pages of the Irish Times, and it hasn’t been mentioned by politicians in the houses of the Oireachtas (only by the Victims’ Rights Alliance).
The details of the five hit-and-runs are as follows: 27th December outside Skerries — man remains in a serious condition in late February; 28th December in Clonberne, Co Galway — a 84 year old pedestrian seriously injured; 16th February in Summerhill County Meath — a man in his 20s was found dead; 17th February on Lincoln Place, Dublin 2 — a luggage door of a coach hit three pedestrians, one described as in a critical condition; and 8th March — Coolock — a man in his 20s suffered serious injuries and later died.
How many cars vs cyclists break red lights in Dublin: