Why do we turn a blind eye to motorists breaking red lights?

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Motorists speeding up to run orange lights when they could stop and breaking red lights happens every few minutes of every day. So, why are we so blind to it?

We know it’s real — it’s why there’s opposition to red light traffic enforcement cammras around the world and it’s why on-street light rail, like Luas, keeps getting hit by motorists. 

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The results of motorists breaking red lights frequently kills and injuries pedestrians, cyclists and  car users. The same can’t be said about jaywalking or cyclist’s version of jaywalking — that’s not to say it’s always harmless and it’s not to say reckless behaviour should not be stopped. It should be stopped. The the different in public and media reaction is stark.

Data from a red light cammra on Blackhall Place is conclusive: motorists break red at a higher level than cyclists, but now all data is being questioned. ‪On Twitter, however, @CitizenW0lf‬ continues to document the problem at different junctions in Dublin: here’s an example from yesterday:


  1. People have a remarkably flexible attitude to things that are in any way open to interpretation in the rules. So you must stop at an amber light “unless it it dangerous to do so” means that all of a sudden people are worried about how dangerous sudden (or not sudden at all) braking is in traffic (or on a nearly empty road) and they feel it is too dangerous to stop for an amber is pretty much all circumstances.

    I have literally been told that you can’t always stop for the first few seconds of red because you don’t know when the amber is going to change to red. I incredulously explained that amber was the warning that GREEN was going to change to RED but they didn’t seen to understand how traffic lights work at all.

    See also “cyclists keep left” means the cyclists must be as close as physically possible to the edge of the road at all times, even if means they are in the gutter or if they might want to turn right at the next junction.

    Another good one relating to only overtaking on the inside if the outside lane is slow moving is that “slow” is relative to the person driving so if they are slower than you then you can overtake them on the inside. Very circular but the end result is that you can always overtake on the inside. At least as far as these people are concerned. Interestingly when the question of cyclists overtaking on the inside comes up they focus on the word ‘lane’ in the rules and confidently claim that cyclists can’t pass on the inside (of genuinely slow moving traffic) because they don’t have a ‘lane’ and that’s the critically important part of the rule.

    I’ve never followed this rabbit hole all the way down to question about the not so uncommon behaviour of shooting up on the footpath to pass a right turning car on the inside (which I saw a BMW do without slowing below 30kph the other day, aided by the fact the footpath was dished for the convenience of the residents cars). I would expect the excuse to be something about “keeping traffic moving” which would be the vital part of the rules du jour.

  2. Unfortunately you are preaching to the believers. I see this behavior, along with “shooting Down the bus lane” and dangerous overtaking on a daily basis. Ireland is owned by the motor industry, body and soul, so until the casualty rate rises to an “unacceptable level” (whatever that is) or society grows up and looses it’s predilection for discriminating against cyclists nothing will change.

  3. In Australia, it’s common to see destroyed sections of kerb and footpath where cars frequently mount it to sneak past traffic and enter the freeway or take a turn etc. There’s not even a tendency to check for pedestrians or cyclists before they do so.

  4. Whilst less cylclists break red lights, unfortunately they still do. It doesn’t make cyclists any better that less of them break the law. As cyclists if we see it we have to give off about it. Who knows it just might make the person who has done it think twice that someone has complained about their actions to them. Probably not, but you live in hope….

  5. Pat & Dids – I think you’ve both missed the whole point. No-one is saying that cyclists don’t break red lights, but which is more dangerous; the situation shown in the photos above, or a cyclist going thru a red light at 10kph? How many people have been killed or seriously injured by cyclists going thru red lights? Answer = zero. However, to listen to what’s said on the airways and to read comments on newspaper articles, cyclists going thru red lights is something akin to eating babies. Whilst you hear almost nothing about driver behavior.


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