Red Means Go?

Colliers wood traffic lights“Oi,” shouted the taxi driver, as he pulled up along-side me, just past Colliers Wood station, the other day. “Not only did you jump a red light back there, but you are wobbling all over the place; are you trying to get yourself killed?” and then sped off round the corner before I could tell him politely to “go pick up a fare”. Now, in my defence I would like to say that: a) I did not jump a red light; I had pulled up at the pelican crossing (or is it a Toucan, a puffin or an equestrian; I’m not sure) so that people could cross the road; b) I was wobbling because a huge gust of wind had just very nearly de-saddled me in the middle of a very busy road; c) I was concerned about the idiot taxi driver who was trying to: first get round me on my right, and then my left.
The debate surrounding cyclists who jump red lights is an on-going one and has been raging for a long time. There are cyclists who cannot see what all the fuss is about; there are cyclists who follow a very strict adherence to the law; there are motorists who despise all cyclists; and there are motorists who couldn’t care less, but like to tut now and then. Let’s get one thing straight from the start; it is a matter of legal fact that you are not allowed to go through a red light, no matter whether you are on a bicycle or behind the wheel of a car (RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD reg 10(1). That being said, there are many cyclists who do jump red lights (there are also a large number of motorists who jump red lights as well; I’ve seen them). The Times reported in 2012 that, of pedestrians injured by vehicles jumping red lights, 4% were caused by cyclists as opposed to 71% caused by motorists. I must say that I have been guilty of jumping the odd red light myself. I do not, however, go through red lights at busy junctions, nor do I tear through red lights at pelican crossings dodging pedestrians. I’m not placing myself on some sanctimonious pedestal here; I just have other plans that do not include being under the wheels of a lorry or bashed by an irate pedestrian. (A note to the horrible little cyclist who scattered pedestrians in Brixton last Friday: If that fellow had gotten hold of you, I think he may have found a place to park your bike for you).
The Times reported on January 2 2013 that 122 cyclists had been killed in 2012. This was, it said, a five year high. In London alone, fourteen cyclists were killed. This is obviously 122 too many, but a surprisingly low number if you take time to notice how many cyclists are out there on the roads. I am relatively new to this city and I will say that I do feel safer cycling here than I imagined I would before I moved here. There are idiots on the road; there always will be, because there are idiots in life, simple as that; but that doesn’t stop us from having the right to cycle without being squashed. We as cyclists have to be extra careful and extra diligent when we travel across this congested, wonderful land. Unfortunately there are times when we have no control over our safety, but that does not mean that we should ever let our guard down. My simple rule for cycling is: Do not trust anybody and do not put yourself into unnecessary danger.
Although there are many cyclists who jump red lights, there are also a larger number who are very careful and adhere to the highway-code (or at least have some semblance of common sense). Unfortunately these law abiding souls are overlooked by the ranting, cycle hating motorist. I have actually spoken to people who have admitted that they go into a furious rage when they find themselves behind a cyclist. However, the more cyclists that ride the main roads of the UK without lights, without any protective clothing, with headphones on, whilst arbitrarily riding through red lights at busy junctions, and then shout obscenities at the motorists who nearly hit them (I actually saw someone do this the other evening in Tulse Hill) the more that the cycle haters opinion will be strengthened. Anyway, must go, I have a taxi waiting.

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3 thoughts on “Red Means Go?

  1. The notion of someone being ” A CYCLIST!!!!!” is one of the problems. They’re people on bikes, just like “MOTORISTS!!!” are people in cars.
    Calming the fuck down on both sides would be nice.
    :p

  2. I think the problem with cyclists being ‘sensible’ but not obeying the law is that, although they may believe they’ve judged the situation safely, others using the road will assume that you aren’t going to dash through the red light. Pedestrians especially. So they’ll step out with the (correct) belief that nothing is going to come near them…allowing them to trundle across the road, flicking their hair and checking their phone in complete safely.

  3. It is such a grey area…generalnoise makes a valid but vague point. Cyclists are people who cycle bikes; motorists are people who drive vehicles. I am strictly a cyclist on the road having never driven so my judgement is invalid. However, I believer that there is a collective individual responsibilty for everyone…jumping red lights or trying to pass a cyclist, for example, is under the drivers discretion…they conciously decide to take these actions (exclusing those who generally seem to not take notice which, in itself, takes a form of responsibility on your part).

    For those who shake fists, shout abuse and/or cry out against the raging masses of “totally incompetent” human beings on the road, take into account that this is an every day feature of our lives. Just look after yourselves and be extra vigilant. Just don’t be a twat aye?

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