Tuesday 31 August 2010

my thoughts on red light jumping

Whenever anyone criticises people riding their bikes, this topic always comes up. This is why people in cars don’t like people on bikes, and why walking people don’t like people on bikes. It is said that RLJ is the reason other road users disrespect people on bikes, since they disrespect the law.
There are two types of RLJ in my opinion. One is the type committed mostly by cyclists (lycra-clads, couriers etc) where they just bomb through a red light without even looking, or just having had one quick look. It’s quite probable that, regardless of the skills the cyclist might allegedly possess, that s/he might hit someone or something that has right of way. Then there’s a second type where a person on a bike stops at the red light and then, having checked for any oncoming traffic, proceeds through the junction. The risk of hitting something is as small as one where there is a STOP sign instead of a traffic light.
Both of these manoeuvres are illegal, though. Both are frowned upon by all people, except some cyclists that think of it as a reason to boast. The interesting thing however is why people riding bikes RLJ (and let’s cross the kamikaze aspect out). Firstly lights are an invention created for the use of motorised traffic. Because of the speed and mass of these vehicles measures have been brought into place to avid serious collisions. Bicycles, pedestrians never needed such measures – they were only installed where these two types of traffic interacted with the motorised traffic. Secondly every stop means that a cyclist has to use up energy to reach his previous speed. This is especially seen as a waste where a person on a bike has to wait at the lights, where there is no traffic at all, or where it is safe to proceed after checking for oncoming traffic.
This is why, while I don’t endorse RLJ and I rarely do it, I think there should be a change in law regarding red light and people on bikes. Red light should be equivalent to STOP sign (for bicycles only!), where you pull up to the junction, have a good look, and then proceed. This would definitely make riding our bikes on inadequate London cycle lanes and paths much less frustrating. It would also demonstrate people in cars another great advantage of the bicycles. 
The problem with this might be that people do not trust people on bikes, since they see us all as cyclists. They don't think in terms of - oh, what if it was my daughter or mother, because they know cyclists are mostly 20-something YO single men in lycra, or hooded youngsters on BMX. Both groups hardly respectable by the general public. Perhaps when the demographics change and people start riding their bikes instead of cycling the view on this matter changes as well. But till then – let’s play by the rules and don’t RLJ. 

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