Cyclists should be allowed to run red lights, says Boris

That’s according to the Evening Standard.

The headline is more dramatic than the story; it’s not all red lights that Boris is talking about, but turning left on a red light. If the red light is for traffic going one-way, say east-west, then the cyclist will be joining the north-south flow, and should not conflict with east-west pedestrians who will also have a red light. So it could work.

The Mayor of London can’t actually change the law on cycling through red lights – that would take national government action – but he is certainly provoking debate. As one cyclist comments in the ES, “Traffic lights are not there because people think they are fun, they are there for safety reasons.” Sanctioning breaking laws that don’t suit you is a slippery slope (and yes, I know Lib Dems have taken a stand on ID cards) and you have to have a very clear rationale.

I don’t have a problem with the left-turn idea, where there’s no conflict with pedestrians. But I don’t know how many lives it will save. After all, many of the fatal accidents involving cyclists and large vehicles occur when the cyclist is going straight ahead, but the vehicle is turning left. And Lisa Pontecorvo was killed wheeling her bike across the road.

My bane is cyclists ignoring zebra crossings and red lights at pelicans. There’s no way there’s any safety argument for that; simply an unwillingness to stop or slow down for pedestrians.

I suspect that Boris’ big idea isn’t about practicalities but about positioning. It’s a way to appear cycle-friendly while passing the buck to the Government.

Meanwhile, one thing the Mayor could do, as soon as he likes, is get rid of the ubiquitous railings which trap cyclists and pedestrians alike at junctions – like the exciting plans for Oxford Circus.

No change in the law required. So what are you waiting for, Boris?



  1. “My bane is cyclists ignoring zebra crossings and red lights at pelicans. There’s no way there’s any safety argument for that; simply an unwillingness to stop or slow down for pedestrians.”

    Tough one really, you can’t forgive those cyclists and they give us all a bad name. But equally why is it illegal to safely cross the red light (zebra crossings aren’t really something I’m going to defend) at these times on your bike when it is legal to hop off, walk across on a green man, and get back on again?

    I’ve seen people get on the spot fines for doing this when there aren’t any pedestrians crossing the road where the cyclist is cutting the red light, to me this is ludicrous.

    On the flip side I don’t like the whole on a left turn idea. I don’t think cars pay enough attention or give enough space to cyclists as it is, let alone when they’re merging from two directions together. If our road were significantly better so that all roads had a designated cycle lane it would be fine, but as it is I don’t see it working safely.

  2. v st clair said

    I have to cross Oxford Street every day, and find cyclists are as much of a nightmare as the other traffic. Only today I had to stop, when crossing at the ‘green person’, to avoid being hit by a speeding cyclist jumping the red lights. I don’t think he even noticed me. As to letting cyclists turn left on red lights – that would be the final straw. Some of my neighbours have visual problems, some are elderly and slower to get across roads. Some are children crossing Oxford St to get to school. There is not enough time to get over the road as it is, and having to dodge cyclists first would slow everyone down. Downright dangerous.

  3. […] all, it’s only a few months since Mayor Boris suggested that the police should let bikes ignore red lights when turning […]

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