Cycling and red lights; my impromptu mini-poll

On Friday morning I’d left home on my way to meet a friend for coffee, when I ran into Cllr Barbara Smith.

Her portfolio includes community safety, and she was out observing the local Safer Neighbourhood Team, who were busy stopping and spot-fining cyclists going through red lights on New North Road. Cyclists breaking the rules is an issue that has come up before at my Safer Neighbourhood Team meetings, as I blogged last year, but it’s the first time I’d actually seen the police in action on the issue.

Anyway, because it was unusual, I updated my Twitter/Facebook status with the news and a question:
Just seen local police doing on-spot fines for cyclists running red lights. Good idea?

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

By the time I was next online, a flurry of responses had come in (thank you!). Most were supportive of the police action, ranging from thumbs-up on Facebook to various statements:

– Yes, an excellent idea. I’ve nearly been hit a number of times by cyclists disregarding the rules!
– In my opinion yes. Seen a couple of nasty incidents where pedestrians crossing have been knocked down or hit by cyclists.
– Yes! I drive a car, ride my cycle and walk (not all at the same time!) & cyclists who jump red lights are dangerous – for others as well as themselves!
– Yes very good! they should also obey the road rules!!!
– As a cyclist I think this is a fantastic idea. Disobeying the rules of the road looks bad for all of us, and makes drivers lose respect, as they see us as a menace, rather than fellow road-users. And that makes cycling more dangerous.
– Yes – they should do that for cyclists who almost run me over coming round corners on pavements at 80 mph too!!! 🙂

There were also a couple of dissenters:
– Personal opinion of course, but wouldn’t resources, time and money be better spent on catching career criminals and preventing more serious criminal acts?
– Nope. Waste of public resource to enforce… It is often safer for cyclists to run a red light than stick to the letter of the law. I’d like far more say in what gets enforced and what doesn’t……

Which brings us back to the Safer Neighbourhood Team. They are supposed to take their priorities from us, the residents. So let yours know what you think too.



  1. I wonder whether you could ask Cllr Smith if the Safer Neighbourhood Team she observed were also taking action against other road users at the same time?

    It’s worth bearing in mind that whilst illegal cycling is a danger and a nuisance it is far outweighed by the dangers we all face from illegal driving.

    ICAG – the Islington Cyclists’ Action Group – have for over a year now been running a campaign highlighting dangerous driving in Islington. In that time we have observed drivers speeding, using handheld mobile phones, and jumping red lights (they do it too!). Our members have reported close shaves with motor vehicles which pass them too quickly and too close, suddenly turning in front of them or pulling out in front of them without looking.

    And of course, illegal driving does not just impact on cyclists. Pedestrians find themselves at risk as well.

    Ultimately singling cyclists out as in this case has limited impact. It would be far better targetting all road users’ dangerous behaviour (putting greater emphasis on the ones that cause the greatest risk – motor vehicles) and putting more resources into adult cycle training so that cyclists don’t feel they have to break the law.

  2. Councillor Andrew Cornwell said

    Good comments from Stephen Taylor. As a regular cyclist I have no problem with the police stopping and fining those riders who break the law, although these periodic crackdowns have been going on for years and appear to have little impact on behaviour.

    As Stephen says the real issue is a wider culture of dangerous behaviour on the roads, whether it is motorists, cyclists, motorcyclists or bus drivers. (Pedestrians are not saints either, I have often narrowly avoided crashing into the many who step out without looking, concentrating only on their mobiles or I Pods.)

    Official stats show handful of serious casualties every year are caused by cyclists, but the overwhelming majority of the 3,000 deaths on our roads are down to drivers, with excessive speed, drink and drug driving, mobile phone use and other dangerous behaviour often involved. The police should deploy their limited resources in proportion to where the real dangers lie.

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