Cyclists and red light running

Last updated 09:08 17/04/2012

With the growing popularity of cycling, overseas studies are suggesting that pushbike riders are at high risk of being maimed on the road. Evidently, they are around 20 times as likely to be killed or hurt as motorists, at least in the UK. A study in Australia indicated cyclists were 34 times as likely as car users to be injured and nearly five times as likely as a car occupant to die in an accident. That's still not quite as high as the risk for motorcyclists, who are at 35 times the risk of a fatal crash compared with a car occupant. That will be the result of higher average speeds compared with cyclists.

Still, cyclists have essentially no safety kit, other than a helmet. I despair when I see kids riding bikes on road without a helmet; studies show it vastly increases the risk of death or severe brain trauma.

Injuries to cyclists are on the rise because cycling is becoming more popular. Is it because new bikes are also faster? Perhaps not, for some data indicate that faster riders are at less risk. Maybe that's because they are more often travelling at the same speed as cars around them, so are not holding them up as much. Perhaps it's also because they are more experienced cyclists and are not on their bike as long. Faster cyclists apparently live longer too, presumably because they are exercising harder.

With more cyclists on the road, car drivers need to be even more vigilant, but it seems to me cyclists sometimes provoke motorists. Perhaps the most annoying behaviour to motorists is cyclists running red lights. Presumably the thinking goes that if they don't stop for lights they will get to where they're going in about the same amount of time as a car would have. I have never yet seen a cyclist stopped by a cop and ticketed for this.

running a red

Are cyclists running red lights encouraging city drivers (and by this I mean Aucklanders) to do the same? Sometimes drivers can be caught at an intersection for two or even three sets of light changes. These drivers see cyclists zip between lines of traffic and then ignore the red lights entirely. Whatever the cause of the red light running epidemic, this is a red card road offence that needs to be eradicated.

Red light cameras at all major intersections would kill such behaviour, and would be another nice little money spinner for the government to complement its "war on speed". Not that this will ever happen, because it mandates spending money on expensive cameras. And spending by government is a big no-no at present.

Perhaps instead it's time for cyclists to be registered; that would be cheaper and would probably put a halt to red light running. After all, they use the same roads as we motorists do, and they even have special roads built for them. Who pays for these? Road users and taxpayers. Ideally, cyclists and motorists would be separated entirely, but that won't ever happen here, more's the pity.

If cyclists want to share the road with motorists, and be respected by them, they need to play by the same rule book. Cycling organisations evidently endorse this; check out the site. Perhaps then other road users might have more regard for cyclists and fewer would be maimed or killed on our roads.

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Cyclist and Motorist   #1   09:26 am Apr 17 2012

Many cyclists run red lights so they are not dangerously caught up amongst the traffic. You will find that some other countries encourage this and are changing laws to give cyclists a head-start, e.g. France. There is a lot of up to date information about cycling and motorists at The Times, Cycles Safe Campaign, in the UK

It's generally accepted that Bicycle registration wouldn't work. Arguments about the pro's and cons are set out at

Good luck duck   #2   10:00 am Apr 17 2012

I have been done for cycling through a a red light. There was no traffic coming, was on a yellow light their end due to turn green for me, I didnt want to lose momentum so cycled through lo and behold a police car was right behind me. $150 fine.

Myself   #3   10:21 am Apr 17 2012

Really ? Trying to say cyclists are a bad example to motorists, and therefore to blame for the red light running epidemic ? Yeah Right. I have seen Police ticket cyclists, so it does happen. Not very often, possibly even less trucks going over their 90kmh limit, or courier vans, but it does happen. Which is more dangerous when running a red light - a double trailer earth-moving truck, or a cyclist ? Speaking from experience, I would be dead if I had gone on the green, the car in the lane next to the truck managed to see the light and stop, the truck changed down and speed up on the orange. Sometimes bikes are not detected at lights, so unless you want to wait around for a car to show up, then you have little choice. If we are going to register bikes (somehow that would be cheaper than not?), why not register pedestrians as well, as in Wellington they are a hazard a lot of the time. We all need to relax our attitude a bit on the road and give each other a bit more space and consideration.

Alfonso Delgardeo   #4   10:27 am Apr 17 2012

I don't "run red lights", but I do sometimes ride through a red light - Left turns if there is no traffic/pedestrians, riding across the top of a "t" intersection (again if no traffic/pedestrians).

I think that car drivers don't realise how much more vision/visibility you have when your aren't cocooned in a car. It does make a big difference.

Similarly, in my car, I don't ignore the speed limit, but I do exceed it.

I will accept my fate if I get caught doing either of these "highly dangerous" activities.

B   #5   10:29 am Apr 17 2012

Yet another incredibly stupid article about cycling written by someone who apparently hasn't tried it. Every cyclist knows that they slip through on orange/red, or against stop signs, to keep out of the way of other traffic. The time saving is a bonus, and the only reason that car drivers are offended; their objection is simply envy. As almost all cyclists also drive, they understand this well.

Any cyclist deliberately putting him- or herself at risk in NZ traffic wouldn't live long enough for the behaviour to be copied by others; self-preservation is the overwhelming priority when cycling in traffic.

Where do you get the nonsense that "studies show [lack of a helmet] vastly increases the risk of death or severe brain trauma"? I have searched for and found almost no such evidence. Cycle helmets are minimal because of the much greater risk of brain injury from overheating in anything effective like a motorcycle helmet; they are only usable in BMX because of the short duration. Cycle helmets are almost useless, and making them compulsory discourages cycling so much that it becomes much more dangerous for those who do cycle, as published in a recent BMJ article. That is why every other country that has studied the NZ example and statistics has not made the mistake of making helmets compulsory.

mike   #6   10:30 am Apr 17 2012

Oh good, this tired old chestnut again. You must be desperate for some hits. OK, I’ll give you one.

So, according to you, cyclists aren’t taxpayers, nor are they road users. The only people who pay for roads are road users. Let’s therefore extend your ridiculous argument to pedestrians. Who pays for the footpaths, pedestrian crossings, lighting, overbridges and underpasses? Shall we make the registration of pedestrians compulsory so they can pay for the infrastructure provided for them?

Secondly, in many more enlightened and less car-obsessed countries, a cyclist can turn left (or right, depending on which side of the road you drive on in that country) on a red light.

And thirdly, I love how the argument is constantly “cyclists break rules, this makes car drivers angry, which makes it tacitly OK for them to take less care around cyclists and perhaps injure them, which is justice really so it’s OK”.

I am not for a minute advocating for cyclists who break the rules. But what I do get tired of hearing is that when they do, it’s OK to get mad at them and teach them a lesson. Because all car drivers are perfect.

What I would like to see is a rule that when you sit your drivers’ licence, you must spend a week riding a bike, in order to provide some perspective. It’s bloody scary out there on a bike at times, and often the best way to be seen is to ride aggressively.

Sarah   #7   10:57 am Apr 17 2012

"After all, they use the same roads as we motorists do, and they even have special roads built for them. Who pays for these? Road users and taxpayers." Yes, and as a cyclist, I am also a tax payer and road user. Just because you're a cyclist does not mean that you're exempt from paying taxes (I wish).

"Ideally, cyclists and motorists would be separated entirely, but that won't ever happen here, more's the pity." I agree that separating cyclist from other motorists would be a great thing though, as it can be quite scary to be sharing the road, especially when other road users don't see you, despite the hi-viz and flashing lights. However to achieve this separation, guess what, you're going to have to spend money.

popsie_cool   #8   11:20 am Apr 17 2012

I am both a cyclist and a driver (depending on the weather and the destination). I don't run red lights when on my bike or in my car. I'm mostly reluctant to do this on my bike because I am extremely aware of how vulnerable to injury I am compared to someone in a car, and have no wish to put myself in harm's way. I've had more near misses on my bike due to drivers opening doors into my path, or cutting me off in traffic, so anecdotally I can't say I subscribe to your theory that running red lights is what's contributing to cyclist injury. I'm with Mike - I find it rather disturbing the way some motorists sound as though they think it's ok to threaten the lives and limbs of cyclists for making a mistake on the road. No-one on the road can claim they've never broken a rule. At worst a driver is probably going to get a smashed windscreen or dent in their bonnet - that cyclist you hit could very likely die.

His Lordship   #9   11:27 am Apr 17 2012

As a driver and an occasional cyclist, I wish to agree with everything that Mike #6 said.

Cyclists don't have death wishes, and don't tend to do things that are likely to cause them to have accidents. They are, probably, the most defensive of road users, since they don't have the sense of immunity from harm that some pedestrians seem to have, nor the sense of invulnerability that sometimes comes from sitting encased in metal.

Speaking from my own experience, of course.

AJ   #10   12:53 pm Apr 17 2012

I see more cars running red lights in Auckland than cyclists. This morning I had to wait at a green light whilst five cars carried on driving through a red, they make me way more angry than a cyclist who is just getting out of the way. I've been stuck waiting at several turns of green light in Auckland because of red light jumping morons.

I have no problem with cyclists getting themselves out of harms way by going through a red light if it's safe for them to do so.

Only issue I have with cyclists going through a red light is if it's one of those mass diagonal pedestrian crossing, then it's just plain dangerous riding a bike through all those people.

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