Cyclists and red light running

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.

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 www.stopatred.org.nz site. Perhaps then other road users might have more regard for cyclists and fewer would be maimed or killed on our roads.