Why Cyclists Ride Through Red Traffic Lights

You've probably seen it happen. You're driving your car and you come to a stop at the traffic lights. You're mindful of traffic infringement fines and public safety, then someone on a bike rides past you, unconcerned, straight through the red lights.

Cycle light picture from Shutterstock

Riding through red lights is arguably the most hated cyclist behaviour -- but why does it happen? Are cyclists just recalcitrant law breakers? Is the answer to fine every cyclist who rides through every red light? Or is there a bigger picture?

We conducted a national survey -- the results of which were published in Accident Analysis and Prevention earlier this year -- in which 2061 cyclists were asked the following question:

When you are riding do you stop at red lights?

The majority (63 per cent) said yes, while over a third (37 per cent) said they had ridden through a red light at some time when they were riding.

What follows are the main reasons given by those who had ridden through a red light.

"I was turning left"

Turning left against the red light was the most common reason cyclists gave for infringement (32 per cent), with safety and continued travel cited as the main motivations.

Some respondents considered it was safer to turn left against the red than to wait for the green light. Going through meant they would clear the intersection ahead of turning motorised vehicle traffic, considered safer than negotiating the turn with cars.

There was a perception that there was little risk from the crossing vehicle traffic as cyclist ride close to the curb and do not enter the line of traffic.

Continued travel was also a benefit of this infringement type with some respondents treating some intersections as a yield, or give-way.

Indeed at some locations in Australia (the image on the left was taken in Canberra) and internationally, all road users are permitted to turn left on a red signal at some intersections.

Road users must come to a complete stop, give way to pedestrians and turn any time when it is safe to do so.

In some states in the US, with right-side travel, right turn on red is legal at most intersections. In the UK, the idea of allowing cyclists to turn left on red was suggested in 2010 to address an increase in cyclist-truck conflicts at intersections.

"The loop doesn't detect my bike"

Almost a quarter of respondents (24.2 per cent) reported they infringed because they were unable to change the red light to green, as the inductive loop embedded in the asphalt did not detect their bike.

The way the respondents described this scenario followed a similar pattern. On previous trips they had ridden to the intersection and there were no vehicles present.

Despite riding over different sections of road, or waiting for long periods, they were unable to activate the signal change. On subsequent trips -- based on that experience -- the respondent would ride through the red light.

This typically occurred when riders were travelling early in the morning or later in the evening; but at some intersections, cyclists experienced this at at any time of the day.

This justification has been somewhat controversial in some Australian jurisdictions, with road authorities adamant that all cyclists can activate a signal change at all locations.

While this may be true, this has not been the experience for some cyclists who currently do not know the exact location they need to ride over to activate the signal change.

One simple and cost-effective solution is to clearly mark the location on the road that cyclists need to ride over to be detected by the sensor. A combination of bike symbol and a line of diamond shapes is already on the road at some intersections in Australia.

For the effort of a stencil and a bucket of paint, this solution enables cyclists to actively engage in the road network and affirms to the community that road authorities recognise the legitimacy of cyclists as road users.

Alternatively, it may be that, in fact, some locations do not detect bicycles. If this is the case, work needs to be undertaken, as it is clearly a gap in the road system.

Removing this blind-spot on the roads, where cyclists are invisible to the signalling system, may result in fewer cyclists riding through red lights.

"There were no other road users"

This reason is related to the previous one: without vehicles, cyclists couldn't change the light to green (so again, a stencil and paint could provide the solution). But this one is also related to behavioural norms.

The presence of other road users -- whether cyclists or drivers -- can have a deterrent effect on the likelihood of infringement. Simply put, some cyclists are more likely to break the law if no-one is watching.

"It was a pedestrian crossing"

One in ten respondents had infringed at a pedestrian crossing (10.7 per cent). This behaviour was seen as carrying little risk as the rider continues to travel straight and there is no interaction with other vehicles.

But for pedestrians there can be fatal consequences, as evidenced by the death of Mr James Gould who was struck by a cyclist riding in a bunch that had ridden through a red light at a pedestrian crossing on Melbourne's Beach Road in 2006.

In addition, some cyclists infringed when they were riding across the pedestrian crossing, as they would cross as a pedestrian, effectively jay-cycling.

Interestingly, an individual's previous behaviour was also related to infringement. Respondents who had been fined for driving through a red light had 1.5-times higher odds of infringement when cycling, compared to those who had not been fined when driving.

For some people, it seems, going through a red light is acceptable behaviour whether they are on two wheels or four.

Less problems, more solutions

There is definitely a role for enforcement to reduce the number of cyclists who ride through red lights. As with any other road user, cyclists need to be held accountable for illegal and potentially dangerous behaviour.

The current education campaign by the Amy Gillett Foundation, Ride Right -- Ride Rules, focuses on cyclist behaviour, and the first rule is Stop on Red.

Increased red light compliance is likely to improve cyclists' image, and the attitudes some road users hold towards cyclists.

But this is just part of the answer. There are gaps in our road network and perhaps we need to begin to consider the safety benefits for road users in relation to their characteristics, rather than blanketing everyone with the same rules as car drivers.

It may be it's safer for everyone if cyclists turned left at some intersections during the red light phase, and a trial of this could provide insights.

Adding symbols to indicate where cyclists need to ride to activate lights is a necessary and positive step to creating a road system that's cyclist-inclusive.

Marilyn Johnson is the Research and Policy Manager at the Amy Gillett Foundation and a Research Fellow at the Institute of Transport Studies at Monash University. The ConversationThis article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.


Comments

    I'm not advocating running reds (not a great idea as even if perfectly safe, it gets motorists offside), but I've had issues with the induction loops too. If you're on a modern road bike (i.e. a carbon fibre "racer") there can be very little metal in them for the loop to detect...

      I cycle, but the above is a poor excuse..
      Your wheels are the closest metal to the ground and are made of metal, not carbon fibre (unless you're riding a track bike on the road).

        Not a poor excuse what so ever, I ride a 190kg metal motorbike and often get stuck at lights, having to ask cars to pull up closer behind me or in 1 case running the red when safe.

        I find being mostly alloy is the cause of the problem.

          I've used the nothing but the metal in my safety boots to trigger signals by standing on the painted diamonds - Which is about the amount in a derailer or the break systems on many bikes... So I find it very very difficult to believe that there is a bike that won't trigger a properly setup loop.

          So - These loops that failed, did you bother to report them ? (You know, to the Freecall number on the big yellow and black sign on the side of the control box)

          A faulty signal should only be a defence once - if you haven't reported it and you continue to break the laws, you fail at being intelligent enough to use the road any more.

            What state are you in?
            never seen a "big" yellow sign in NSW. but will look out for one,
            Thanks for being so quick to call me unintelligent on the internet, you win the weekly award of nothing, enjoy it.

              There is a green box with a "yellow sign" next to EVERY SET of traffic lights in NSW.

              I guess you've never noticed.

            The lights at numerous cycle paths in Sydney's CBD have been tested on video numerous times, reported to the council, RTA etc numerous times, and absolutely nothing has been done about it. They work, but ONLY if you've got an all metal bike - many carbon fibre bikes (even with alloy wheels) aren't enough to trigger them.

            It's then made even worse by the fact you have to have your wheels go over certain lines that are less than 5cm wide. If you're on top of the censors but not on the very strip itself, they do not trigger at all. Many cyclists don't know this, so take up space above the sensors without actually triggering them, blocking other cyclists from fixing it.

            This is a great post on them, nothing has been changed despite this article and numerous complaints (and replies) being sent over 12 months ago. http://www.mycolleaguesareidiots.com/archive/2012/03/21/Sydney-Morning-Herald-picks-up-on-the-bike-lights-story.aspx

          I have only ever had full alloy wheels on cars and never had a problem. I've also never had a light not change for me on my motorcycle. Hell I've seen people set off the induction loop with a pizza pan.

            Any suggestions on the best thing to carry with me to set off the entry gates to a shopping centre car park?

              Pizza pan for sure. All the shopping centres around here though have half length boom gates because bikes park for free.

          Ditto here, only mine is a 110 kg bike.
          I find that it's very annoying and I've been known to run a red early in the morning after 3 rotations of the lights without registering my presence and not another car has gone through the lights at all in that time!

        You're a cyclist and unaware that there are many types of carbon rims? Full carbon frames and rims are becoming far more common. With the amount of metal remaining in cranks and gears it'd be like standing on the road with loose change in your pocket...

          Exactly. I have a carbon frame and carbon rims, but the small amount of metal in my chain/chainrings is enough to trigger every induction loop I've ever stopped on, no exception.

          It's frustrating to see cyclists running lights when I'm doing the right thing - especially if I have to pass them between each set, only to get passed again.

          When I'm on a training ride (ie. going fast) I understand the temptation to ride through lights in terms of maintaining tempo/momentum, but I opt for slowing down and estimating the light change while moving instead.

        Wikipedia: Induction Loops
        The relatively crude nature of the loop's structure means that only metal masses above a certain size are capable of triggering the relay. This is good in that the loop does not thus produce very many "false positive" triggers (say, for example, by a pedestrian crossing the loop with a pocket full of loose metal change) but it sometimes also means that bicycles, scooters, and motorcycles stopped at such intersections may never be detected by them (and therefore risk being ignored by the switch/ signal). Most loops can be manually adjusted to consistently detect the presence of scooters and motorcycles at the least.

        From what I can recall of my electrical engineering degree, the loop is only sensitive to electrically conductive objects parallel to the road.
        Wheels, cogs, chains, and spokes are perpendicular.
        Sometimes lying a bike sideways on the road can trigger an uncooperative traffic light.
        My lightest bike only has steel hub axles and steel pedal axles, and it has NEVER triggered an induction loop in the upright position.
        My heaviest bike has a steel frame, and triggers most induction loops.
        My motorbike has a steel frame, gearbox etc and triggers practically every induction loop.

        Last edited 26/03/13 1:59 pm

        Lennox St, Richmond. There are two sets of lights which remain red unless the induction loop or pedestrian button is activated. I have to wait for a car or dismount and push the pedestrian button at both intersections every morning on my way to work.

      I've got a full aluminium bike and there's a loop I can't activate on the way home. I usually just press the pedestrian button and cross that way, except that's illegal too! But it's still better than a red light death run across the road

        Why would pressing the pedestrian button and crossing that way be illegal? Worst case just get off the bike and walk. Nothing illegal about that...

          Haha I guess... I do ride the footpath for about 20m when I have to do this... please don't tell the feds

        It's legal to cross on a pedestrian crossing if you get off and walk.

          What? That's quite an ill informed statement.

            That's exactly what they taught us back in the day when there used to be mandatory bike "traffic" school in primary schools. I don't think they do it anymore unfortunately, in fact there is absolutely no reason for the majority of cyclists to even know what any of the rules they are required to follow are.

            Mind you I'm in the ACT, where all footpaths are considered shared use.

      I get that all the time. I'm at a real loss what to do, am I supposed to just wait until a car rocks up, or do I run the red light?

      It's not like I'm on a carbon fibre bike or anything like that, I've got a steel framed mountain bike. The sensors are just crap.

    I am a cyclist, and I think RLJ'ers (Red light Jumpers) are the worst. However, there are some circumstances where the strips dont detect the bike properly at all. I ride a Carbon Fibre road bike with alloy rims, yet some sets of lights in my local areas constantly fail to detect my bike. This is the only case i would ever run a red light (and the only case i deem it acceptable. Otherwise, a bike is a vehicle on the road, so must follow the road rules that apply to them.

      I'm a "poor" cyclist with only a carbon rear triangle. I've not once had an issue and I despise cyclists who ignore lights cause it encourages dikcs like "Me, Guest" below to treat me poorly.
      Perhaps one of the reasons why I've not experienced issues is the prevalence of bike crossing buttons (like pedestrian buttons) here in SA?

    Bike riders are the scourge of the roads. They need to be tested to have a road licenses that then assures the public they understand the road rules, pay rego fees like all other road users to maintain the roads (yes their impact is less, but it still costs to make bike pathways everywhere), and display a plate so when they do break the rules they can be fined. Currently anyone can jump on a bike and do whatever they like without any consequences. I say make them pay REgistration costs too. Perhaps this will lower the car users costs as we are getting ripped off royally.

      "We". Like there's an us and them. You'll find that the majority of cyclists are also licensed car and/or motorcycle drivers. I certainly am (I exclusively cycled and used public transport for some 10 years, but now drive too, and I was very unusual in only cycling). Now, I realise you don't cycle so to you there's still an "us and them" divide but it's very much a one-sided one.

      The idea that cyclists do not pay for road infrastructure is absurd nonsense. Registration is a very small part of road maintenance costs - most of it comes from the taxes we all pay. Furthermore, most cyclists pay rego anyway.

      Now, if you want bikes to have to carry a license plate or other identification in order to be legal to ride on public roads, that's a different and more reasonable matter. Given the amount of bad behaviour from a small proportion of very bad cyclists on the roads I'd be quite happy with that.

        While I understand why people would like bicycles to have registration and plates, it is not quite as straightforward as it seems. First, there is the issue of cost: unless prices for registration were quite high, then the registration system would not be able to cover costs. There are also issues associated with learning to ride: would you require every 5-year-old to have a registered bicycle to learn to ride in suburban back lanes with family? Finally, there are the practical issues: where do you affix plates on a bicycle, if you have plates?

        It is unfortunate that there is bad behaviour from some cyclists (and I certainly don't deny that), but I think that any attempt to implement car-like bicycle registration is going to be very difficult. I also don't think the need is as great. Although very occasionally a cyclist does hit and injure a pedestrian, the risk of inflicting serious injury on someone else when cycling is very low.

        I do wish that there were less cyclists doing stupid things, I don't think registration is the solution to that problem.

          Registration doesn't seem to stop drivers from doing stupid things, so not sure I understand how the same logic applies to riders!

          Cyclists (and drivers) break the laws because they're idiots, not because they aren't accountable.

            And idiots will be idiots in a car just as they are on a bike.

        Whilst I don't necessarily agree with "Me's" comments I really hate the excuse (from "ringerc" and heard many times before) for not paying registration, "most cyclist pay rego anyway". I have a car and a motorbike and I pay rego on both even though the two are never on the road at the same time. I know people who like to restore cars that will often have more than one car registered at any one time. Its a pointless argument. As you've pointed out most infrastructure expenditure is funded by taxes... a great chunk of which comes from the fuel excise... so another pointless argument. Rego is more about law enforcement these days and I see a good argument for it from that point of view, although I personally wouldn't support it given all the other points made in various comments re its practicability or lack thereof

      It’s time to finally admit it. We are the most lawless users of the transport system - and the luckiest.
      Expensive infrastructure is built for our use even though we don’t make any direct payment for it, and it is often ignored, or goes unused for much of the day. We pay no registration, display no licence plates, trample mores and break laws with impunity – we know we will almost never be punished.
      By “we” I mean, of course, pedestrians. Stand on a busy city street-corner for 10 minutes, and you’ll probably need a clicker to keep count of all the bipedal lawlessness.

      http://www.theage.com.au/executive-style/fitness/blogs/on-your-bike/when-cyclist-and-pedestrian-worlds-collide-20130208-2e30t.html

      Last edited 25/03/13 12:23 pm

      You Sir, are a Moron!

      What you're saying is that we should tax a mode of transport that has ZERO emissions?

      Knowing the road rules? PFFFT!!
      You don't need to hold a license to understand the very basic principles that are our road rules, hell, I understood them by the time I was 6! It's not hard!

      The worst thing that has happened to bikes in the last decade is that they've actually taken riders rights away from them and gone from having a whole lane to themselves (that drivers never gave anyay!) to Just give them 1 meter! 1 lousy stinking meter!

      As if that's not dangerous! You ride a pushy at 25-30 k's an hour and have a truck speed past at 100k's an hour with less then a meters gap between you.

      I say get out of your cushy car seat and work that beer gut off. See it from the other side and you won't be saying crap like that again in a hurry!

      Are you going to make pedestrians pay for all the footpaths as well? Oh no I can't walk to the shops because I don't have my foot-license. A bike rider faces the same fines as any other road user, and I think you would find that 99% (excepting children) of the people who ride bicycles on the road have a license as well as a car or other registered road vehicle. The point is, I ride my bike to work because it's more cost effective and I get some exercise out of it too. I have a car, two motorbikes, and a trailer I pay registration for. If I wasn't riding my bicycle I'd be simply adding to congestion.

      pedestrians are the scourge of the roads. They need to be tested to have a road licenses that then assures the public they understand the road rules, pay rego fees like all other road users to maintain the roads (yes their impact is less, but it still costs to make foot paths everywhere), and display a plate so when they do break the rules they can be fined. Currently anyone can walk around and do whatever they like without any consequences. I say make them pay registration costs too. Perhaps this will lower the car users costs as we are getting ripped off royally.

      I hope you know understand the idiocy of your arguments

      I've passed the Queensland driving test, and an advanced motorcyle riding course, a defensive driving course, and have also passed driving tests and held driving licences in two other countries. I know the road rules inside and out. Check.
      I pay rego on a car and a motorbike. Check. I don't use them much because I ride a bicycle more often. The wear on the roads I save is less than the wear on the roads I cause by riding.
      I do most of my cycling off road, and I am part of a volunteer crew that build and repair the trails. Check. Walkers and horses use the trails, but I'm not the sort of person to demand that they have to contribute before they are allowed to use them.
      I also pay taxes - which is how the roads are actually funded. I am willing to bet a lot more than you. So I am subsidising your driving.
      What are you whining about again? Perhaps it is just because you are too poor to afford to drive your car, and think someone else should pay for you.
      Since you drive you must be over 16, but your mental age seems lower. Its a worry that immature/not very switched on people can get driving licences.

      You're not thinking straight, most cyclists drive as well so we already pay rego. By cycling we when we could drive we're saving wear on the roads, if that's a concern of yours. Sweeping statements like "bike riders are the scourge of the roads" is just foolish, there are dicks on bikes and dicks in cars, only thing that can be done about it is to try not to be a dick yourself. PS I'm not going to sit at a red light when nothing's coming, I think you have to use your wits, I'm a human not a sheep.

    Well if you have an issue with the metal in your bike or whatever then consider yourself defective, either by design or by current use, but that's no excuse. Thats like me buying a car without breaks and saying because i cant break its safer to turn on a red

      Bzzzt. It's not illegal to ride a carbon bike. It is illegal to have an unroadworthy car. Nice try.
      PS) It's "brake".

        So your bike fails to meet the minimum safety requirements, you know this, you've done nothing about it other than to continually act in a dangerous manner ? - That's the stupidest act I've heard yet. You are putting other road users at risk because you can't be bothered having a safe vehicle. - I think the original analogy is very apt here.

        It's simple, if your bike can't trigger the loops, it's not road-worthy and you shouldn't be on the road - there are plenty of dual-use and dedicated paths around Australia, get you dangerous vehicle off the road until you can make it safe.

        There are also plenty of bikes that can trigger every loop, so it's not the fault of the loop - it's your choice to be dangerous and to use a dangerous vehicle - there's no excuse for your behaviour.

          I'm not sure I agree with all the details, but there's certainly a valid point in there: Not every bike is necessarily suitable for use on public roads. You wouldn't ride a kids trike on the roads after all. In much the same way not all cars are road-legal, nor should all bikes necessarily be road-legal.

          That said, there's a real conflict at play that you may not recognise. Bikes on public roads are less disruptive when they maintain high speeds. It's much easier to do so on exactly the same kind of bike that has issues with loops at lights.

          Maybe the answer is to carry a dedicated device to trigger lights loops.

          You sir/madam are are a big got and idiot of the highest order. Every bike, wheelset and set of handlebars sold in Australia must meet International and or Aus safety standards the same as any other vehicle.
          IF a carbon wheelset does not meet these rules or regs due to importing by the customer, it STILL doesn't mean the bicycle is unroadworthy. 80% of the aftermarket car/4WD alloy wheel market in the other hand...
          Your mouth looks almost human when shut.

    I never go through reds... with the skills/attention span of drivers nowadays, you'd be mad to do it.

    it is because cyclists think they are above the law.
    they are NOT.

    you get them all the time. i saw one hit a woman and child in a pram while this idiot was flying up between cars didn't even look, just plowed into them, the lady got knocked over, however, luckily the pram only spun around and didn't tip.

    the cyclist got up and rode off, pitty there is no registration plates or id plates on bikes so they can be held accountable.

      It is perfectly legal for bikes to ride between cars, so maybe in this instance the pedestrian should not have been jaywalking and should have looked to see if anyone was coming? I fail to see how this is a cyclist thinking they are above the law

        If a car hits a pedestrian that is jay walking, they are still liable. Just like the bike rider. This is another instance where Cyclists need to take responsibility and should be required to have a license showing they understand the road rules and pay Rego.

          "If a car hits a pedestrian that is jay walking, they are still liable" *Citation needed*

        This is most definitely true. Many road users still dont understand that this is the case for cyclists.

        sorry, shoudl have said, considering i was the first car stopped at a pedestrian crossing....
        cyclists are to ride on the LEFT lane.. not the middle anyways

      As a regular cyclist I'd love to see some form of mandatory identification for bicycles to be used on public roads.

      Unfortunately that wouldn't help with the worst offenders anyway, the folks who weave freely between roads, bike paths, pedestrian-only footpaths full of driveways and walkers. Fine if you dismount or transition carefully and go slow, but the people who do things like go to the footpath at lights, blaze across the pedestrian crossing at full speed and then switch back to the road without ever slowing or dismounting ... not cool. Ditto those who're doing 30+ km/h on shared paths without slowing when passing pededstrians. I often cycle at 30+ on bike paths, but if there are pedestrians (even idiot pedestrians walking all over the place) I slow down to pass. It's not hard.

        The need to slow when overtaking pedestrians is the main reason I avoid shared footways whenever possible. The only one I generally ride on is a major cycling route in Melbourne's North, and in that case there are also ordinary footpaths. On that path, no-one slows when passing the very occasional pedestrian. Including me.
        (It is a decent width path, though, and has a huge number of cyclists so I think everyone is adjusted to it).

        What a perfect response. If every cyclist was doing the right thing (and every pedestrian or driver/rider) we could not worry about registering and insuring cycles. But if the Lycra mafia on the Gold Coast, riding through red lights at full speed, even in peak traffic, are anything to go by, then we must treat them like other road offenders and make them liable and identifiable.

      "it is because cyclists think they are above the law"

      WRONG.

      It is because SOME cyclists think they are above the law. Just like SOME drivers also think they are above the law. Don't descend to rubbish to make your point. We can all agree that cyclists who break the law ought to be stopped, penalised, etc. Just as we can all agree the drivers who break the law ought to be stopped, penalised, etc. But I'm a cyclist, and I don't break the law, and I don't think I'm above it. This stereotyping is nasty and wrong, and you should take a deep breath and stop lumping every cyclist in with the small number of idiots. And I promise not to blame every single car driver for the small number of fools I sometimes see on the road speeding, turning where they aren't allowed too, running lights, tailgating and all the other laws that some drivers regularly break.

      you'd think a woman pushing a pram would be especially vigilant when crossing the road and maybe even use a crossing rather than step out between stopped cars. just saying.

    in my opinion jumping the red (by that i mean treating it as a give way sign, not blowing through at 40km/h) at 6am on a sunday morning as a solo cyclist is really not a big deal. ultimately the risk is that the cyclist will get mowed down by a car or truck, they are primarily endangering themselves. (yes, i know there are examples of cycling-pedestrian fatalities, but these are really, really rare).

      I disagree there. I cycled for 10+ years without getting a drivers' license but tried to be considerate and aware of others. I'm glad I did, as when I got my license I found that as a new driver the worst thing to deal with was others' erratic and unpredictable actions - cyclists, drivers, pedestrians, the lot.

      My point is that not being able to expect someone to stop at a red and not knowing if they've seen you coming or not is distracting and makes the oncoming driver behave less predictably. I slow and focus my attention on the hazard, reducing my ability to look for other potential problems like oncoming traffic from the other side turning unsafely or running a light.

      Even if you don't think someone is coming, stop, because you might be wrong. It's the same reason drivers should indicate when they don't think there's anyone around. You know how frustrating it is when some idiot doesn't indicate because there's nobody (i.e. "no other cars") around and you're trying to figure out what they're going to do? Same deal.

        Ringerc for PM

      It's all well and good for a cyclist to be comfortable with the possibility of being hit - but can you imagine being a guy driving a car and suddenly ploughing into a wayward bicycle, the cyclists lying bleeding under the wheel?

        Oh the poor driver. It would be way worse to see that than to actually be mangled in a crash.
        I saw a pedestrian get hit by a bus 2 years ago. Her head smashed open and brains came out. It wasn't pleasant. However It was definitely worse for her and her family.
        Saw a motorcyclist deliberately hit by a driver. Shattered arm, screaming in pain. I kept him company for 12 minutes while the ambulance arrived. Worse for him for sure. Drivers of the car were joking with each other and concocting the story they were going to tell the cops.

        The sinister issue on this thread is the few posters who are generalising about all cyclists are a menace, are freeloading or are rule breakers. People do this to justify to themselves that its OK to knock over, disregard or abuse cyclists. They have something wrong in their head so and have a strong compulsion to write such posts to defend their world view.

      I just can't agree. The rules are the rules, and nobody gets to decide to only obey them when it suits, or when it seems OK. Red means stop. It's really simple.

        As a cyclist, I'd find it much easier to agree with you if ALL road users obeyed the lights. Pedestrians are by far the biggest scofflaws and nothing but petty fines are handed out. They hold up traffic, endanger lives (not just their own) and do so at every intersection in Melbourne's CBD daily.

        Since last November, cyclists have received the same punishment as drivers for running red lights. We're actually on an even footing, despite the hugely inflated risk that cars running red lights has on other road users, compared with cyclists.

          So you refuse to follow the rules until everyone else does? Sounds like a recipe for chaos to me. I'm so tempted to fall back on the old parent's line "if your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump off too"? The point is this. You can't demand everyone else follow the rules if you don't. Start with yourself. If the rule sucks, campaign to have it changed - that's what democracy is all about, but you don't get to just ignore the laws you don't like.

            I never said I didn't follow the rules, if you read my other replies I'm one of the majority of cyclists who abide by road laws.

            My point was, cyclists are constantly isolated as some sort of super-offenders when it comes to road behaviour. Other road users break the rules far more regularly and no-one seems to care - we're held up as the worst. Why do we get big articles written up about a cyclist on a 7kg bike turning left on a red when literally thousands of pedestrians jay walk in Melbourne daily and cars kill nearly a thousand people a year?

            I think the anti-cyclist lobby needs to cool its jets. I agree, there needs to be more discussion about changes to rules for cyclists - we're not the same as cars and the rules should reflect that.

            are you human or lemming jcleeand? sounds to me you would jump off a cliff if someone told you it was some kind of rule. If you want to wait at a red light when nothing's around or coming then go ahead, well done you for not using your brain.

              Seriously, you want to make running a red light some kind of civil disobedience campaign? What are you the Ghandi of road rules? I'll break bad laws for a higher social purpose, but not "inconvenient to me" laws.

              I wasn't replying to someone who said they were stuck at a never changing red light, this person said they should be able to turn left at red lights whenever they wanted. That's just a plain case of being unwilling to wait a few minutes, and it's hardly the equivalent of campaigning against conscription, or apartheid.

        So I assume that you don't ever break any rules? Ever downloaded a song illegally? STRAIGHT TO PRISON WITH YOU.

          Well, sure, I'm not perfect and I've broken rules. But not road rules. They exist for a reason. They protect my safety, and yours. Because the roads are a dangerous place and if we don't follow the rules they become more dangerous, it's in everyone's interest to follow the rules. I mean, what if I decided tomorrow that I didn't like the "everybody drive on the left" rule, and started driving on the right. Could I argue in court that it's fine because "everybody breaks rules now and then your honour"? It's a spurious argument. As a bike rider I expect that motorists will follow all the rules - yes, even when it doesn't suit them. This is for my safety as a vulnerable road user. So when I expect others to follow the rules, I have to accept my own responsibility to obey the rules.

          Even if sometimes I download songs illegally.

    "with road authorities adamant that all cyclists can activate a signal change at all locations."
    The link you provided clearly states "they can be difficult for the sensors to detect."
    So which is it then? Just making shit up again I see.

    Even motorcycles have problems setting off the sensors. Usually a flick of the starter motor is enough to do it, though bicycles don't have one of those.

    How about the reason "because we can"?

    I ride quite a bit. On group rides - the unwritten rule is never run the red light. As annoying as it is to be flying along and have to slam the brakes on - too bad. Am I guilty of running red lights on my solo ride to work - sure! The problem is the education (for both motorists and cyclists) and infrastructure for bikes is poor at best. We are also in the situation were we are damned if we do, damned if we don't. Ride on the road - put up with cars driving close and drivers yelling at you. Ride on the path - put up with peds walking in front of you and yelling at you for going too fast. At this point in time, I just prefer to be demonised as a "lycra warrior" and do what the hell I want. Just to be clear, I try and be a good cyclists just so I don't piss people off. No point adding fuel to the fire.

    @stevothedevo - there are PLENTY of all-carbon road wheels available from all well known manufacturers.

    Last edited 25/03/13 11:03 am

      I'll second the damned if you do, damned if you don't sentiment. I try to do the right thing but you still get abused by cars for being on the roads or walkers for being on the paths, even when you're in the emergency lane or go metres around someone. (Ditto ringing your bell when everyone's plugged into iPods.)

        Even for the 3 months cycled to work, I found that not many people rang a bell or called out before passing.

          Ringing a bell is a good way to let people know you're there, but unfortunately it is sometimes interpreted as rude or aggressive rather than just letting people know you're there. I tend to try to call out to let people know I'm there, but even that doesn't always help.
          (Mind you, I'm talking about passing pedestrians on shared footways).

          One other thing to keep in mind is that sometimes (although not necessarily often) it is more dangerous for a pedestrian to know you're there. Nothing is harder for a cyclist to avoid that a pedestrian trying to avoid getting hit by a cyclist. Just a couple of weeks I saw a collision (which fortunately was gentle enough that the person hit just stumbled back a step, and the cyclist fell over sideways, because the cyclist braked very, very hard). A pedestrian had stepped onto a 1.5-meter-wide shared footway, looked up, realised that there was a bicycle fairly close, and then rather than stepping off the path stepped from side to side on the path. Of course, the cyclist was braking while trying to dodge the pedestrian. Had the pedestrian not looked up, then the cyclist could have breezed past without issue.
          Mind you, that was a pretty unusual circumstance, and had the pedestrian had been aware of the bicycle before stepping onto the path in front of it, then that would have been even better.

          Ringing a bell when approaching a pedestrian from behind is the worst thing you can do (in my experience). They go from a relatively predictable road user (walking in straight line) to an unpredictable hazard - often jumping startled into the path of the cyclists.

          I prefer to give them a wide berth and leave them walking unhindered.

    All these reasons are valid.. it's when there is no valid reason and I nearly get slammed into while crossing the road that I get a little irritated. This happens in the city all the time.. I know it's only a very small percentage of the riders doing this.. but like anything, it's the few bad apples that spoil the (perception of the) bunch.. The light goes red, every other vehicle on the road stops, the green man to cross the road lights up and people start crossing.. then along comes this person on a bike racing through the intersection.. it's just not on.

      I'm a cyclist and that really bothers me too. With more and more bicycle police appearing, I am hoping this will be penalised more often.

    So two-thirds of cyclists always stop at reds, and more than half of the remaining 37% do so because a) they're turning left and is probably legal anyway or b) because the light won't change (for whatever reason)? That leaves 20% who are actively breaking the law. Of course, the lawbreaking what will be picked up by mainstream meeja, not those who obey the law.

    Would love to see some comparable research for other road users. The only ones I can find are 10 years old and only record crashes due to red light running. TBH, I wouldn't be surprised if the figures were about the same (from my own observation).

    As a cyclist, taxpayer and car driver, if I'm forced to pay rego for my bikes, cars and continue to pay taxes then I'm going to use the whole width of the road like any other road user is allowed to do. Cars use bike lanes for driving, parking, turning and minutely shortening the distance of their journey, so it's only fair I get to shorten my distance by choosing the lane with the shortest route to my destination.

    There is no excuse for running a red light. Especially when cars have already stopped and it's green for pedestrians, or going through a pedestrian crossing when there are already people crossing. I don't care that you're on a bike, you're on the road, obey the road rules.

    I've had numerous instances where I've had to move (like run quickly) out of the way of bikes speeding through red lights (when it's been green for pedestrians and I have been crossing) or through pedestrian crossings. I've even been yelled at by bike riders for just walking across the road in these situations, when they are clearly in the wrong.

    There's some semi-valid excuses in this article for why cyclists run red light when they do, but the one that gets me is the bike-specific lights (pictured in the article headline, actually) on the cycleway in the Sydney CBD. I reckon I see more cyclists ignore them than heed them.

    If you have your own dedicated portion of the road with your own sets of lights, please pay attention them them at least?

    I don't "run" red lights, but sometimes I will set off when safe to do so, yes, when the light is still on red. One of the main reasons is so that I can get out of the way of the traffic behind me, so they can move away from their red light without waiting for a bike rider to get up to speed. Wouldn't you rather I was 200m up the road by the time you get to set off?

    Often it's when pedestrians are crossing at the same point, I sometimes get off my bike and walk over, just to make the point that it's much the same in this instance.

    As for the nonsense about bike riders having to get rego - don't be ridiculous, just ask yourself this question "If I'm going to work at the same time and in the same direction as 5 other people, would I rather they were in cars, or on bikes?" I'm perfectly happy to drive to work, you should be happy I ride my bike.

    TL;DR- You might not like riding a bike, but everyone else that does means less cars on the road for you, and a quicker journey. Be nice to them, and you'll have less cars to deal with.

    “There were no other road users”

    This is the best reason to run a red, nothing to do with the inductive loop. The lights are designed to regulate the flow of traffic and to avoid conflict between vehicles and keep pedestrians safe. If there are no other vehicles or pedestrians around who cares (or will see) if a cyclist goes through a red light?

    Definitely agree that the red light should be treated as a give way if turning left as in other countries.

    "My bike doesn't set off the signal"

    So we should outlaw carbon wheels?

    Nah, my pet peeve with cyclists are those who have a good meter of sealed shoulder to ride on, but insist on riding the line or over the line on the road. It's not fun doing 100 and having to slow down to 40 because the cyclist is too far over and there's a log truck coming in the opposite direction.

    Interesting point about turning at a red light if safe. My friend said he almost failed his test because he didn't turn at a red (that is, a red light, not a red arrow). I was always under the impression that if the light is red, you don't go. Even if there is no red arrow, you still can't go.

    I'm not game enough to try it out though, as I don't want to explain to a cop or a pissed off motorist that it's fine to do so.

      You should probably inspect that shoulder...
      They're likely pockmarked with service holes or plain potholes and broken glass.

    The worst thing around for cyclists is funnily enough, not cars. or running red lights!

    It is in fact, Hipsters.

    Yup, Hipsters walking along with their bloody headphones in, not paying any attention to what's going on around them, and can't hear you binging them.

    It's even worse when they decide to take their dogs with them! Especially considering they rarely take thier lead with them, and when they do, they forget to hang on to them.

    In the last 3 months, I have been taken out by a dog once, and another friend of mine has been taken out 3 times! (all different dogs, none on leads) They are just too stupid to realise (and I am a dog person) not to run infront of bikes, and then bang! it's all over and you're left doing a superman impersination ... Badly.

    Nah, I agree with cletus75. A few years ago I used to ride a (heavy, very metallic steel) mountain bike all around the Sydney city area at all hours of the day as I didn't own a car then. Some intersections late at night did not register a light change if there were no vehicles around. I sometimes got off my bike and activated the pedestrian crossing, rather than running a red light in case some hoon came out of nowhere. It can happen in a car too if you don't drive right up to the intersection markers.

    We see once again that when an organisation such as Safe Cycling Australia can raise GLOBAL awareness with it's long standing Red Light campaign - with a reach of over 80,000 road users in less than a week, the Amy Gillett Foundation sees fit to wander in and take the credit as the one stop shop for cycling safety.
    How do those that genuinely put in the hat yards receive the credit for the work THEY do?
    The next question is how do you get onto these researchers mailing lists so these studies reach a wide enough audience to make a difference?
    Last week the AGF reached 400 people through their FB page. I know another Org that reached 9,000. If this research is intended to make a difference, why not make sure it happens???

      I may look at another SCA campaign that generates international discussion and debate this week. Stay tuned for the launch, and the resulting research for which the other guy takes the credit.

    How about because it's more dangerous for cyclists to start off from the lights at the same time as car traffic; that's when cyclists are least stable. Provided cyclists slow down at the lights and look both ways, it makes more sense to get out ahead of car traffic. I wish common sense, was exactly that.

    I happily blow through reds when it's safe to do so... I ride on footpaths to reduce the possibility of being mowed down by some kook that is busy texting his mistress..... I mainly ride against the flow of traffic swapping between the road and the footpath to avoid oncoming traffic (which is easier on a BMX)... The ultimate aim of all of above is getting to where I need to go as fast as possible but also arriving in one piece.... I don't disobey road rules when I drive but I enjoy the freedom we have when riding a bike. To all the people crying from their 4WD cage, all I can say is; don't knock it until you've tried it and if you don't/can't/won't try it, I'm sorry you'll never understand....

    The main problem with cyclists on roads here in Australia is two fold (speaking as a Dutchman)
    - infrastructure
    Bicycles and motorized traffic are completely different in how they behave on the road. Speed, maneuverability, acceleration, level of protection form other road users. All these things come in to play. In the same context shared paths are terrible, pedestrians and bicyclists are not the same, they behave differently. All to different to safely be in the same lane. The solution to a lot of the general issues and hatred between cyclists and motorists is to make dedicated bicycle lanes. If every half decent road has a dedicated biycle path, that would make cyclists saver (not sharing lanes with motorized traffic) also it would improve the flow of traffic (cars can go past cyclists unimpeded). As a cyclists sometimes I choose to treat my bicycle as if I were on my motorbike. When the lane is simply not wide enough for a car and a bicycle to fit together I will make a point of taking up the entire lane. Being hit by a wing mirror a few to many times does that to a person. Add to that cars that are parked on the side of the road and sometimes there are people in these cars that get out without actually paying attention if they might end up dooring a person. Luckily that has not happen to me, but I've spoken to a few to many people to know that it does happen and people break collarbones, shoulders, arms, legs, and worse.

    All of these things force me to be extremely cautious about the way I cycle, I cycle defensively and follow the rules of the road. The thing that shits me most are fellow cyclists who for whatever reason thought it to be a good idea to cycle on a footpath (not a shared path!). Whenever I encounter these people I make a point of sticking to my line and not stepping out of the way to let them pass.

    -Not enough people cycle
    Again, hailing from a country where everybody cycles (we have more bicycles than inhabitants) this means that there is no us and them mentality. There is no us the cyclists and them the motorists (or vice verca). All road users are cyclists (although some might drive a car at that particular moment, they are familiar with bicycles). They know that you do not pass close to bicycles (which isn't really a problem anyways because of the dedicated paths).

    These two problems are very much intertwined. Better infrastructure would mean more people would be tempted to take up cycling, and more people cycling would mean there is more support to improve on bicycle infrastructure.

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