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Cycling and Traffic Lights

I had the option of having a nice quiet end to the year on this blog, shying away from controversial posts and stimulating passionate discussion. I’ve decided not to take it by confronting a perennial issue that’s bound to get the juices flowing: “should cyclists obey traffic lights?”

For a start, I’m not entirely sure of the legal situation – I assume that cyclists on the road are classified as vehicles and are therefore legally obliged to obey traffic lights. I guess that they have the option of dismounting from their bike and then pushing it across the intersection on the pedestrian phase (something I’ve actually seen someone do with their scooter on Queen Street once!) but otherwise I assume that cyclists are meant to follow traffic signals like drivers. Be interesting to check whether this assumption is correct or not.

Secondly, I can obviously see the attraction of blasting through a red light for a cyclist. They’re relatively unlikely to cause harm to anyone but themselves (pedestrians aside) so they probably feel that it’s OK to do so. Plus our lights generally are set on stupidly long phasing so if you miss the lights you need to wait forever – even if there aren’t many cars travelling by.

However, set against that – and notwithstanding the legal issues – I think I find myself falling on the side of cyclists obeying the signals, because of courtesy more than anything else. We desperately need motorists and cyclists to “get on better” on the road as there are far too many accidents involving cyclists at the moment. Part of that is through providing better infrastructure for cycling, part of that is through driver (and cyclists) education and part of it is through a cultural shift so that there is greater awareness and respect between all road users.

I don’t generally think that having cyclists ignore traffic lights assists in developing a greater level of courtesy and respect between all road users. It is something of a “I expect you to do everything you can to respect me on the road, but I’m not going to show the same level of courtesy to you” vibe that seems to result from cyclists ignoring traffic lights that doesn’t help. Furthermore, in locations where there are a number of pedestrians having the unexpected occur (such as a cyclist whizzing by on a red light) is pretty dangerous and incredibly unnerving.

I am really keen to get a better understanding of what the “cycling community” thinks about this issue, whether other people agree with me and what suggestions there might be to improve this (or perhaps it’s not really an issue at all). That should keep us going for a while.

87 comments to Cycling and Traffic Lights

  • As a cyclist, I always obey traffic lights and I get embarrassed and annoyed when other cyclists blast right through them. However, I will admit that I often treat STOP signs as if they were GIVE WAYS.

  • There is a huge impedance mismatch between traffic lights designed for motoring or (average-speed) walking, and the experience of cycling, which is physically somewhat in between.

    The timing is off: cyclists don’t get green waves, can’t always get across a wide intersection within a green/orange period, and don’t accelerate the way motor vehicles do.

    The geometry is off: cyclists typically have no space to wait comfortably, and have to deal with the ambiguity of whether to filter up or hold a lane. The shape of intersections is generally specified with a turning radius, field of view and other physical properties to suit motor vehicle operation. Advanced stop boxes are design failures — poorly marked, hard to access, often occupied, rarely helpfully located. Merging or changing lanes with all the flare-outs, build-outs, on-street parking, pinch points and the usual constellation of misfeatures at Auckland intersections, is a hazard sometimes better approached by pre-empting a green or making like a pedestrian on wheels.

    The affordance is off: mounting or dismounting can be tricky depending on surface, weather, grade, etc. There are no consistent platforms or bars to stop at. Intersections with sensors may or may not work (and there is no good feedback to say whether it has detected a bicycle). There are no cycle phases at general traffic lights.

    Those are just a sample of the problems involved. So the ‘user experience’ for a cyclist is typically confusing, ambiguous, irrational and unsafe by design. I am not surprised by some of the behaviour that you see.

    More broadly, however, I always wonder when I hear these complaints about cyclists whether there is a double standard at work. Are breaches of traffic rules that much more inexplicably prevalent among cyclists than among pedestrians or motorists?

    • I make a habit of stopping at red lights but I can guess why the running red lights has come into play over many years as the lack of any cycling infrastructure, like the ‘green wave’ you’ve mentioned, do not get a look in in NZ so cyclists have just taken it on themselves. That’s what happens when you have 50 years worth of roads designed just for cars and nothing else (pedestrians included).

    • Ash

      Apparently in the state of Idaho, cyclists are legally entitled to treat red lights as Stop signs, and Stop signs as Give Ways. That makes a lot of sense to me.

  • Matthew

    I am with vostoklake. As a cyclist I stop on red lights, and stop for stop signs if there is other traffic, and if there is no traffic around then I treat them as give ways too. Cycling is often about momentum.

    But as a pedestrian, I cross when safe irrespective of the flashing green men. Pedestrian crossings are for the convenience of motorists and often about putting pedestrians in their place down the pecking order.

    As a motorist I am anal about stopping at stop signs, stopping on red and amber lights and indicating when I should even when there are no other cars around. I hold in contempt motorists who don’t indicate when there are no other cars around, but there are pedestrians about as pedestrians make decisions based on what the cars are doing.

    And in the motoring realm again, not indicating left and then turning left at a roundabout I am afraid, yes, should be punishable by death. If that happens to me as a cyclist, ie I stop at a roundabout because I think I have to give way to a car and then it unindicated turns left and I found I didn’t have to stop, then yes I think the cyclists should be able to reach into the motorists chest cavity and remove their heart like it was an Indiana Jones film, before feeding it to a pack of half wild dogs bred just for the purpose of disposing of idiot motorists’ flesh.

    So in other words cars must obey the road rules at all times but a limited amount of scofflawing is allowed when the vehicle gets smaller and the road user becomes more vulnerable. ie speeders should get fined, and jaywalkers shouldn’t. Cyclists not obeying red lights is somewhere in the middle.

  • Daighi

    I cycle frequently and will freely admit that I run red lights (while cycling) frequently. I think it comes down to two things:

    1. there’s a general attitude amongst many cyclists that it’s ‘ok’ to do this. How and why this came about i’m not entirely certain. And i guess by buying into this attitude i could be seen to be adding to the animosity that already exists between motorists and cyclists. It’s something that i’ve always done without really questioning (which is rather a poor justification but o well…).

    2. there are many situations where i feel it is safer to run a red light than to stop. Often you’ll end up with cars parked very close to you, or having to inhale diesel fumes or when the light turns green you are suddenly sharing a narrow intersection with other traffic. in situations like this i’d much rather ‘run the gauntlet’, so to speak, than put myself in situation where i feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

    at the end of the day i have no issue with cyclists taking a liberal attitude toward the application of road rules (although i do understand how it may upset some people). please feel free to disagree with me in the interest of promoting constructive debate!

    • Daighi

      I’ll add a third reason:

      3. cycling with cleats can make coming to a complete stop a minor nuisance. I’d much prefer the convenience of riding straight through an intersection whenever it is safe to do so.

      also, i’m not necessarily saying that any of these reasons are fair or reasonable…

      • If you can’t safely come to a complete stop because of your cleats, you are a hazard and need to get them fixed. I ride with cleats and they in no way hinder me coming to a stop. I just stop and put one foot on the ground just as if i had normal shoes on. Only difference is there is a little click sound as i swivel the shoe out. I found it became a completely natural movement and second nature after only a couple days of using them.

  • Felix Alexander

    As a bike-rider who stops at every red light (living in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, every traffic light is dangerous when it’s green. When it’s red, it’s suicide), I have to say, the roads are designed for cars. Why should people riding bikes obey a single rule? It’s completely counter-intuitive when you’re sitting there on the saddle; car-oriented traffic infrastructure doesn’t afford obedience by people walking or on bikes. (See: “affordance”.)

  • Anthony

    When I cycle I’ll generally stop at reds, except when turning left, or where it’s a tee intersection and I’m going straight through with the side road on the right. In each of these cases I will slow and as I’m on the left hand side of the road I’m not getting in anybodies way or particularly endangering myself. At some intersections there are B lights for the buses, these are also good when cycling as they enable me to get up to speed, get past the point when the bike is a bit wobbly & unsteady, and reduce the speed differential between me and the cars before they pass, improving safety. At some intersections I preempt the green for the same reasons, as is is the safer thing to do.
    I used to ride through pedestrian phases at walking speed or slower, which I didn’t think was unreasonable. However, a cyclist is risking a $150 fine for doing this and it gets policed occasionally in the CDB, so I now dismount & walk, even if turning left.

    • “B lights” are for bikes as well – legally bicycles and motorbikes can also go when this light is showing. That’s because it is usually showing for a bus lane, which bikes and m’bikes are also allowed to use.

      • TheBigWheel

        Yep, B means Go, as the caa blog highlighted the other day.. http://caa.org.nz/general-news/b-means-go/ ..a few hundred more B lights around the city would certainly help.

        Over and above that, I’m with Anthony here.. there are often circumstances e.g. left turns, where a cyclist is of no danger to other road users, or indeed to him/her self, such as a left turn on red from a side road into an empty bus lane.

        The thing is, all us cyclists want to avoid stopping / starting.. all that wasted momentum, and for roadies, getting in / out of cleats. Top Gear famously did a bike v car v train v powerboat etc race across London.. Hammond won it, complaining bitterly of the effort of having to stop / start literally dozens of times on the way.

        That said, the law doesn’t allow it. So I (almost always) stop.. and yes sometimes some plonker on a single speed flies through on red, and every now and then I get entertained free of charge by the overweight redneck in a BM or Audi next to me all in a rage about effing cyclists.. who of course I can then hoon away from when the lights go green, and he gets stuck in the queue 50 m up the road.. no doubt crying over “average driving speeds in the CBD in 2041″ or whatever they’re ranting about on talk back ..ha ha.

        City Cycling. I love it!

  • The Trickster

    Its funny, I have a different attitude when riding in lycra or if I’m riding in street clothes.

    When I’m training seriously (lycra), I stop at all red lights, although I’ll run it if its clear that after 2 phases the stupid pads haven’t picked me up – case in point today at the intersection of the Universal Drive extension and Central Park Dr – the right turn doesn’t seem to pick bikes up.

    When I’m in street clothes I will dismount and walk (which is legal) during pedestrian phases in town – otherwise still stop at red lights.

  • Dan

    Try caa.org.nz or cyclingauckland.co.nz/blog/ for some local cyclists discussing this sort of thing — and maybe try looking up basic things like the law before posting on inflammatory topics….

    My suggestion is that cyclists should be able to legally treat red lights as give ways (exceptions could be made at major intersections). That’s how I treat them and it works well for me. Arguments about trying to foster good cyclist motorist relations by behaving proper are hard to fathom, do people really think cars are going to stop killing and maiming us if we are law abiding citizens?

  • gregmcraenz

    As a bus driver (shields up!) I have a slightly different take on it than car drivers who can “safely” pass cyclists whenever they want while staying within their lane. For me, if I can’t use 2 lanes (i.e. in the sort of traffic where bicycles are normally encountered) I’m going to be stuck behind them. I realise I’m probably in a minority of bus drivers in thinking like that …

    So my preferences are that slow bicycles wait for green lights and fast bicycles stop, look, go … That way I can get past the slow ones in the intersection where there is truckloads of room for them to move left (remember I can’t move right), and with peak traffic the way it is if the fast ones don’t wait for the green lights I don’t generally ever see them again.

    What I really hate is left turning bicycles who treat red lights and roundabouts like green lights because they have the mindset that there is room in the lane they’re turning into for them plus whatever car is coming through the green light / around the roundabout. Sure there is, but there’s not room for them and a bus.

  • Peter H

    The AKT site did a post on this. http://www.aktnz.co.nz/2011/11/20/should-cyclists-ignore-stop-signs/
    The Idaho stop sounds like what a lot of cyclist do already, it remove the complaining motor vehicle drivers do about obeying the law when they see cyclists running red lights.
    But it does put the blame on the cyclists in intersection accidents, which is where a lot of accidents happen. I would suggest Cyclists should come to a complete stop at red light check everbody can see them before moving on again. Because what does the word “Yield” mean if you do not slow down enough to check for other traffic and you end up under a motor vehicle.

  • nick

    I’m a cyclist and as such obey the road rules that apply to all vehicles. It annoys me no end when other cyclists jump lights and generally take the p*ss. The result is that all cyclists get a bad name and cyclists’ rights are actually diminished. I’ve cycled in European cities where cyclists are generally well respected, and on the whole they obey the road rules much more than they do here.

    Regarding riding in lycra, there’s clearly too distinct groups of cyclists on NZ roads – lycra wearers who go out in groups for training purposes, and those of us who use a bike like as a means of transport. IMHO the former shouldn’t have the same rights as the latter. If you’re using a bike for transport you’re taking a car off the road and being socially responsible. If you’re a lycra wearing group cyclist you’re abusing the public transport network and using it as your training facility.

    • Right… like joggers using the footpaths and Sunday drivers just out for a recreational cruise? How dare they use our transport network for these clearly non-utilitarian purposes… :-)

    • Feijoa

      Are people driving to play — or perhaps even worse, just watch — a football match also abusing the public transport network? Where do you draw your recreational abuse line?

    • Ash

      Red light running was pretty rife when I was in London, and seemed much worse that things here in NZ. It was particularly amongst the fixie crowd, who often don’t have brakes and don’t want to have to start from stationary with their single gear ratio if they can avoid it.

  • Don

    I note that this post doesn’t cover the tendency of many cyclists to use the footpath as their domain. As a pedestrian I find that I am regularly avoiding cyclists and, especially in the summer, rickshaws on the footpaths and pedestrian crossings in the central city. Many appear to consider this as their right and seem to have the attitude that all others should “get out of my way”. As one who has been hit by a cycle I know what injuries they can inflict. One area that is notable for offending is along the waterfront from the Ferry Building to the Maritime Museum. In the case of rickshaw riders they seem to think that they are allowed to travel wherever they wish as the are carrying fare paying passengers? More enforcement is obviously required. The other group which generically are bad is the cycle couriers using any and all methods to get from point to point in the shortest possible time.

    • Steve D

      Not to mention the segways and mobility scooters zipping along. If you’re going faster than walking pace, you shouldn’t be on the footpath (unless you’re just running).

      • Matthew

        So you’ve just condemned 80 year olds on their mobility scooters to the road, great.

        Probably that’s a good enough extra reason to say that busy roads need 3 levels of separation. 1 the road for motorbikes, cars and buses and trucks. 2 separated cycle lanes for bikes, segways (as if many of them exist), and mobility scooters and 3 footpaths. So by that way of thinking there needs to be a lot of building of separated cycle lanes, such as they have in Vancouver (see http://wellingtoncycleways.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/how-to-do-things-right-vancouver-style/) Extensive networks of these would unlock a whole lot of pent up demand for safe cycling, and is easily of way more benefit than any of the RoNS. Safe cycling to and from the train stations with secure bike parking, and then riding the electrified rail system with high frequency service (travelling around the new link to the new CBD stations) with bike share in the CBD and all the inner suburbs. Now that’s a vision for Auckland. And yep, the separated bike lanes will fit, as all you have to do is get rid of a lot of the on road parking, that horrible waste of urban space.

        But saying that I am happy to ride my kick scooter on the footpath, and the speed differential to walkers is not a lot, and I can brake and slow down easily.

        • Bryce P

          Or like this Matthew:

          http://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/who-else-benefits-from-the-dutch-cycling-infrastructure/

          If we built the infrastructure the footpaths would be left for pedestrians. Ah, but that would likely mean giving up some roadside parking or traffic lanes. I can hear the screams from here :-)

          • Bryce P

            Maybe we could convince the current ‘grey power’ to jump on as advocates for real cycling infrastructure instead of more roads which they have been building and advocating for when they were younger?

          • Matthew

            Yeah that’s a great video. It amazes me though when cyclists don’t support separated infrastructure because they fear they will be compelled off the road. I couldn’t believe some of the attitudes in the Ngauranga-Petone link study for instance. Some cyclists don’t want a waterside path east of the railway line because they think they’d be kicked off the Hutt Rd/SH2, the SH2 being a 100km/hr defacto motorway, of which 95% of the population are too scared to ride along (me included). As one of the comments said all those vehicular cyclists need to see that video. In fact everyone should see that video to see what a city can be.

          • Matthew, dunno why you don’t understand cyclists being averse to infrastructure if it means they’ll be forced off the road. If the existence of infrastructure meant cyclists had to use it, we’d all be mandated to use anything that masqueraded as a cycle lane. Like, say, the nonsense along Tamaki Drive. Until there are no sub-standard attempts at things that pretend to be bicycle lanes I’ll be right out there with the rest of them protesting against anything that might look like compulsion to use cycle infrastructure if it’s provided.

        • Ash

          +1 (comments app needs a ‘like’ button)

        • Steve D

          I did say “faster than walking pace”. It is actually possible to do less than 12 km/h on them.

          That said I have seen a few octogenarians driving scooters in the roadway, including one on the SH1 rail overbridge at Otaki (I guess the footpath is too narrow).

          I like the rest of your vision. I’d try cycling around Auckland if I felt safer doing it. Having the default speed limit be 30 km/h on most streets and only having 50 km/h traffic on the main arterials would help a lot as well.

    • Just one problem about this grumble about cycling along the CBD waterfront: there is a shared path along here and it’s also highlighted as a recommended riding route by Akld Trpt no less. AT are a bit vague about how exactly it works along Quay St however; east of Queen St there is a shared path shown and west of Hobson St there is one. Show me the average person who will decide to tackle Quay St on-road for just the two blocks in-between…

  • Don

    The rules for vehicles on the footpath exclude powered vehicles with a wheel diameter of greater than 300mm so that allows mobility scooters but not Segways.
    The problem for Segways is that they are not allowed on the road either as they do not have indicators etc. ref http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10700925
    Cycles are also excluded unless in use for delivering letters etc. By extension of this rickshaws are also road vehicles.

    • Bryce P

      Which means we need to change more footpaths into ‘shared paths’ and carry out any engineering as required to make them suitable. Sports cyclists will stay on the road for obvious reasons but children and commuters / cruisers can use the shared paths. Solved. No law change required.

      • SteveC

        Bryce, research shows that shared paths will drive an increase of 20% in cycle crashes on a route, cars backing out of driveways and drivers not expecting cyclists to come off the footpath at greater than pedestrian speed present real hazards to cyclists if they ride on the footpath

        second, commuters want a quick trip to and from work and are just as likely to stick the road as sports cyclists, I certainly wouldn’t lump them with “cruisers”

  • Nick R

    My policy is that I will ride on the footpath when the occasion demands it, simply because some roads in Auckland are extremely hostile to cyclists. Round where I live there are free left turns onto side streets, motorway on ramps, intersections with zero regard for non-car road users, bus lanes and of course two lane roads where drivers apparently need both lanes at the same time.
    However if I am riding on the footpath I do two things: slow to walking pace, and give way to all pedestrians. I think that is fair.

  • obi

    “should cyclists obey traffic lights?”

    I’m with the majority on this one. No. Traffic lights should be treated as stop signs.

    By law, aren’t cyclists supposed to indicate changes in direction by sticking their arm out? I’ve never seen that done once in 40 years of cycling. Mainly because wobbling in to a turn with one hand on the handlebars is completely insane and likely to lead to sudden death.

    • Nick R

      I indicate with my arms religiously, mainly to avoid being wiped out by drivers who move to overtake the second you slow to make a turn.

    • Ditto with Nick on this for me, assuming that it will help some other road users in the vicinity (if there’s no-one around who will be affected by my movements, I won’t bother). It’s actually not hard to turn with one hand, but there is a legal exemption to the hand-signal rule if you are turning right at a roundabout and it is impractical to keep signalling.

      • SteveC

        not only do I use hand signals, but I also wear a reflective band on my right wrist in low Light situations, makes an enormous difference to driver behaviour

  • I’ve pondered this one a few times while out in the saddle, and wonder whether the easy solution would be to allow cyclists to treat all traffic controls as a give way provided that their line of travel is not leaving the line prescribed by the road edge closest to their direction of travel. eg: If you’re turning left at an intersection your wheel tracks with the road edge. Likewise if you’re crossing the top of a T-intersection. For controls where the cyclist will be leaving the edge of the road (turning right, or proceeding through with opposing traffic coming from the left), have the controls treated as a stop sign.
    One thing I will do is hop up onto an island and activate the pedestrian cross signal, if there is one. Some intersections just don’t have them available to me, though, so I’m at the mercy of other vehicles coming and triggering a phase.

    When I’m riding I obey red lights if I’ll have opposing traffic from my left. If I’m at the top of a T, or turning left, though, I just treat them as a give way. I’m safer moving than stopped, particularly since most of the intersections I encounter are in town centres around Auckland, and ride with that in mind.

  • RedLogix

    Simple. Cyclist are almost 100% dependent on their own wits and reactions to survive. The road code and design are of almost zero protection.

    For a cyclist who has no place to hide, no refuge (as do pedestrians) and utterly vulnerable to all other vehicles it is almost always safer to keep moving whenever possible. When you are moving you can anticipate other driver’s mistakes, you can avoid them when they haven’t seen you, you can swerve, brake, speed up. When stopped you can do none of these things and you are completely depedent on every other driver seeing you.

    When you are stationary on a bicycle you are unable to take evasive action of any kind, therefore by instinct we keep moving whenever it is safe to do so.

  • Ben S

    I’m with RedLogix et al – a mix of defensive and aggressive depending on the sitch.

    I always ride with two simple ambitions: a] to survive and b] to get where I’m going as expediently as possible. All decisions flow from that – worked for me over the 3 years I was a cycle courier in the UK.

    It’s bike v. car (bus, truck etc) out there and I’d rather remain in one piece than have my strict adherence to the road rules noted in my eulogy.

    • Jennifer

      I’m with RedLogix, Ben S and Nick R. I cycle regularly but in the category of riding a bike rather than the lycra-clad speedster. I use the footpath for survival often, but riding at a pedestrian pace (try Ponsonby Rd). I crib left turns through a red light especially if there is a bus or heavy traffic to my right also likely to turn left – have been cut off by large turning vehicle in the past. I always stop at red lights but go through on a pedestrian crossing, also at pedestrian pace since it’s safer and cleaner air than waiting for the green light mass take-off. This morning the lights on Ponsonby Rd failed to give a green phase so rather than go through a red I took a bypass over the footpath and from there on to the road – same result but no red light offense.
      Motorists sailing through red lights at speed are the pits, it’s quite a different scenario for the cyclist assessing whether it’s safe to transit through a pedestrian crossing or other red light.
      I also signal clearly for turning left or right. Like Ben, I make decisions on each situation with the objective of remaining in one piece.

  • Nick Iversen

    Lights are for cars. If there were no cars there would be no lights since cyclists can negotiate intersections without using lights (or stopping). So as a cyclists I have no respect for lights other than slowing down for them.

  • Glen K

    Firstly to clarify the question in the original post – yes, cycles are legally “vehicles” and as such have to abide by all road rules applicable to other vehicles (like STOP signs, red lights) unless otherwise stated. However they are not a “motor vehicle” so don’t fall under laws like those for drink-driving (although you probably could still be done for careless use of a vehicle I imagine if you’d had one too many on your bike).

    I wish that NZ did look into an Idaho-style law for STOPs and red-lights (please note the Idaho law still requires riders to check first that the way is clear; you can’t just “blow through”). In practice I’ll treat STOPs as a “very slow Give Way” because (a) sight distance from a bike is generally better than that in a car, (b) many cars seem to do it anyway, and (c) I’m then able to keep my feet on my pedals while checking for gaps. However I won’t go through ANY red light because (a) it’s currently illegal and (b) it makes it bloody hard to get respect from motorists when they see so many riders ignoring the lights (in their mind at least, they probably don’t notice all the law-abiding ones).

    Sorry, but I’m struggling to think of many valid excuses for it, concerns about safety when stopped are particularly laughable. Signals not detecting you? Position yourself exactly on the cut lines in the ground for best detection and, if that doesn’t work, talk to the Council about it. If you really want some legal ways to go through left-turns and top-of-Ts, get the council to construct some facilities to do it legally. E.g. in Christchurch see Waltham/Moorhouse for a cycle slip lane and Buckleys/Russell for a top-of-T bypass.

  • Dan

    The question posed here is largely irrelevant. Those who go through lights will continue to do so, those who think is it wrong will do so only when they deem it ok to do so. Either way, the relationship between cars and bikes will remain unchanged until proper investment is put into cycling infrastructure.

    Typically I get far more grief from motorists when obeying the law than when not.

  • Bob

    One of the biggest reasons for having road rules is that everybody knows what everybody else should be doing. When two vehicles approach an intersection they generally know what will happen as they will be following the road rules. The problem with most cyclists is that they just do what they want and do what they feel entitled to do and then moan when one of their friends get whacked by a car for doing something that no-one was expecting. If everybody on the road followed the same rules things would be much safer, not too mention the reduction in road rage as cyclists stop riding through red lights and causing near misses. Slowing down sometimes instead of getting hit by a car door is a good compromise. If you want to train for the Olympics do it on a proper training area and not downtown CBD. pot kettle black et al…

    • Bryce P

      I just fell over laughing. You are telling me all (or even the majority) of car drivers do the expected? You mean like the guy who drove through the red so late this morning that my light had been green for ling enough that I had time to register the green and drive 5m when I realised he wasn’t dropping? Get a grip. Cyclists break road rules but they are far from the only ones. Get this, Te Atatu Road (north) is a 50 kmh zone. The 85th percentile is – 61 km/h. Law abiding motorists my ass.

    • Ben S

      “If everybody on the road followed the same rules things would be much safer…” – hmmm, breaking out the lazy thinking there. Oooookay…. if all motorists were exemplary drivers and perfectly obeyed every road rule then cyclists could rest easy. But a small percentage of drivers at some point in their journey do something not only stupid but dangerous (eg talk on a cellphone, put makeup on with BOTH hands whilst staring into the rear view mirror – saw that one recently – cut a lane, cut a corner, fail to check oncoming traffic etc etc). You’re relatively safe at low speeds in an urban environment with respect to the idiots out there IF you’re in a car. You’re totally at their mercy as cyclist. You therefore cycle with the lowest driving ability in mind – and if that includes taking charge of any traffic situation over and above ‘the rules’ then that’s the smart thing to do – in fact the only thing to do. Also I’ve never had any ‘road rage’ from how I ride, including negotiating intersections and red lights on the terms that maximize my safety.

      Bottomline: a cyclist making an error is unlikely to ever harm someone in car. Vice-versa, not so much. Simple physics.

  • SteveC

    the reason that (some) cyclists ride through red signals is that their assessment of risk and reward is different from drivers, i.e. “if I ride through this red light, I get to ride through an unobstructed lane, ahead of all those metal monsters intent on rushing up to the queue at the next set of lights, the risk can be low and the rewards can be high

    the other aspect of the risk side is that an impact for a driver damages metal, but for a cyclist it damages flesh and bone, so riding down an uncontested piece of road is safer for the cyclists as in more than 80% of crashes involving a driver and a cyclist, the driver is at fault

    the following is from this: http://washcycle.typepad.com/home/2008/07/the-myth-of-the.html (there’s a bit of an anti-driver rant, but it’s worth reading the whole thing through)

    “Why do cyclists run red lights?” There are several reasons I’ve heard (safety in getting ahead of traffic and in-street sensors which do not detect cyclists, for example) but the basic answer is a classic risk/reward scenario. Jaybikers are calculating that the reward of keeping momentum or gaining the early start outweighs the risk of being caught or hit. People are notoriously bad at calculating risk and reward (sub-prime mortgage crisis anyone?) so I won’t weigh in on whether they’re right or wrong, but I’ll just leave it at that’s what they’re thinking.

    This, coincidentally, is the same reason why drivers and pedestrians run red lights.

    Let’s talk about red-light running. There are two types of red-light running: “catching an orange” – or running the start of a red light – which every class of users does; and jaywalking or jaybiking – waiting for the intersection to clear and then crossing against the light – which only pedestrians and cyclists do.

    Therefore, a better question is “Why don’t drivers ‘jaydrive’?”

    Is it because they love the law so much?

    It’s because their risk/reward calculation is coming up with a different answer. And that makes sense. In a car, you’re several feet farther back from the intersection and you’re often a foot or two lower than on a bicycle, meaning you can’t see as well (I bet those on recumbents don’t jaybike as often as those on standard bikes). In a car, you’re in a soundproof enclosure, so you have no stereoscopic hearing. And if you make a mistake you aren’t as maneuverable as you would be on a bike or on your feet. You can’t just ditch to the sidewalk. Drivers don’t jaydrive because, in their own estimation, they can’t. If they could, I’m sure they would.

  • SteveC

    the way for cyclists to get traffic signals to notice them is to find the electro-magnetic “loop” that tells the system a car is there, it looks like bitumen seal filling in some saw cuts in the shape of two squares side by side before the white limit lines,

    if you ride your bike along a line their should be enough metal in the bike to trigger the signals, works 99 out of 100 times for me

    • The Trickster

      Indeed – but the Central Park Dr / Universal Dr intersection doesn’t which means you’re sitting there on a pointless right arrow red light with nothing coming for a km.

      Another one a bit like that is the right turn out of Crowhurst St into Khyber – it only registers about half the time too.

      • Bryce P

        Don’t you just love the cycle lane between Central Park and Lincoln – painted right in the door zone of the parking rather than on the, empty, undeveloped path. Haven’t we learnt anything from the death of Jane Bishop?

        • The Trickster

          Ha – indeed! Then again not that I think I’ve ever seen a single car parked on the road there as all the businesses have off-road parking thanks to the minimum parking requirements!

          • Bryce P

            I think that will change once the southern properties are developed and then it will be too late to put in a real 3m, 2 way cycle path with minimal driveways. Lost opportunity in my mind.

          • Bryce P

            Off topic but, trickster, do you ride the twin streams paths or continue to the nw along Central Park Drive?

          • The Trickster

            Depends on where I’m going really – if I’m heading towards the Waitaks, then definitely Central Park Dr. If I’m heading for Mountain Rd or in that general direction, just depends on time of day/week as Edminton Rd can be a shocker at times.

  • George D

    Yes, they should.

    However, the law should make special allowances for those who use zero-emissions vehicles* that pose very little threat to others. It should incentivise and reward their use, and recognise the needs they have. What those are should be a matter for discussion, but I think that not sitting behind cars and trucks emitting highly noxious fumes is a high priority.

    *I know this could be considered off topic, but I can’t believe that it’s very nearly 2013 and we’re still not taking climate change seriously.

  • LucyJH

    I think you are right Steve C that an awful lot of it does come down to calculating risk. I agree with you that people are often bad at calculating risk and their perception of a risk may be lower than it actually is. For example, people notoriously under-estimate how much danger a little bit of added speed or alcohol creates when driving.

    I do think, however, that the road statistics on crashes seem to suggest that cycling through red lights is probably not hugely dangerous. The road crash report states that the majority of serious cycling accidents are caused by motorists at fault – 63%. Only 23% are recorded as the cyclist’s primary responsibility. I assume that if a cyclist had run through a red light then it would be counted as them being at fault . I also note that specific behaviour doesn’t get mentioned as a factor in the report. So while running red lights could definitely have caused some cycling accidents it doesn’t seem like it is causing a huge proportion of them as would be the case with speed/drink driving for motorists. http://www.transport.govt.nz/research/Documents/Cyclist-Crash-facts-2012.pdf

    With regards to cyclists riding through pedestrian crossings. I appreciate this is often disconcerting for pedestrians and it is clearly only polite for cyclists to either a) do this very slowly or b) wait until all the pedestrians have cleared the barn dance and then go through. But is it risky? I’ve heard a few tales of pedestrians who have been injured by bikes and that’s awful (although I know a few cyclists who’ve also been injured very badly by running into pedestrians who stepped suddenly in out front of them).

    But what is the total level of risk? Well, this report suggests that there were only 3 serious crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists in NZ last year that got reported to the police, as opposed to 68 pedestrian crashes involving motor vehicles. http://www.transport.govt.nz/research/Documents/Motor-Vehicle-Crashes-in-New-Zealand-2011.pdf

    Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s ok for cyclists to crash into ANY pedestrians at all or that this justifies their behaviour – but I guess what I’m saying is that perhaps most cyclists are thinking “Oh well, that road over there looks really unpleasant and cycling through this intersection/up this footpath is a pretty low risk behaviour. I’ve never hit a pedestrian, I’ve never met anybody that hit a pedestrian, I’ll give it a go.”

    So I think unless you could shift cyclist’s perception of the risk of cycling through red lights/on footpaths and convince them it was a really dangerous thing to do then it’s going to be basically impossible to change their behaviour. Think of the millions we’ve expended on trying to convince people that speeding or drinking when driving is a risky behaviour and yet look at what a high proportion of deaths (29% and 30% respectively in 2011) are still caused by those behaviours. Even though the evidence is really clear that speeidng/drinking when driving is dangerous, people still do it because they’re bad at judging risk and/or they judge the short-term convenience of getting there quicker/not having to get a taxi to outweigh the small chance of a really bad outcome (a serious crash).

    Trying to change people’s perception of a behaviour such as cyclist red light running that may not even be (in the absence of conclusive research) that risky to begin with seems likely to be completely ineffective. Personally, I’d like to see some serious research done on the risk of cycling through red lights and on footpaths and then IF the research supports it a law change to the Idaho situation along with an education campaign around cyclists looking out for pedestrians etc.

    • Jennifer

      Good post Lucy. I agree. Probably laws have evolved for the majority, being motorists and pedestrians. Try to stitch these rules to cyclists doesn’t create the best fit. It would be good to do some research into what is safe for cyclists moving among foot and motorised traffic and come up with a code will be accepted and adopted by them.

    • SteveC

      Lucy, as per my recent post, research shows a 20% increase in crashes for cyclist on footpaths compared to roads, I’ll see if I can locate the sources

    • Glen K

      Be wary of comparative crash stats for motorist/peds/cyclists – only injury crashes involving a motor vehicle are required to be reported to Police; otherwise you are at the mercy of fairly ropey hospital stats. So I’m not surprised that fewer ped vs cyclist crashes were found over ped vs motor veh.

      • bzzzt, wrong answer. The law is blind to the transport mode, requiring only that “If the accident involves an injury to or the death of a person, the driver or rider must report the accident to an enforcement officer as soon as reasonably practicable, and in any case not later than 24 hours after the time of the accident, unless the driver or rider is incapable of doing so by reason of injuries sustained by him or her in the accident.

        As the law is otherwise explicit about motor vehicles, etc, it’s clear that there is no difference between bicyclist vs pedestrian and car vs pedestrian for the purposes of reporting.

  • Don

    The expectation of a cyclist vs pedestrian is that the pedestrian will move out of the way. This becomes the norm and even on a shared path which is signposted ‘cycles give way to pedestrians’ the reverse is expected / required by cyclists. This is expressed by bell ringing (if the cycles have one – this was once a requirement!) or by more abrupt vocal methods. I suspect that this is one reason that there may be few reported incidents. Also if the cyclist pedals away there is no definitive identification such as a registration plate so what can be reported? Should the pedestrian have to respond in this way in an area supposedly dedicated to them ie footpaths and, by extension, pedestrian crossings?

    • NCD

      I don’t think cyclists forcing pedestrians out of the way is the norm- the vast majority of sharing I see works well. You seem to be implying bell ringing is rude- it’s usually thought of as polite- letting someone else know you’re there so they don’t accidentally side-step into your path.

      • I don’t actually use my bell much in Auckland because people don’t understand what it means. Half the time pedestrians scurry right over to one side, or panic and do something peculiar like step sideways out of the way they were going right into my path. That’s when they realise that the bell noise is coming from a cyclist, most don’t seem to register.

        Another symptom of very low cycling rates in this city, people don’t know how to interact with cyclists (and often cyclists don’t know how to interact with people).

        • It’s not just bells. Warning devices generally seem to be alien to many people, if one judges by the reactions to emergency vehicles approaching from behind in heavy traffic. The number of drivers who just freeze is disturbing.

        • Steve D

          Nick and NCD:

          I think people do understand what the bell means. Usually, it’s “I’m not stopping for you, worm! Get out of my way or I will run you down!”. So they get confused when you use it to mean “Excuse me, just letting you know I’m here, but feel free to keep doing what you’re doing”.

          This is similar to the confusion that people get when cars occasionally stop for them at driveways.

          As a practical idea to try, skiers call out “coming through on your left/right”, which doesn’t seem any less polite than the bell.

  • Glen

    I cannot believe the amount of cyclists on here that say they run red lights.
    No wonder drivers hate cyclists.
    Fine, be idiots and run red lights, but if you get squashed under a car dont come crying to me because you wont get any sympathy

    • Bryce P

      if they get squashed under a car they won’t be in a position to ask for sympathy. Also, if a car driver breaks the law and runs a red light and hits a law abiding cyclist the driver feels – nothing. The cyclist can be in the right, as in the vast majority of cases but still dies. The car driver carries on with their lives. Fair?

    • Bryce P

      And as I pointed out earlier, the 85th percentile speed on Te Atatu Road is 61km/h. That is, the average speed by 85% of the car drivers is 11 kmh over the speed limit and breaking the law! But car drivers are not affected by this – just pedestrians and cyclists. Yeah drivers are so law abiding.

      • Glen K

        Ah, no, it means that 15% of drivers travel at 61k or above. But I suspect that the median speed would be about 55k for a site like this and probably ~80% of drivers exceed 50k. Actually fairly typical for many NZ 50k arterial roads, but definitely not a great look.

        • Bryce P

          Thanks for the clarification Glen. A 55 average is still high and I chuckled when the AT engineer said the pedestrian count was too low for a crossing. How many people are going to try and cross an uncontrolled 4 lane, 12k vpd road? The point remains that most of the drivers on that road are happy to break the law. That’s, what, 7k or vehicles per day? Makes the occasional cyclist going through a red light seem pretty insignificant. (“but I’m only going a little over the limit”)

    • biralo

      Glen, according to this: http://www.ctc.org.uk/file/public/pedestriansbrf_2.pdf from 1998 to 2007 in London, 96% of pedestrian injury due to red-light jumping was due to powered vehicles, and 4% due to cyclists. When it comes to fatalities, would you care to hazard a guess as to what percentage were caused by powered vehicles?
      This issue is a huge red herring- there is no evidence that it’s a major cause of death or injury to cyclists or to others.
      Meanwhile other far more important safety issues get little attention and no action.

  • Patrick Reynolds

    Basically what is needed are laws that recognise the nature and vulnerabilities of cycling. Cyclists are somewhere between pedestrians and powered vehicle users, it is absurd to demand that cyclists follow the same road rules as car, trucks, buses, and motorcycles. And what they are allowed and not allowed to do at traffic lights is one place that cyclists should have different responsibilities and opportunities than for those in these other vehicles. Are any cycling groups following this line and advocating specific rules for their mode?

    • qwerty

      laws do understand the vulnerabilities of the cyclists. cyclists need to pull their head in. if cyclists are on the road then they follow the same rules that other vehicles using the road have to. if they are off-road then they follow the ped rules. you cant have it both ways.

      i really do not know how you think that is it absurd for cyslists to have to follow the road rules the same as everyone else. this is why cyclists get killed because they think they can do things that other people cant.

      • Might is right eh, qwerty. What nonsense, there are already different rules for different types of vehicles, cycling is ignored pretty much however. I find the subtext of your comment telling; there is often some idea that cyclists might be getting away with something somehow and must be kept in line, including bizarrely deserving to die for this:

        “this is why cyclists get killed because they think they can do things that other people cant.”

        ie serves them right; wow.

        What is true is that cyclists often cannot survive even small collisions with carelessly wielded powered vehicles; which in the vast majority of cases has absolutely nothing to do what cyclists think they can do, or ought to be allowed to do, but much more to do with car drivers’ sense of entitlement to the entire road at all times.

        An attitude perfectly expressed in your comment.

      • SteveC

        qwerty, sadly your argument is not supported by the facts, in the majority of driver/cyclist crashes, the driver is at fault, the statistics vary by study but the range of results goes from 56% driver at fault (Arizona, fatalities only) to 83% (Hawaii), in the UK adult cyclists were responsible for 17 – 25% of crashes,although child cyclists had a 50/50 rate of responsibility, probably due to inexperience and a higher level of accepting risk

        in other words, cyclist would be a whole lot safer if only drivers stopped knocking them off their bikes!

        nevertheless, Patrick’s comment applies, the consequences of a crash are so disprortionately weighted against the cyclist that the driver has a significant duty of care

      • Ash

        Qwerty, would you like to take a guess at the proportion of collisions between bicycles and motor vehicles in which the cyclist has primary responsibility?

        If you’re lazy, google it. You’ll find that the NZ Ministry of Transport publishes this as part of their annualtransport statistics.

        Oh, all right, I’ll tell you. For 2012 it was 23%. Cyclists have primary responsibility in only 23% or motor vehicle/bicycle collisions. In 14% of them the cyclist had “some responsibility”. In the other 63%, “no cyclist fault identified”.

        See the pie chart on page 6 here:
        http://www.transport.govt.nz/research/Documents/Cyclist-Crash-facts-2012.pdf

        It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen a cyclist turn left on a red light when the road is clear. These figures are an indictment on motorists and a disgrace and, moreover, totally unacceptable!

        Now this alone should tell you, if you have even a modicum of objectivity, that either the laws governing motor vehicles are far too lax to ensure other road users’ safety, or they’re not properly enforced.

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