Red lights distract

Recently Boris decided that it might be an idea to investigate whether cyclists should be allowed to (conditionally) turn left through red lights.

While it certainly is not the answer, it’s not really even part of the question.

There are innumerable reasons why cycling is dangerous, but the fundamental one is that cyclists are not considered first class citizens when the road system is being planned, amended, dug up, redesigned or rephased.

My commute is around 7 miles each way. On my morning route in the other morning, just for fun, I counted the number of sets of traffic lights that I had to cycle over. 32. Thirty-two. That’s more than one every quarter mile. There are just four zebra crossings.

I divided the lights into 3 categories: those which were fair enough, e.g. major junctions etc. (12), those that were pure pedestrian crossings that could be easily replaced with zebra crossings (12) and those which I couldn’t quickly decide on (8). It’s these pedestrian request lights that are the most irksome – people pressing the button, then walking across on green, only for the lights to kick in anyway. How about a cancel request button?

It’s no wonder that cyclists run red lights (I don’t, but I’m in a minority) when so many of them are blatantly surplus to requirement. Surely zebra crossings must be cheaper to install, cheaper to maintain, greener (given the average wait times) and less likely to provoke irritation at others’ behaviour? After all, I’m convinced more car drivers would run reds if they could – but they’re constrained by the guy in front.

So rather than the red herring of turning left (which could be often useful, but more often than not, not) – let’s have TfL justify every set of lights with a pedestrian request phase and ponder if that crossing could be better served by a zebra crossing.

That would be a real win in the battle to wrestle control of our roads back from the car.

Update: Someone’s on my wavelength. Ealing is putting a bag over many after realising that the wisdom of crowds works well. Hoorah for them.

    • Shak
    • April 22nd, 2009 6:24pm

    I guess Pelican crossings are safer than Zebras from the pedestrian’s perspective – I know which I’d prefer. Puffins should have solved some of the problems you mention, so perhaps more of those (which actually work as they should) is a better solution to getting rid of traffic lights at crossings altogether.

    >After all, I’m convinced more car drivers would run reds if they could – but they’re constrained by the guy in front.

    I think it’s more to do with a) being caught and punished, and b)the implications if they misjudge the jump (I’m guessing cyclists would kill less).

    Either way in my experience cyclists jump lights irrespective of whether they are at junctions or crossings. Have any cyclists ever been done for running a red light? If so, what’s the penalty?

  1. I assume puffins are more expensive than pelicans, hence their relatively scarcity? There are a handful of toucans in the area, but generally they’re only found on shared-use facilities which tend to be dangerous for both pedestrians and cyclists.

    Some crossing need controls, but how many accidents occur on/near zebras? I think I need to try to find out …

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