Are Red Light Jumping Cyclists The Problem?

I see it all the time online. People always posting about dangerous cyclists riding through red lights. Be it as fact or as whataboutism.

Just two examples from the morning of the 22nd of December 2019. Whilst we all know as fact, some people on cycles go through some red lights. We also know the same for other road users, some motorists go through red lights, some motorists speed and some motorists use their phones whilst driving.

Less motorists do it than cyclists

Whilst theoretically that is true at some junctions. We need to be statistically fair to compare the two transport methods. As cyclists are allowed to filter, more of them have an opportunity at each traffic light to go through on red. Where as motorists only the ones at the front have the opportunity to go through the red light (unless people go around them, which is unlikely but is possible). As such, at each red light, more cyclists have an opportunity to go through red lights than motorists.

A study by TFL in 2007 looked into the hypothesis that the majority of cyclists do ride through red lights. Proportion of Cyclists Who Violate Red Lights in London.
The study looked at 5 different junctions in London where more than 7,500 cyclists where witnessed either stopping or not stopping at red traffic lights.
The study concluded that 84% of cyclists stopped at red traffic lights!

As far as I am aware, a similar study is not available for motor vehicles. Given my own experiences of what I have witnessed with over 100,000 miles traveled by bicycle and by car in London. Motorists tend to go through red lights just as they have turned red, and at speed. They are less likely to go through in the middle of the phase and are less likely to do it at slower speeds. Given this, motorists going through red lights is not as visible as cyclists doing so.

How many are caught going through red lights

I must apologies for my source on this, it is the Daily Mail: More than 11,000 cyclists caught running through red lights and riding on pavements in just one year.
In that article, the Mail breaks down cyclists getting tickets for going through red lights from 5 police forces in 2013.

Police ForceCount of red light offences
London3,508
Cambridgeshire337
Avon and Somerset117
Greater Manchester102
Hampshire57

A total of 4,121 cyclists recorded going through red lights over a year from 5 police forces.

The Daily Mail didn’t think to include motorists in that FOI. Or they didn’t publish those figures. However I did find that in 2015 184 motorists per day were caught going through red lights in the UK by red light cameras. That equates to 67,160 motorists a year!
On one road in Macclesfield their were more than 2,500 motorists caught in a single year!

NOTE: There are 43 police forces in the UK. The cycling data is from 5 police forces. The motoring data is from 33 forces. If we presume this data is representative we can suggest that for all forces it would be around:

  • Cyclists: 35,441 offences per year
  • Motorists: 87,512 offences per year

However that might be slightly unfair given the the huge sway of London. Take that out and the figures are more like 6,590.
It’s also worth nothing that the cycling offences are from stops by police officers. And the motoring offences are by automated cameras on the road. So these numbers for motorists will likely be even higher when factoring in stops by police officers. The same argument could be said if cyclists had number plates. However I would suggest that given the TFL study showing that at dangerous junctions / turnings it is done less, and that traffic light cameras are mostly put at dangerous junctions, it is unlikely this number would rise much.

Cyclists do it dangerously

Whilst I have no doubt that some people have been nearly hit by cyclists at red lights, I’ve seen it and experienced it. I also have no doubt that motorists doing it is far more dangerous given the speeds and the mass of the vehicle.

But what do the statistics say? A Freedom of Information request was put it for data on pedestrian causalities and injuries for 2015 – 2016.

KilledSeriously InjuredSlightly InjuredTotal
Pedal cycle072835
Motorcycle182635
Car766217290
Bus/Coach0358
Taxi022022
Van261018
HGV0033
Total1092309411

So in a 2 year period cyclists killed 0 pedestrians, seriously injured 7 and slightly injured 28 because they failed to stop at a traffic light .
In that same two year period, car drivers killed 7 pedestrians, seriously injured 66 and slightly injured 217 because they failed to stop at a red light.
Group all motorists together, motorists killed 10 pedestrians, 85 seriously injured and 281 slightly injured because motorists failed to stop at red lights.

This data tends to suggest that motorists do it more dangerously than cyclists. As previously mentioned, motorists are more likely to do it at speed and just as the lights have changed to red. Where as cyclists are more likely to do it slower and in the middle of the phase.

The same FOI also shows data for deaths and serious / slight injuries for pedestrians when the vehicle was on the pavement. The numbers show the same thing, cyclists kill no pedestrians on the pavement, injure a small percentage of the total. Where as motorists killed 73 people on the pavement in 2015-2016!

Now of course there are many more motorists than there are cyclists. Some statistics show around 2.3-2.8 million cyclists in the UK. There are around 38 million registered motor vehicles in the UK. Measuring how many people drive those cars is quite difficult.
The stats above are also only for when a police office attends the scene and attributes failing to stop at an automated traffic signal as a factor in the collision. There may be more cases of cyclists failing to stop at a collision at a red traffic light and police not being informed of it, the same could be said for motorists.

Summary

What has all this shown? That people break the rules no matter what transport method they use. However because of the speeds, mass and protection of some vehicles, motorists kill and injure many more pedestrians than cyclists do at red traffic lights.

We know that cyclists are more visible going through traffic lights as they do it through all aspects of the light phase and not just as soon as it turns to red like motorists mostly do. Given that cyclists have little protection in collisions, it is likely that they do it in a safer fashion than motorists do.

Ultimately this highlights the lack of ability of motorists do point blame on them selves as being dangerous, they choose to do so on cyclists. This is reflected in media, be it social or traditional news publications with the huge amounts of reporting about anything a cyclist does against the law but very little about the 5 people a day killed in the UK by motorists.

The Met reporting systems downfall

Anyone that follows me on my twitter or youtube will know that recently I’ve been posting a lot of result videos, some fantastic results from the Met Police (London Police force). These are mostly detailed in my Results playlist on youtube.

I’ve been reporting to the Met for the past 10 years, they’ve had various methods, from filling out paper forms and burning disks to fully fledged online forms where you can upload footage.

The later started in early 2018 and since then I’ve made 187 reports. Nearly 70% of these reports have resulted in some form of action; warning letters, driving courses, fixed penalty notices or court action. But 28% have had no action taken!

Whilst no action responses from the Met are sometimes not what I want, I try to learn from each one and work out if I should make similar reports in the future or what information is needed. So in 2018 32% of my reports had no action taken and in 2019 that is down to 25%. I’ve also had an increase of nearly 100% in reports from 2018 to 2019, so the reduced no action is positive.

Their downfall however is the inconsistencies in the responses from the Met on what they will or won’t take action on. I do of course understand the issue with Mobile Phone offences and Barretto Case, although they should just go for not being in proper control, but that’s another story.

So lets look at two report types I have reported and the responses.

Number plate offences.

We all know that there are various things drivers are doing to change/mask their number plates. Things like putting them in the window, incorrect font, markings to make them look different and a recent trend of putting a tinting film over the top of them. Here are my reports:

Number plateIssueResponse
AS11CCCThere was a dot between the two ones to make it look like a H.No action
T11OPEThere was a dot between the two ones to make it look like a HFPN £100
Number plate too small on a motorbike and in a position difficult to readNIP
Missing number plate from trailerNIP
Different number plate on trailerNIP
Number plate using incorrect font and makes numbers look like a letterNo response
SS11ALYThere was a dot between the two ones to make it look like a H.No Action

So 7 reports over the two years. 3 are ongoing, 1 i’ve not had a response yet. But the 3 that I have had a response on are all exactly the same. A dot between the 11’s to make it look like a H. In all cases I provided a view with enough detail to show that it isn’t the fixing bolts.

The first and last were no action for what ever reason, but the second was issued a FPN of £100 for the offence. Why now are they not taking action when they have previously? I asked them, and this is the response I got:

The policy now is that we will not deal with vehicle defect offences. This is because depending on the defect, trained Police Officers need to take measurements, use specific equipment etc, and that is not something which can be done via media in case we are challenged in court

Met Police

It’s a super easy offence, the video is clear as day in regards to my recent report that had no action taken. The reason we have so many issues with people not using the correct format of number plates is because there is A. no enforcement by the Police B. a tiny penalty of £100. Now to some this is a considerable amount of money, but these are not the people that are changing their number plates.

Red Light offences

I’m only going to focus on those going through the junction, and not those not stopping at the first stop line. Whilst they are the same offence from a legal standing, I find they are dealt with very differently.

Frames since redSeconds since redAction taken
602NIP
40013.333driving course
45515.166NIP
702*23.4NIP
250.833driving course
541.8failed to nominate
6 points £826 fines
220.733Warning letter
290.966Warning Letter
1374.566driving course
140446.8NIP
290.966NIP
80.266no action
190.633Warning letter
311.033No Action
240.8NIP
110.366No action
581.933NIP

* note I didn’t see the light turn from green to red, so this was technically longer.

17 reports total, the on going ones are likely going to a driving course, FPN or court case. The ones with a very long time are ones where they mostly jumped before it changed.

No Action is a range of 8 – 31 frames
Warning letter is a range of 19 – 29 frames
driving course is a range of 25 – 400 frames
NIP means action is being taken and it’s 24 frames and up.

So there is clearly a lot of overlap on each type, which we would of course expect to some degree, I don’t think they are going through frame by frame to count how bad they are.

Now I did flag on a couple of these reports that there is this overlap. I had a no action on one which was over a second late on the red light. I was told on one report that they wouldn’t take action unless it was over 2 seconds.

We would not be able to pursue an allegation of this sort unless they went through the red lights at least 2 seconds after they change as no court would convict for this.

Met Police

Clearly given the several reports under 2 seconds that they are taking action on, this isn’t the case.

We must remember, the amber phase is shown for 3 seconds before the red on all of these traffic lights and amber means the same as red. So these drivers had plenty of time to stop!

I’ve picked these two types of incidences because they are factual and clear cut. I will of course concede that the quality of footage on other reports can lead to ambiguity as to what is actually happening and as such do agree that the footage isn’t clear enough for them to do anything.

To put this all into perspective, and why this system is a positive. Of the 187 reports made so far:

  • 61% are issued NIPs (Notice of intended prosecutions)
  • 6% are issued warnings
  • 28% have no action taken
  • 5% are awaiting feedback

Of the 115 reports that have been issued NIPs, 56 are completed:

  • 16 were sent on driving courses
  • 18 were issued FPNs (fixed penalty notices)
  • 22 went to court.

This has resulted in:

  • 178 points issued
  • £14,490 in fines

I have 59 outstanding NIPs, given the 56 results, we can expect to see a further:

  • 187 points issued
  • £15,266 in fines

My stats from 2010 till 2018 from all my reports was 1 driving course and 4 court cases, which resulted in

  • 18 points
  • £1,495 in fines.

So definitely a great improvement in how the Police in London are dealing with reports, however the inconsistency in how they handle clear cut factual reports is disappointing.

Richard Duggan – Masterclass in how not to do journalism

Yesterday Richard Duggan posted an article about cyclists and how we are the most selfish and entitled road users in London.

I believe Richard has achieved what he wanted to achieve. Views on his article. Todays journalism is all about clickbait, to get your pay check you need the business to make money and the only way some of these online papers make money is from advertising. The article is full with advertising space but also broken up with links to other parts of the MyLondon website, as a reader, it’s a pain to read the article.

It is however labeled as an opinion piece, and Richard him self posted on his Facebook page that he expects hate mail for this article. There is one thing having an opinion, and there is another thing doing no research and trying to understand why something happens or why you have such a belief.

I recently watched a documentary on Netflix about flat earthers. It was interesting as it touched on the fact that many people just laugh at those that suggest the earth is flat. However this has a negative effect, it reinforces their opinions on the matter and thus increases the divide. What we should do instead is invite them into conversation and go through the scientific processes on why we believe the earth is round. In that documentary the flat earthers do various experiments that ‘will’ prove the earth is flat, none of them do.

So on that note, let’s look into the comments that Richard Duggan talks about and see why he might have those opinions and try to explain the reason why.

Barely a month has passed since I started working in London and already I have developed a deep resentment towards the city’s cyclists.

Welcome to London Richard, you’ve been here a month, I hope you are enjoying everything that this city has to offer you, it is vast and a great way to see the city is by bicycle.

Never before have I come across a group of road users so selfish and entitled

Two paragraphs in and we don’t know why yet

London’s cyclists seem to think they are a cut above the rest of us, whether we’re in cars or on foot.

Three paragraphs in…

I should note that, of course, I don’t mean ALL cyclists in London

Four paragraphs…

And I do appreciate that cyclists are doing their bit to save the planet.

Five paragraphs…
Note that the vast majority of cyclists don’t necessarily do it for saving the planet, we just enjoy cycling and/or hate driving/taking public transport in London.

However, there have been so many examples of bad behaviour among this unruly group that I’ve observed since the start of February, from the discourteous to the downright dangerous.

And the sixth paragraph. But it’s only been a month, so he must have seen some good stuff, right?

Let’s start with my number one bugbear; cyclists during rush hour.

Oh gosh. Those damn cyclists during rush hour, the blasphemy of those 9 to 5 office works that are taking to their trusted two wheeled steeds.

Crossing the road at times can feel like a death-defying experience and that’s made even worse by cyclists hurtling through the heavily congested streets of Central London at breakneck speed.

As a man that has only been in the capital for a month, many of us seasoned Londoners would still call Richard a tourist. Crossing the road isn’t a death defying experience if you do it how you are meant to. Either look for a crossing and wait, or cross where you like. I regularly do the later and it is very safe, you stop, you look left, look right and repeat until you see it is safe. I bet Richard is walking around looking at his phone and treating London like his rural Derbyshire, walking around whilst watching the birds.
If Richard thinks cyclists are riding around at breakneck speeds, wait till he sees what motorists are doing. I wonder if Richard knows that more than 80% of motorists don’t follow the 20mph speed limits!

I’ve even witnessed a number streaking through red lights, without a care in the world for the pedestrians trying to get from A to B.

I don’t condone those that go through red lights. Sure, some cyclists go through red lights. Very rarely is this done at speed, and very rarely do they do it in a way that endangers pedestrians. Remember cyclists are just as vulnerable as pedestrians, we have no protection, if we hit a pedestrian it’s likely we will fall as well.
I do wonder if Richard knows that more pedestrians are injured at crossings with red lights by motorists than cyclists each year. The statistics are available from the Department for Transport websites.

You can’t even escape them on the Underground, where cyclists can take a folded bike anywhere at anytime.

But just because a bike is folded up doesn’t mean it doesn’t take up space.

They’re even on the Tube

Travelling on the Tube during rush hour is a painful enough experience without falling over a folded bicycle that’s taking up space where a person should stand.

I wonder if Richard complains about people taking suitcases on the underground as well. This is such a problem for Richard that he takes 3 paragraphs to comment about all his bug bears with cyclists on the tube!

I also find it astonishing so many cyclists think it’s acceptable to bike around without wearing a helmet.

While there’s no law to compel cyclists to wear helmets, the Highway Code strongly suggests they wear them, for obvious reasons.

As Richard mentions in the second paragraph, helmets are not compulsory. I wonder if Richard knows what helmets are designed for? Bicycle helmets are designed to minimise concussion to the brain. But they are only designed and tested for tests at around 15mph and falling onto a flat surface, simulating a fall from a bicycle with no external forces. Not for protection in a collision with a tipper truck turning over your legs.
Countries that force helmet use such as Australia have seen a decline in people cycling but not a similar decline in injuries. There are various complex reasons why this is such, and there are many resources and studies available for reading on this.

This London junction has been labelled ‘dangerous’ and too many cross looking at their phones

A link to another post on MyLondon, I hear this is near the MyLondon offices and Richard is often crossing it.

Why on Earth would you risk your own safety – not to mention the potential additional strain you could cause to our overwhelmed A&E departments – by not wearing one?

Even if no one wore a helmet, the benefit to getting people out and exercising far out weighs the additional potential cost to the NHS from head injures. We have factors such as safety in numbers, the more cyclists we have the more people get used to them and the safer we are. And there is the obvious reduction in strain on the NHS from people being fitter.

Then, of course, there are those who cycle at night without lights or reflective jackets, again a selfish decision which can have devastating consequences.

I see far more motorists without correct lighting on their vehicles at night than I do cyclists. Espcially since most cars now have a dashboard that is lit up all the time by LEDs, it isn’t as obvious to drivers that their lights are off than it used to be. And the consequences of people driving without lights is far greater than cyclists doing so. Of course I don’t condone any road users that use the road at night without lights.
Reflective clothing on the other hand, not required and of course of no use if motorists don’t have their lights on.

And, FYI, there are cycle lanes in London for a reason, please stop pedalling away on pavements.

Cycle lanes are often filled with glass, pot holes and parked cars. You don’t have to cycle on them. Of course cycling on the pavements is not something I would personally do, but think about why people might do it? Perhaps the dangerous speeding motorists who pass cyclists closely or knock them off means that people are scared to cycle on the road.

Richard has previously been shortlisted for ‘Young Journalist of the Year’ at the Society of Editors Regional Press Awards in 2018 and 2017 according to his bio on Essex Live and his Muck Rack bio. I’m guessing he got those from his quality articles on Northumbria’s Best Bums 2015: winners and How to cheat on holiday and get away with it.

The point I’m making is that Richard Duggan is obviously looking at having some form of career in journalism and as an editor. But his opinions on cyclists are just that, opinions and mostly because he, like the majority of society, is blind to the real safety issues on our roads. Motorists kill more than 1,700 people a year in the UK. Cyclists kill on average 2 people a year. Cyclists are people, motorists are people and some people are arseholes. Don’t be blind to the majority of good cyclists that stop at red lights, have lights and don’t ride on the pavement. Also don’t be blind to the speeding motorists, phone using motorists and the motorists going through red lights. Those are the real danger to our pedestrians in our city, along with the pollution that petrol and diesel engines bring.

We must challenge our own opinions, do good quality research and try to understand why people do various things. Richard I hope you enjoy London as much as I do, hopefully you’ll find shortly that cycling is by far the best mode of transport.

Red Lights – Is it safer to ride through?

I’ve heard several cyclists state that they only go through red lights because it is the safest thing to do. They are scared of vehicles behind them, the big scary lorries and busses. They state that they go through the red light because many cyclists are killed by large vehicles and being in front of them is obviously dangerous.

Cyclist jumping red light

Quiet obviously going through the red light is not the safest thing to do. All you are doing is moving your contact point with the large vehicle, moving it from a stop start to them overtaking you further down the road, where the speeds will be larger and the whole thing will happen a lot faster. Not only that but there is the actual fact that you are going through a red light, something which some people argue can be done perfectly safely, and whilst that might be possible, you will always get caught out eventually. You could hit a pedestrian, be struck by a car crossing in front of you or you could even SMIDSY another cyclist.

There are two scenarios and one way to keep safe for each.
The first being where you are stopped and a large vehicle pulls up behind you. If you are scared for your safely, the best thing to do is to remove your self from the situation. Many people think this means going through the red light but as I mentioned above, you are just moving the contact point. The safest thing to do is to move onto the pavement and wait for the vehicle to pass you, then re-join the road and continue on your journey.
The second being when you approach a large from vehicle behind, I regularly see cyclists filtering to the front, they see it as a target. Of course some use the danger factor to then jump the lights because it ‘is’ safer. The safest thing to do is wait behind the large vehicle and control the lane as you set off.

There is of course only one time where the safest thing to do is to go through a red light. That is when the light turns red and you don’t think the vehicle behind you will stop. Stopping would cause a collision and that is of course, a bad thing.
Some say that a handful of drivers think that all cyclists going through red lights and thus presume that you will not stop when the light changes.

Every time a cyclist jumps a red light, god kills a kitten