Time Spent at Traffic Lights

I commute from urban Greater London into central London each day, taking me roughly an hour door to door. The distance is around 16 miles each way but can be more or less depending on my route.

The biggest problem for any cyclist in a city is going to be traffic lights, it’s understandable why some choose to cycle through red ones when you face over 100 potential red ones each journey.

I’ve looked at a weeks worth of commuting, not all on the same route, but roughly the same time and distance. I know that on each route I’m facing around 100 red lights if not more. On average I’m spending 13% of my commuting time waiting at traffic lights. That is around 7 minutes per journey or 14 minutes a day.

It’s a bit of a pain to spend that much time waiting at traffic lights, I might look into a slightly different route, but I suspect it will mean a shorter and potentially slower journey.

How much time do you spend waiting at traffic lights per journey?

17 thoughts on “Time Spent at Traffic Lights

  1. I’d say around the same percentage as you, a necessary evil unless your intent on trying to avoid them and instead snake through numerous backroads which could ultimately be slower.
    Some days you have a see of green, other days your seeing red – and not just because drivers are trying to run you off the road!

    The way I look at traffic lights is they are good training, use them as intervals πŸ™‚ They also give all the people I’ve scalped since the last one a chance to get back in touch, jump the light and put themselves firmly in my crosshairs again πŸ˜€

    1. That is the downside, avoid traffic lights and you hit narrow roads which are in a bad condition. I’d much rather stay on the main roads where you can power it for most of the time.

  2. My bike computer faithfully counts ‘rolling time’ against ‘total time’, typical values are 14 minutes rolling against 18 total, which is 4 minutes at lights or aprox 30% ! I have rejigged my journey through Maida Vale and along marylebone rd several times to avoid the traffic lights but I think I have met a minimum…

    I got a fixed penalty for jumping a red after two weeks in london which cost me Β£30, this has had the effect of making me wait for the green these days.

  3. I cycle to and from school. It’s approx 9km’s (about 5.5miles) each way.

    This can usually take around 30mins however I am probably waiting at lights for about 15 of those. I usually take a cheeky route on the footpath to save myself some time though ;).

  4. Who really cares how much time cyclists spend waiting for traffic lights to change? The issue is that we have to obey the rules just like any other road user, and to violate them is just more grist to the mill of those motorists who are seeking justification to whack the cycling community…………metophorically speaking of course

    1. Paul, we are never going to get a situation in which no cyclist ever jumps a red light. It’s a fact of life that there are rule-breakers, whether they are behind the wheel of a car, or on a bicycle. Trying to improve the image of cyclists by attempting to completely eradicate RLJing is doomed to failure, in practical terms.

      And even if it was theoretically possible, there would be countless other grounds for complaint by axe-grinders – ‘cycling in the middle of the road’, ‘holding up traffic’, and so on.

      The point is that a subset of motorists break rules just as frequently as cyclists – and yet ‘motorists’ are not, as a whole, seen as lawless outlaws in the same way that cyclists are.

      The real problem is that cyclists are an alien species to a lot of people, and their ‘lawlessness’ is highly visible as a consequence.

      I’ve written about this here.

      1. The other issue is that cyclist are so mobile, it’s very easy for several riders to jump a red light or pedestrian crossing as opposed to motorists who may get away with running a late amber or early red it’s only 1 or 2 cars (although I have recorded a triple RLJ!). Couple this with the amount of riders that will ignore lights on pedestrian crossing it only adds fuel to the fire.

        All it takes is for one near miss with a cyclist and ped and that person will be forever thinking that cyclists are all like that and we all know bad news travels a lot faster then good…..

  5. From my GPS logs it varies between about 25% and nearly 40% of the journey below 5mph. Paul: drive around exactly on the speed limit and see how few people are obeying it to the letter. Also remember to count every time a car crosses a light on amber when they could have stopped or changes lane without signalling and you’ll soon realise that flirting with the traffic rules is ubiquitous and not considered the slightest bit controversial by most drivers.

  6. I totally agree with people always stopping at red lights, but at some point the phasing of lights needs to be properly assessed. If you cycle along CS7 from central London towards Clapham some of the waits where absolutely no-one is going anywhere are ridiculous. People on bikes start jumping lights and people in cars clearly get wound up and start edging forwards because they’ve been waiting so long.

    I’ve actually started taking back roads on my commute from Croydon into the square mile because I find that the constant stop-starting takes away a lot of the enjoyment I get from cycling. I may not be going top speed, but at least I’m moving constantly.

  7. I’ve done one proper RLJ to my recollection and this was because the light was stuck. I just went along with the rest of the cars treating it as a STOP junction. This is not to say I don’t do a cheeky dismount once in a while and use the pavement to get across the junction… Generally I’ve got my commute route planned that I’ve minimized the number of traffic light controlled junctions.

    More roundabouts please!

  8. So, over 6 commutes, I get an average of 17% time spent waiting on my commute into work, and about 33% on my home. The average over all is 25% spent waiting at lights. I deliberately take a route twice as long for the commute in, to get some cycling in along a good stretch of traffic-light free road. That equates to about 19min of waiting at lights each day, out of about 1h17min on the road.

    The worst is some of the traffic lights have long phases that are ridiculously ill-suited to the traffic going through, leading to intersections being unused for minutes at a time for lack of cars from the road that has green, while everyone else has to sit and waits. πŸ™

  9. I saw a great RLJ yesterday, when a cyclist in Hammersmith left the cycle lane, hopped up onto the kerb and crashed into a disabled woman on a mobility scooter. Nice one, geezer. That impressed the people watching and increased the credibility of cyclists by a huge amount.

    I am sure other women have this experience. I like to have a little race with the macho men cyclists on my work commute as a way of passing the time and getting a bit out of breath, which I hear is good for the health. If I am beating them they invariably rush through the next available red light that I have stopped at. They would rather kill anyone in their path, including themselves, rather than let a woman overtake them. It is quite amusing to watch, although of course bad for the people scuttling to get over the road before being mown down.

  10. I have no idea, it doesn’t seem that bad as most of the time I get to them they are green πŸ™‚
    If I’m cycling on the way to the city I just take the canal route for 4-5 miles of fast riding with no lights. Although there are some walkways and bridges to cross where I have to dismount, they’re pretty far apart. It is a shared path though but there are hardly any pedestrians anyway.

  11. it’s when they’re phased for 30mph traffic that it gets really frustrating.

    cyclists pay much more (in terms of energy lost) for stopping and starting than pedestrians (who are travelling much more slowly) or motorists (who just need to press the accelerator)

    we like the green wave


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