In Depth

Should cyclists be allowed to jump red lights?

Paris is changing the law, and tests show that cyclists who jump red lights are less likely to be hit by cars

In the latest attempt to ease congestion and make cycling in Paris easier and safer, French politicians have introduced new rules allowing cyclists to jump red lights.

Tests show that allowing cyclists to jump red lights reduces the number of collisions with cars, including accidents caused by cyclists ending up in motorists' blind-spots.

So should cyclists be allowed to jump red lights?

Paris now regularly registers an annual cyclist death toll of zero, The Guardian reports. London, meanwhile, has already recorded eight cyclist fatalities this year. The reduction in cyclist deaths is has been caused because rule changes in the French capital have meant that there are now more cyclists, meaning that other road users give them "greater respect", French accident investigators say. City authorities have pledged to triple the number of journeys completed on bicycles by 2020.

According to The Sunday Times, one cyclist in ten in London, Manchester and Birmingham already jumps red lights. Some argue that changing the law to make such a move legal would help prevent accidents. Many cyclists say that they feel safer if they get ahead of traffic, says the Daily Telegraph's Jonny Cooper.

"Surveys all have problems," says Dr Rachel Aldred, senior transport lecturer at the University of Westminster, "but it's interesting that red light jumping attracts such ire. In London, something like 4 per cent of pedestrian casualties related to red light jumping involve cyclists jumping red lights."

The greatest resistance to changing laws governing cyclists' behaviour on the road comes down to people's attitude that cyclists are a "troublesome hindrance" to motorists and pedestrians, Aldred says.

"In this country we see cyclists as the causes of problems rather than seeing cyclists as victims," she added. "It's a perception problem. We don't properly think about what we can do to protect people cycling."

In Aldred's view, Paris's decision to allow cyclists to jump red lights is little more than a "stop gap" measure. The safest long-term solution would be completely segregated bicycle and car lanes, she said.

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