A cyclist who was seriously injured when he was in a collision with a London taxi after riding through a red light is urging other bike riders to stop at traffic signals. Craig Dortkamp, originally from Sydney, Australia, has made the appeal in a video produced by City of London Police.
Craig, an experienced cyclist who commutes to work by bike each day, rode through the red light at London’s Holborn Circus assuming it was about to turn green; instead, it was traffic signals elsewhere on the junction that had changed.
As he tried to avoid traffic he crashed into a taxi, his head smashing the rear window, cutting his forehead to the bone. His injuries required 200 stitches. He also suffered cuts elsewhere on his face
Craig says he hopes his experience will serve as a warning to others. “Be sensible, don’t take unnecessary risks, don’t run through a red light – you don’t know what is around the corner.
“I hope I don’t see any other cyclists running through a red light. If you don’t take that risk your chances of being hit by a vehicle are much slimmer and you probably won’t end up with scars on your face for the rest of your life like me.” \
Police add: “Craig hopes his experience will both act as a warning to cyclists while encouraging them to take a moment and wait at red lights. Pausing for those extra few seconds while the lights change to green could be the difference between you reaching your destination safely or being involved in a collision.”
It’s an issue that divides cyclists. Stand at any busy junction during peak commuting hours, and you’ll see some tear through a red light without pausing, others set off from the light before they turn green, and others wait patiently until the signals change and give them right of way.
The theory has also been put forward that the reason such a high proportion of serious cycling casualties in London involve women struck by lorries at junctions is precisely because they are more likely than men to obey red lights, and unwittingly put themselves in danger.
However, many others see this explanation as overly simplistic and indeed plain wrong, pointing out that factors such as where women cyclists choose to position themselves on the road, the design of lorries, and junctions, and the working practices of the construction industry in particular all have a part to play in contributing to that sorry statistic.
But until roads, and junctions in particular, are made safer, some maintain that riding through a red light, or at least anticipating the signal changing, is a vital element in keeping safe on two wheels in an urban environment.
Opponents of red light jumping counter that by pointing out the effect that a minority of cyclists riding through illegally through lights that are against them also create a negative impression of bike riders in general; a motorist stopped at a traffic signal will remember the one rider who rode through the junction, rather than the half dozen waiting their turn, while near misses when using a pelican crossing, say, can be alarming for pedestrians.
Last year, we reported that 44-year-old cyclist Andrej Schipka had been fined £850 after he rode through a red light in High Holborn and struck a pedestrian who was crossing the road, leaving him with injuries including a brain haemorrhage and fractured skull from which he was not expected to fully recover.
The message from City of London Police, however, is unequivocal; cyclists, like other road users, are subject to the law, and that includes obeying traffic signals – of the 3,000 fines issued to cyclists in the Square Mile last year, nine in ten were for riding through a red light.
While no figures for that year are available for London as a whole, a Freedom of Information request from London cyclist and road.cc user Tim Lennon that we reported upon in 2011 found that in the year to end-March 2010, in the Metropolitan Police area (all London boroughs other than the City of London), 1,872 cyclists were fined for riding through red lights.
That was dwarfed, however, by the number of motorists fined during the same year for a similar offence – 79,851 drivers receiving fixed penalty notices, although it’s likely that many of those, perhaps the vast majority, will have been generated automatically via cameras installed at junctions, clearly not a possibility in the case of cyclists.
City of London Police does acknowledge that often, it is the behaviour of other road users that puts cyclists at risk, and has listed nine points for riders to be aware of to “keep your nine cycling lives.”
1 – Black cabs swerving to the kerb to pick up/drop off passengers
2 – Pedestrians stepping out into the road without looking (and most of us do it on occasion)
3 – Passengers hopping off or on Routemaster buses without looking
4 – Vehicles turning left across you – even more serious if it is a bus or truck
5 – Car doors being opened into your path
6 – Vehicle creepage at junctions
7 – Delivery vehicles parked in cycle lanes
8 – Drivers failing to indicate properly leaving everyone guessing
9 – Vehicles doing impromptu U-turns.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.