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'Vulnerable Road User' operation sees police fine cyclists for jumping red lights

Four cyclists and one driver were fined during the operation, which police say also saw cyclists, drivers and pedestrians "spoken to and given advice"...

Police in Scotland say a 'Vulnerable Road User' initiative saw four cyclists fined in Edinburgh for riding through red lights.

The operation, which also saw cyclists, pedestrians and drivers "spoken to and given advice" appeared to take place at a pedestrian crossing in the Scottish capital, Roads Policing Scotland explaining that four cyclists and one driver were fined for going through red lights.

"Edinburgh Roads Policing were on a Vulnerable Road User initiative where cyclists, pedestrians and drivers were spoken to and given advice. Four cyclists were given FPTs for red light offences and one driver was issued an FPT for red light offence on a pedestrian crossing," a social media post communicating the action said.

The post was complete with hashtags saying "always on duty" and "red means stop" and attracted more of the often heard social media 'anti-cycling bingo' discourse around cyclists, including calls for mandatory insurance for bike riders.

"I wish they would talk to the cyclists around here," one reply said. "Jumping red lights and racing through pedestrian crossings. Flying down the pavement at speed. Cycling on the wrong side of the road. Take your life into your hands walking around here."

According to Rule 69 of the Highway Code:

You MUST obey all traffic signs and traffic light signals.
[Laws Road Traffic Act 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD Schedule 3 pt 3, sch7 pt4, sch9 pts 4 and 6, sch 13 pt 6, sch 14 pt 2]

This type of police operation, accompanied by a post on social media, is nothing new. Last February, police in Hackney said they had caught 18 cyclists jumping red lights in 90 minutes, each getting a £50 fine and road safety lesson.

A week later questions were asked after another force, in Manchester, was keen to highlight its crackdown on people using bicycles riding through reds. The Manchester post attracted a significant amount of responses questioning why the force is "prioritising" less dangerous offences, and others asking for more effective use of police resources.

A campaign group dedicated to making the A56 in the North West of England safer for all users suggested there are "far more serious" dangers on the road that police should be looking to target.

 In January, leading cycle campaigners in Scotland discussed the potential road safety implications of allowing cyclists to ride through red lights, Gregory Kinsman-Chauvet of Bike for Good suggesting that road laws from other parts of the world, such as in some parts of the United States and France where cyclists are permitted to proceed at red lights in certain circumstances, should be implemented in Scotland.

> Should cyclists be allowed to ride through red lights? Campaigners split on safety benefits

However, Cycling Scotland's safety manager Simon Bradshaw questioned if such action was a road safety priority, and said Scotland's road laws were "very different to France, making it complex to replicate".

Last month, an Evening Standard journalist Sophie Wilkinson penned a column titled 'Why I skip red lights', in which she outlined why she believes cyclists should be allowed to ride through red lights, so long as they give pedestrians priority.

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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62 comments

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neilmck | 9 months ago
1 like

The vast majority of English people will ignore the red man and cross the road if they determine it is safe to do so. Why is there an expectation of a change of behaviour when English people sit on a bicycle? A car is different, you do not have same visibility or ability to manoeuvre. But what is the difference between going through a red light as a pedestrian or sitting on a bicycle?

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Rendel Harris replied to neilmck | 9 months ago
1 like

neilmck wrote:

what is the difference between going through a red light as a pedestrian or sitting on a bicycle?

About 17mph or more on a downgrade.

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neilmck replied to Rendel Harris | 9 months ago
1 like

No one goes at 20mph through a red light, you won't have time to consider giving way to traffic and will be killed. 5 to 7 mph is more like it.

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Rendel Harris replied to neilmck | 9 months ago
0 likes

neilmck wrote:

No one goes at 20mph through a red light, you won't have time to consider giving way to traffic and will be killed. 5 to 7 mph is more like it.

I wish that were the case, certainly in London plenty of cyclists ride through red pelican crossing lights without cutting their speed at all. Obviously people do slow down at junctions, but most definitely not at all red lights.

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David W replied to neilmck | 9 months ago
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I assume that the difference is due to it being illegal on a bicycle to cross the stop line on a red light (RTA88), whereas a red man on a pedestrian crossing is advisory rather than compulsary?

I have no idea about red cyclist lights on toucan crossings as to whether they are advisory or compulsary. 

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IanGlasgow | 9 months ago
5 likes

A few years ago during Police Scotland's Operation Close Pass I was close-passed by a Police Scotland vehicle (it was featured in NMOTD at the time).
So it comes as no surprise that their Vulnerable Road User Initiative is mostly about fining vulnerable road users.

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Safety | 9 months ago
4 likes

I am willing to be corrected but from memory that road is a 20MPH limit. I wonder how many vehicles passed the Polis at greater than 20 during their safety purge?

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brooksby | 9 months ago
5 likes

In my experience here in Bristol, the majority of motorists and the majority of cyclists stop at red lights (whether established or not <wink>).  And by 'majority' I would ball-park it at more than three-quarters, maybe even more than 4 in 5.

But the majority* of e-scooterists do not stop.  Or even pretend to slow and then go, "Oh well, I'll go through this time".   Which given that I think you just twist the throttle to start them moving again, seems ridiculous.  They just appear to sail around at constant speed (and undertake me while I'm waiting at lights, which really annoys me). 

And yes, I'm aware that I miught be falling into the trap of confirmation bias / only noticing the 'Other'...

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Bigfoz | 9 months ago
6 likes

I have absolutely no issue with Red Light jumpers being stopped and fined. So long as it's ALL RLJs. When I commuted by bike into major cities (Incl London and Glasgow), it burned my gears both the number of vehicles (especially flamin buses!) that came through junctions on red. I would wait and double check to avoid getting mown down on my green light. It also massively irked me when myself and other cyclists were waiting patiently for a green light and some nob would casually cycle past and straight across the junction. But there is another point here - cyclist who RLJ usually endanger themselves and fdw other people. A 20ton X77 bus in the middle of Glasgow (usually Waterloo & Wellington junction) can endanger an awful lot more...

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neilmck replied to Bigfoz | 9 months ago
0 likes

You think the guy who went through the red light is a "nob". But isn't it the system you have in the UK that makes all cyclists "nobs” for waiting pointlessly at red lights? In the towns around where I live in France we have little signs on traffic lights that allow cyclists to go through red lights simply giving way to traffic. The sign will indicate which directions it had been deemed safe to do so, generally straight-on and right (your left).

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JohnCc | 10 months ago
3 likes

A red light 🚦 means stop, fuĺlstop no matter what you riding or driving - 999 vehicles on lights and sirens excluded.

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hawkinspeter replied to JohnCc | 10 months ago
3 likes

JohnCc wrote:

A red light 🚦 means stop, fuĺlstop no matter what you riding or driving - 999 vehicles on lights and sirens excluded.

...and except for places that implement the Idaho Stop (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idaho_stop) or in Paris (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33773868) or the countries that allow turning on red (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turn_on_red) or if a traffic light doesn't detect bicycles you can probably invoke the last bit of HC rule 176: "If the traffic lights are not working, treat the situation as you would an unmarked junction and proceed with great care."

Yes, it totally means stop without any exception (except for the numerous exceptions).

There's a strong argument to be made for changing our traffic laws to make traffic lights more relevant to cyclists as unfortunately traffic lights are designed by car drivers, for car drivers. Have a read of this: https://www.cyclinguk.org/blog/duncandollimore/turn-left-red-running-red-lights

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 9 months ago
1 like

I note that Cycling UK haven't yet come to a conclusion on this kind of thing.

Presumably doing this would be in line with seeing cyclists as more like pedestrians (e.g. red light is for information).

Given that neither motorists nor cyclists are likely to see any enforcement in the UK around traffic lights currently it's slightly moot.

I don't think having signals which serve an important safety purpose and then saying they've a conditional meaning (depending on your choice of vehicle) is the best idea.  Also I don't think it would make onlookers who are offended by this kind of thing - whether in cars or on foot - any happier.

What we really need are not two different rules for bikes / motor vehicles, but two different spaces (with their own lights).  Then we can have this totally safe kind of cycling through reds, and this safe and convenient kind of interaction with pedestrians.

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Brauchsel replied to hawkinspeter | 9 months ago
2 likes

"Yes, it totally means stop without any exception (except for the numerous exceptions)."

The numerous exceptions, apart from the broken traffic light one (which I agree with you about), which are nothing to do with the current law in the UK. Might as well advocate carrying an assault weapon because it's legal *somewhere*. 

I can definitely see an argument for allowing cyclists to cross a red light to turn left where the junction isn't also a pedestrian crossing. Motorists would be apoplectic, but there are other benefits too. 

But that's not currently the rule here. If the lights are working, and you're not in real and imminent danger, you stop at the red light. Then you don't have to weigh up whether the way ahead is clear, or guess if there's a pedestrian legging it from behind you while the green man's displayed. And the more people do that, the less likely you are to come to harm from the actions of another conscientious road user who thinks the rules don't apply to them because they're really skillful.

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hawkinspeter replied to Brauchsel | 9 months ago
2 likes

Brauchsel wrote:

"Yes, it totally means stop without any exception (except for the numerous exceptions)."

The numerous exceptions, apart from the broken traffic light one (which I agree with you about), which are nothing to do with the current law in the UK. Might as well advocate carrying an assault weapon because it's legal *somewhere*. 

I can definitely see an argument for allowing cyclists to cross a red light to turn left where the junction isn't also a pedestrian crossing. Motorists would be apoplectic, but there are other benefits too. 

But that's not currently the rule here. If the lights are working, and you're not in real and imminent danger, you stop at the red light. Then you don't have to weigh up whether the way ahead is clear, or guess if there's a pedestrian legging it from behind you while the green man's displayed. And the more people do that, the less likely you are to come to harm from the actions of another conscientious road user who thinks the rules don't apply to them because they're really skillful.

There's certainly some traffic light junctions where I'd much rather do a turn-left-on-red rather than tangle with the motorists when the lights turn green, so I'd put the importance of obeying the law as secondary to my own safety. There's the consideration, though, of not endangering other people - that is far more important than the colour of traffic lights. I've often seen drivers that speed up as they approach an amber traffic light and then speed through the red and that's a particularly stupid way of "trying" to get through before it's red, (presumably to remain legal) as they then have no leeway of stopping due to something unexpected.

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Robert Hardy replied to JohnCc | 9 months ago
2 likes

As of course are signed speed limits, but it is extremely rare for a motorist to be prosecuted and fined for travelling at 31 mph in a 30mph maximum speed zone.

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lonpfrb replied to JohnCc | 9 months ago
0 likes
JohnCc wrote:

A red light 🚦 means stop, fuĺlstop no matter what you riding or driving - 999 vehicles on lights and sirens excluded.

Indeed it does.
My experience commuting in central London was that two groups didn't stop:
Selfish twunts who imagined that they were entitled, or
Weak riders not willing to slow, stop and start again.
The first need enforcement and the second education.
Obviously the first are a danger to those correctly stopped as well as whom they meet on the junction.

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neilmck replied to JohnCc | 9 months ago
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Funny how no one ever complains about pedestrians ignoring the red man when they have deemed it is safe to do so.

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Rendel Harris replied to neilmck | 9 months ago
0 likes

neilmck wrote:

Funny how no one ever complains about pedestrians ignoring the red man when they have deemed it is safe to do so.

Because pedestrians can't seriously injure other pedestrians by bumping into them, perhaps?

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yiipeeia | 10 months ago
1 like

I would not want it in my old Smart Roadster, but speeding especially in urban environments could be enforced by GPS tracking for cycles and cars. This could also lower insurance premiums as well. All new cars could have GPS device which links to driver and drivers phone GPS. Any speeding in Urban areas immediately flagged and fined, a bit like the Dart charge. Taxis, Busses lorries also link driver to vehicle, could stop illegal working.

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Jakrayan replied to yiipeeia | 9 months ago
1 like

You do know that the law regarding speed limits only applies to motor vehicles, and not pedal cycles (including e-bikes, though their assisted speed is limited of course)? So they'd definitely be putting one in your old Smart Roadster. 

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AReadman | 10 months ago
6 likes

You really have to ask why police are in charge of our roads.

To keep a certain section of public support I would say 99.9% of speeding offences get missed.

The system is in dire need of change. Proper road governance would mean both speed humps and speeding would near cease to exist.

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Rome73 | 10 months ago
4 likes

I stop at red lights. And watch quite a few cyclists not stop. But they never actually endanger anyone - or even themselves. They just do what pedestrians do when confronted with a red signal; slow, look and then cross / cycle. It's not a big deal really. I think the hysteria around it is exaggerated. Pavement cycling is bad though - even if undertaken cautiously. 

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Steve K replied to Rome73 | 10 months ago
8 likes

BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP wrote:

I stop at red lights. And watch quite a few cyclists not stop. But they never actually endanger anyone - or even themselves. They just do what pedestrians do when confronted with a red signal; slow, look and then cross / cycle. It's not a big deal really. I think the hysteria around it is exaggerated. Pavement cycling is bad though - even if undertaken cautiously. 

I don't (quite) agree.  I too see quite a few cyclists not stop at red lights.  The majority don't actually endanger anyone, but some do.  Some also force pedestrians to stop when pedestrians have priority.  So whilst the hysteria is exaggerated, it is not a nothing issue.  (I also don't see why you think cycling through a red light is not an issue, but cautious pavement cycling is always bad - particularly when the infrastructure actually specifically allows it in places.)

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Brauchsel replied to Rome73 | 10 months ago
8 likes

"But they never actually endanger anyone - or even themselves."

I considered myself endangered when I was knocked off by a young woman who had blithely sailed through a red light at a crossroads. And on the many occasions as a pedestrian when I've had to dodge out of the way (or grab my child out of the way) when it's become obvious that a cyclist isn't going to slow, let alone stop, at the crossing I'm currently on.

I can only think of one occasion where I've seen a car driver completely ignore a red light and a pedestrian (me) crossing, and I went fucking apeshit at him because it's obviously much more dangerous than a cyclist doing it. And I do see drivers sneaking through as the lights change, and hate that too. 

We've been through this before: maybe it is London-specific behaviour, but I regularly observe junctions where the majority of cyclists don't stop on red. Sometimes it is actively dangerous, sometimes it's not: it's always selfish, entitled behaviour which chips away at the basic idea that we should all abide by the law even if it doesn't suit us personally at that precise moment. It's no answer to say "well others do it worse, and *I'm* careful": that's exactly what all the careless others say. 

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postrestant replied to Rome73 | 9 months ago
3 likes

I stop at red lights.  I've seen plenty of cyclists not stop, endanger themselves, and endanger pedestrians. Indeed, the pedestrians around here know that they can't rely on a green light at a pelican crossing if there's a cyclist (or e-scooter) around -- they'll wait for it to pass / stop. And, of course, not stopping rightly pisses off car drivers and others who do stop. Some of those car drivers (not-rightly) will then drive aggressively around cyclists.

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Left_is_for_Losers replied to Rome73 | 9 months ago
1 like

Agreed on that - I personally will go through red lights if it is safe to do so. It's no different to crossing a road where there is no crossing available - look both ways, check there is nothing coming and you wont hinder anything, and go. 

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Rendel Harris replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 9 months ago
2 likes

Left_is_for_Losers wrote:

Agreed on that - I personally will go through red lights if it is safe to do so. It's no different to crossing a road where there is no crossing available - look both ways, check there is nothing coming and you wont hinder anything, and go. 

Apart from the minor fact that it isn't illegal for pedestrians to do that whereas it is illegal for cyclists to do it. If it's OK for you to ignore the law on a bike if there's no harm done, why not for motorists too? Obey the law, if you don't like the law by all means campaign for it to be changed, but until it is, obey it.

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Left_is_for_Losers replied to Rendel Harris | 9 months ago
0 likes

Rendel Harris wrote:

Apart from the minor fact that it isn't illegal for pedestrians to do that whereas it is illegal for cyclists to do it. If it's OK for you to ignore the law on a bike if there's no harm done, why not for motorists too? Obey the law, if you don't like the law by all means campaign for it to be changed, but until it is, obey it.

Motorists do ignore the law. Going 80mph on a clear stretch of motorway for example.

And no, sorry - I will continue to jump red lights when it is safe to do so. Judging by this website's current reporting the cops are at every red light catching cyclists so I will let you know if I am ever fined.

In fact, I did nip through some red lights at Buckingham Palace in the early morning a couple of weeks ago and there was a police van behind, they didn't speak to me/fine me or anything else. 

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Rendel Harris replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 9 months ago
0 likes

I was specifically (as you know) referring to your logic about jumping red lights. If it's okay for you as a cyclist to "look both ways, check there is nothing coming and you won't hinder anything, and go", is it okay for a motorist to do the same thing at the same speed? If not why not?

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