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“No cars go through a red light – every cyclist does,” claims Nigel Havers

Actor makes sweeping (and false) assertion during discussion with cycling writer Laura Laker on Jeremy Vine’s BBC Radio 2 show

Actor Nigel Havers has claimed that “no cars go through a red light,” while “every cyclist does,” during a discussion with cycling writer Laura Laker hosted by Jeremy Vine on his BBC Radio 2 TV show.

The exchange took place during Vine’s afternoon programme on the station yesterday, with footage subsequently shared on his social media channels by the host.

“All road users break the law in equal amount,” Laker pointed out. “I’m not saying that that’s right.

“We know that roads policing got decimated a decade ago, we lost 20,000 police officers, and so all of road user behaviour has got worse, drivers have become more aggressive, perhaps cyclists have become more aggressive too.”

Interjecting, Havers said: “I don’t break the law, I don’t break the rules” before claiming that “motor cars aren’t going through red lights.”

Havers invited Laker, whose book on the National Cycle Network Potholes & Pavements was published just last week and who is a contributor to road.cc, to join him “at a crossroads where no cars go through a red light, every cyclist does.”

“That’s not true,” Laker countered. “Definitely people break the law in their cars, with mobile phone use, we know that’s illegal and it’s as bad as drink-driving, even driving hands-free.”

“I don’t know what planet you’re on,” said Havers, who is reported to have been fined £500 and banned for driving for 12 months after being convicted of drink-driving in 1991.

“Come  and stand on the crossroads with me and you’ll see every single cyclist go through the red light.”

While it’s true that some cyclists do go through red lights, so too do many motorists, and Laker highlighted that it is the latter who are involved in, on average, five deaths a day on Britain’s roads as well as crashes that leave thousands more people seriously injured.

Undeterred, Havers, who in 2020 called for the removal of the temporary cycle lane briefly installed on Kensington High Street, insisted: “I have not seen a car go through a red light in London in years.”

> 'Scenes of utter havoc': Nigel Havers rants about cycle lanes 'causing gridlock every day' in front of empty Kensington High Street

“I know, but because you haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” replied Laker.

“So you think cars go through red lights just as much as cyclists?” asked Havers, incredulously.

“It’s not cars, it’s drivers,” clarified Laker, who in 2021 worked alongside Westminster University’s Active Travel Academy in developing guidelines for the language the media should use when reporting on road traffic collisions, which are still all too often deemed to be chance ‘accidents’ or in which vehicles crash without a driver seemingly being present.

“If car drivers are not breaking the law, how come vehicles are killing 1,700 people a year,” asked Vine, whose regularly posts videos of law-breaking drivers to his social media channels.

“Well, I mean …” responded Havers, before pausing, eventually breaking the silence by spluttering the word, “cyclists.”

The issue of cyclists and the law has been a high-profile one in the media this week after a coroner’s inquest into the death of a retired teacher who was struck by a cyclist riding in group in London’s Regent’s Park heard that the rider would face no charges in connection with the crash.

> No charges brought against Regent’s Park cyclist after high-speed crash in which pensioner was killed while crossing road

A Metropolitan Police officer told the inquest into the death of 81-year-old Hilda Griffiths that there was “insufficient evidence for a real prospect of conviction” of the cyclist concerned, Brian Fitzgerald, with the officer also confirming unlike motorists, cyclists are not required to adhere to posted speed limits.

Thankfully, road traffic collisions in which a pedestrian is killed following a crash with a cyclist are very rare, with Cycling UK citing official statistics that reveal there are on average around three such fatalities each year.

And it is the very fact that they happen so rarely that sees such incidents and, in their aftermath, wider cyclist behaviour, become the focus of intense media attention in a way that the vast majority of road traffic fatalities in which a motorist is involved do not.

Often, such media coverage takes the form of newspaper columns from celebrities – one example this weekend being found in the Express, with broadcaster Richard Madely calling for cyclists to be registered, and forced to carry insurance – something the government has rejected time and again.

 

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.

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116 comments

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wtjs | 2 weeks ago
1 like

It's time we fought fire with fire in the battle against drink-driver Havers: All taxis evade MOT testing- no cyclists do

This is Wigan Council taxi YA54 RMD, taxi number 7859, parked on Garstang High St on 31.5.24 - no MOT since 30.10.23. Problem is that Lancashire Constabulary will ignore the offence like they always do. Garstang Police Station is 150 yards away.

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john_smith replied to wtjs | 2 weeks ago
1 like

Don't give then ideas. "You lot don't even pay road tax!! And your bikes haven't even got an MOT!!"

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polainm | 2 weeks ago
3 likes

Havers et al are ignorant. They don't cycle. Any person who has ranted about cyclists has changed their tune once they have ridden on UK roads for a bit. Fact. 

Contrary to the HWC, traffic lights are only designed for drivers. They are there to keep the highway clear of pedestrians and at junctions, to ensure vehicles don't collide. 

Now remove motor vehicles and on cycle only crossings - without pedestrians - are 'traffic' lights needed? No.

For pedestrians only? No.

Why is this? It's because cyclists and pedestrians don't travel fast enough, will be injured in an impact, but can easily slot through the side emerging users. 

In a 4cu metre 2 tonne machine travelling at 40kmh+ this is impossible. 

Traffic lights should be renamed Driver Lights, just as pedestrian crossings are named as such. 

So much road infrastructure is designed by drivers for drivers we forget where the fault is. 

In Cambridge years ago I influenced Highways to install one of the first cycle green phase lights at a busy cross road in the city. 

I said that all lights could be green for cyclists so that cyclists could all cross for an 8 second timing. 

They just wouldn't try it. Even now, with about 5 more of these across the city, many drivers cross on their 'traffic' red when the cycle light is green. So their argument was two [stupid] drivers could collide.

Which just proves how little drivers comprehend and observe on the roads. 

People like drink driver Havers. 

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mdavidford replied to polainm | 2 weeks ago
2 likes
polainm wrote:

Any person who has ranted about cyclists has changed their tune once they have ridden on UK roads for a bit. Fact.

Any time someone uses "Fact." in a comment, what precedes it is not a fact. Fact.

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john_smith replied to mdavidford | 2 weeks ago
1 like

So by your reasoning, this is a fact. Fact.

And by the same reasoning, this is a fact too. Fact. Fact.

As is this. Fact. Fact. Fact.

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Hirsute replied to john_smith | 2 weeks ago
1 like

You've not come across mdavidford before have you.

You should carefully reread the post.

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chrisonabike replied to Hirsute | 2 weeks ago
1 like

Unfamiliar with Epimenides paradox and/or irony perhaps?  Or just responding in like manner?

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john_smith replied to chrisonabike | 2 weeks ago
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...

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john_smith replied to Hirsute | 2 weeks ago
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...

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Hirsute replied to john_smith | 2 weeks ago
1 like

Do you need some help understanding it ?

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john_smith replied to Hirsute | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

No. Do you?

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mitsky | 2 weeks ago
7 likes

Oi, Nigel.
Check this out:
(13 drivers run red light consecutively.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ck9NQ-S0NCI

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DaveSpokes | 1 month ago
1 like

Why oh Why do we give these "celebrities" air time?....Just because they are famous it doesn't mean they know what they are talking about and here is proof in spades. Cars don't jump red lights????....what is he on. Why is it then that the Government runs numerous Education courses for Vehicle Drivers who have jumped red lights? Nigel Havers stick to what you know, Acting, not spouting rubbish on the radio because it gives you a bit of the publicity you patently crave. I don't approve of cyclists jumping lights or not being responsible but trying to make out motorists are the innocent party in this respect is farcical....

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wycombewheeler replied to DaveSpokes | 1 month ago
2 likes
DaveSpokes wrote:

Why oh Why do we give these "celebrities" air time?....Just because they are famous it doesn't mean they know what they are talking about 

The problem is that you can't get anyone who knows what they are talking about to argue that the actions of cyclists are the biggest road safety problem in this country at this time. 

So in the interest of "balance" the BBC have to scrape deeper and deeper into the bottom of the barrel. to find a counterpoint on their "discussion". But really getting a convicted drink driver to discuss road safety is hopefully the nadir of their poor selection of debaters.

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Jimmy Ray Will | 1 month ago
3 likes

This whole red light jumping thing, I've been giving it some thought.
And my thinking came to this conclusion...
It would be easy for motorists to perceive that more cyclists jump lights than car drivers, as there is nothing to generally stop a cyclist from jumping a light if they fancy it.
And I'm not talking about licence plates, insurance, I'm talking about the fact that as soon as one car stops at a lights, all the cars behind have no choice but to stop and wait.
We'll never know how many of those stationary cars would have chanced it if given the opportunity, as they were not able to do so
Cyclists however are not so restricted. They can filter through traffic to a light and then roll through.
So if there are any cyclists willing to jump a light on the vicinity, they will get the chance to do so.

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quiff replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 1 month ago
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I don't buy this "opportunity" theory. Every driver will at some point be the first one at the lights. Every driver will at some point have the opportunity to ignore them. The fact there isn't mass disobedience therefore suggests that the majority do not take that opportunity when it arises.

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hawkinspeter replied to quiff | 1 month ago
5 likes
quiff wrote:

I don't buy this "opportunity" theory. Every driver will at some point be the first one at the lights. Every driver will at some point have the opportunity to ignore them. The fact there isn't mass disobedience therefore suggests that the majority do not take that opportunity when it arises.

It makes sense to me. If, say 50% of people will jump a red light whether cycling or driving, and at a particular set of lights, there's 10 cars and 10 bikes approaching it. Jimmy's opportunity theory suggests that 5 bikes will jump that red light and there's only a 50% chance that the first driver will RLJ and then a 25% chance that the second driver will as will and a 12.5% chance that the third driver will also do the same etc.

However, the real world is more complex than that and to my mind, there's a distinct difference between cyclists RLJers and driver RLJers. The drivers tend to RLJ when the light is first turning red and will often speed up in order to get through the junction before the opposing traffic starts moving and thus blocking their route. Cyclist RLJers are more likely to slow down a bit and won't care about whether the light has been red for a time or not. This also makes cyclist RLJers look more blatant, despite their actions not being anywhere near as dangerous as the drivers that speed up on the approach to a junction.

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quiff replied to hawkinspeter | 1 month ago
3 likes

Totally agree with your second paragraph - I think it's the different nature of cycle RLJing that irks others. And this difference may affect the opportunity argument too. I'd agree that a lot of drivers will amber gamble given the opportunity - that could well be as high as 50%. But I think the number of drivers who would blatantly ignore a light which is red as they approach is much, much smaller.

By the by, I cycled through a red yesterday. Because the two drivers behind hooted at me to do so, convinced that they were not working.

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Rendel Harris replied to quiff | 1 month ago
5 likes
quiff wrote:

I don't buy this "opportunity" theory. Every driver will at some point be the first one at the lights. Every driver will at some point have the opportunity to ignore them. The fact there isn't mass disobedience therefore suggests that the majority do not take that opportunity when it arises.

In London at virtually every light the first driver who has an opportunity to see the amber and slow down and stop, as per the highway code, will accelerate to go through whilst the light is still on amber, the second driver will go through just as the light changes from amber to red and the third driver will drive through on red. This happens pretty much every time. It's true that drivers do not, as a rule, approach "established" (!) red lights and just ignore them as far too many cyclists do, but the pervasive nature of the behaviour described above makes one suspect that this is more because they are worried about being caught by police patrols or ANPR cameras without the plausible deniability/leeway of the light just having changed rather than any innate respect for the rules; when they think they can get away with it they will do it. This is particularly obvious at temporary roadworks lights when they know there won't be an ANPR camera, if there's nothing coming in the opposite direction and no police vehicles in sight a substantial minority will run the light, regardless of how long it has been on red.

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hawkinspeter replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
2 likes

My experience with temporary roadworks lights is different. I find that drivers tend to obey them more than permanent lights - possibly because there's the possibility of them meeting traffic coming the other way and having nowhere to go.

Meanwhile, I'm guilty of going through a few temporary red lights depending on how much escape room I have if there's traffic coming the other way (e.g. if there's just cones, then I can easily go the other side of them).

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Rendel Harris replied to hawkinspeter | 1 month ago
3 likes

I'm sure that's true in some cases, I'm thinking of instances where the works necessitating the contraflow are quite small and the road is straight enough to see that there's enough gap to get through before any oncoming traffic arrives.

Never much harm in a cyclist riding through the coned-off section of a contraflow if there's nobody working in it as far as I can see; I was actually invited to quite recently by a nice chap wielding one of the old-fashioned stop/go signs - "Ride through there mate, they've knocked off for the day and we're just waiting for the van to come and collect all the gear."

 

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hawkinspeter replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
1 like
Rendel Harris wrote:

I'm sure that's true in some cases, I'm thinking of instances where the works necessitating the contraflow are quite small and the road is straight enough to see that there's enough gap to get through before any oncoming traffic arrives.

Never much harm in a cyclist riding through the coned-off section of a contraflow if there's nobody working in it as far as I can see; I was actually invited to quite recently by a nice chap wielding one of the old-fashioned stop/go signs - "Ride through there mate, they've knocked off for the day and we're just waiting for the van to come and collect all the gear."

I've had workmen shout at me in the past for ignoring the red light (I wasn't ignoring it, I just didn't care about it) even though I was going slowly and not going near them or their equipment. To my mind, it's better if I get out of the way, so that when the light turns green, the patient drivers don't then get held up by a cyclist in the single lane.

(I'm somewhat conflicted about whether to hug the side or take primary in those situations as drivers shouldn't be doing any overtaking whilst going through roadworks, but if there's room then I don't begrudge them getting past).

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wycombewheeler replied to hawkinspeter | 1 month ago
2 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

My experience with temporary roadworks lights is different. I find that drivers tend to obey them more than permanent lights - possibly because there's the possibility of them meeting traffic coming the other way and having nowhere to go. Meanwhile, I'm guilty of going through a few temporary red lights depending on how much escape room I have if there's traffic coming the other way (e.g. if there's just cones, then I can easily go the other side of them).

Often the lights do not give cyclists enough time anyway. So If you were to wait for green then go immediately, chances are that you would meet a driver coming the other way.

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wtjs replied to wycombewheeler | 2 weeks ago
2 likes

Meanwhile, I'm guilty of going through a few temporary red lights

Me too- round here they leave them up for days after the work has been completed, so I just go up inside the cones. Havers and the police have excuses ready for drivers who ignore temporary lights like these:

https://upride.cc/incident/ye10aju_mini_redlightcross/

https://upride.cc/incident/fd67nej_bmw420_redlightcross/

The police may even try the 'temporary lights are not the same as real traffic lights' dodge. But when even they can't fit the usual stupid excuses to the case, they just say nothing and ignore them like they did with these

https://upride.cc/incident/g16dht_hgvtrainer_redlightcross/

https://upride.cc/incident/k7ddy_audia4_redlightpass/

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HoarseMann replied to wtjs | 2 weeks ago
3 likes

I have to say my attitude to red lights whilst cycling has softened over the years.

I used to be very diligent at stopping for all red lights, but I have since become more pragmatic and will slip through a red now-and-then on the bicycle when I know it will increase my safety without inconveniencing anyone else.

If I could be certain all drivers would adhere to the highway code (or even if those that don't would be prosecuted by the police), then I would adhere to all the rules myself when cycling. But if drivers do not fear the long arm of the law when it comes to driving dangerously around vulnerable road users, then I don't think I need to fear it when putting nobody at risk on a bicycle (same attitude I used for the occasional bit of careful pavement cycling).

I do still stop at all red lights when driving, as I don't feel there's any safety benefit to myself for not doing so and I pose a much greater risk to others by using a car.

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wtjs replied to HoarseMann | 2 weeks ago
2 likes

if drivers do not fear the long arm of the law

In Lancashire, drivers are only too aware that the arms of the law are exceedingly short with hands in pockets, while the head of the law is determinedly looking the other way 

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Jimmy Ray Will replied to quiff | 1 month ago
0 likes
quiff wrote:

I don't buy this "opportunity" theory. Every driver will at some point be the first one at the lights. Every driver will at some point have the opportunity to ignore them. The fact there isn't mass disobedience therefore suggests that the majority do not take that opportunity when it arises.

I think you're missing my meaning. Every driver will be first to the lights at some point, and those that jump it will do so. However as soon as any cars stop, so does any further red light jumping for those lights. 

For bikes, there is no similar social control, and those willing to jump red lights are free to jump lights every single time. Crucially, they'll also be seen doing it, every single time by the waiting motorists. 

Which, even if the percentage of cyclists / motorists happy to jump a light are exactly the same, the amount of jumping done by cyclists will be more (more times by a given individual), and with it the perception of greater rule breaking amongst cyclists. 

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quiff replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 1 month ago
0 likes
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:
quiff wrote:

I don't buy this "opportunity" theory. Every driver will at some point be the first one at the lights. Every driver will at some point have the opportunity to ignore them. The fact there isn't mass disobedience therefore suggests that the majority do not take that opportunity when it arises.

I think you're missing my meaning. Every driver will be first to the lights at some point, and those that jump it will do so. However as soon as any cars stop, so does any further red light jumping for those lights. 

I understand that. All I was trying to say is that it is exceedingly rare for me to see the first car approaching an "established" (I hesitate to use the term) red light simply disregard it in the way that many cyclists do. If it was purely lack of opportunity (i.e. their way being physically blocked) stopping people, then I would expect far more drivers to ignore reds in these circumstances than actually do. It's actually pretty shockingly sociopathic when you do see it.           

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hawkinspeter replied to quiff | 1 month ago
1 like
quiff wrote:

I understand that. All I was trying to say is that it is exceedingly rare for me to see the first car approaching an "established" (I hesitate to use the term) red light simply disregard it in the way that many cyclists do. If it was purely lack of opportunity (i.e. their way being physically blocked) stopping people, then I would expect far more drivers to ignore reds in these circumstances than actually do. It's actually pretty shockingly sociopathic when you do see it.           

The obvious reason why drivers don't do that is that there'll be cars in their way, whereas there's almost always space for a cyclist to squeeze down the side of the road.

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quiff replied to hawkinspeter | 1 month ago
1 like

I was talking about the first car approaching a red light, so no other cars in front, opportunity to ignore the red, yet very few do. But perhaps you mean they don't do it because they will be blocked by traffic flowing from another arm of the junction?

I'm just not persuaded by the opportunity argument. I think most drivers see red and think red means stop. With the significant caveat of the "charge of the changing lights brigade" that Rendel mentions.     

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