Exempting cyclists at red lights: A radical new idea?

Jan 14, 2014
Exempting cyclists at red lights: A radical new idea?


This is a great article from the Bicycle Dutch blog about “radical” plans back in 2012 to allow cyclists in Paris to cycle through some T-junctions. However, as is appropriate, cyclists would still be responsible for any crashes caused by riding through unsafely.

Predictably, this caused cries of “Sacre Bleu!” from Parisian motorists and predictions that the end is nigh. However, the Netherlands has had this practise since 1991 while Brussels enacted such a law in July 2011. Idaho has had such a law since 1982. Cyclists may treat a stop sign as a “yield” (or give way) sign and traffic lights as stop signs. Civilisation still seems to be intact in Idaho the last time I checked.

As the author points out, in the Netherlands cyclists are often not required to go through traffic lights at all as cycle paths normally just go round the corner uninterrupted. So really it is the same situation as for a pedestrian at an intersection – as long as they stay on the footpath the traffic signals dont apply. This is, of course, the ideal and why the Netherlands is, and will remain, the premier cycling country in the world. It is also why – young and old, men and women, sports cyclists and utility cyclists – everybody cycles sometimes in the Netherlands.

In the context of the current hysteria in Auckland over red lights and cyclists, this paragraph really stuck out for me:

Obviously in countries with a high sense of ‘them vs. us’, cyclists ignoring red lights causes a lot of controversy. But in the Netherlands the feeling generally is: if a traffic situation leads to cyclists ignoring red lights without causing danger to themselves or others you should legalize that, because it helps to get cyclists to follow the rules at places where you really need them to do that.

From where I am sitting, in Auckland 2013, that sounds like a very sensible statement. Even the AA basically said the same thing on Prime News last night – that we need to focus on improving safety, not playing the blame game.

Join us

Bike Auckland is the non-profit organisation working to improve things for people on bikes. We’re a people-powered movement for a better region. We speak up for you – and the more of us there are, the stronger our voice!

Suggest a new ride