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Seeing red: why cyclists ride through traffic lights

You’ve probably seen it happen. You’re driving your car and you come to a stop at the traffic lights. You’re mindful of traffic infringement fines and public safety, then someone on a bike rides past you…

We all know the rules, and yet some of us seem happy to break them. Looking Glass

You’ve probably seen it happen. You’re driving your car and you come to a stop at the traffic lights. You’re mindful of traffic infringement fines and public safety, then someone on a bike rides past you, unconcerned, straight through the red lights.

Riding through red lights is arguably the most hated cyclist behaviour – but why does it happen? Are cyclists just recalcitrant law breakers? Is the answer to fine every cyclist who rides through every red light? Or is there a bigger picture?

We conducted a national survey – the results of which were published in Accident Analysis and Prevention earlier this year – in which 2,061 cyclists were asked the following question:

When you are riding do you stop at red lights?

The majority (63%) said yes, while over a third (37%) said they had ridden through a red light at some time when they were riding.

What follows are the main reasons given by those who had ridden through a red light.

“I was turning left”

Turning left against the red light was the most common reason cyclists gave for infringement (32%), with safety and continued travel cited as the main motivations.

Some respondents considered it was safer to turn left against the red than to wait for the green light. Going through meant they would clear the intersection ahead of turning motorised vehicle traffic, considered safer than negotiating the turn with cars.

There was a perception that there was little risk from the crossing vehicle traffic as cyclist ride close to the curb and do not enter the line of traffic.

Marilyn Johnson

Continued travel was also a benefit of this infringement type with some respondents treating some intersections as a yield, or give-way.

Indeed at some locations in Australia (the image on the left was taken in Canberra) and internationally, all road users are permitted to turn left on a red signal at some intersections.

Road users must come to a complete stop, give way to pedestrians and turn any time when it is safe to do so.

In some states in the US, with right-side travel, right turn on red is legal at most intersections. In the UK, the idea of allowing cyclists to turn left on red was suggested in 2010 to address an increase in cyclist-truck conflicts at intersections.

“The loop doesn’t detect my bike”

Almost a quarter of respondents (24.2%) reported they infringed because they were unable to change the red light to green, as the inductive loop embedded in the asphalt did not detect their bike.

The way the respondents described this scenario followed a similar pattern. On previous trips they had ridden to the intersection and there were no vehicles present.

Despite riding over different sections of road, or waiting for long periods, they were unable to activate the signal change. On subsequent trips – based on that experience – the respondent would ride through the red light.

Looking Glass

This typically occurred when riders were travelling early in the morning or later in the evening; but at some intersections, cyclists experienced this at at any time of the day.

This justification has been somewhat controversial in some Australian jurisdictions, with road authorities adamant that all cyclists can activate a signal change at all locations.

While this may be true, this has not been the experience for some cyclists who currently do not know the exact location they need to ride over to activate the signal change.

One simple and cost-effective solution is to clearly mark the location on the road that cyclists need to ride over to be detected by the sensor. A combination of bike symbol and a line of diamond shapes is already on the road at some intersections in Australia.

For the effort of a stencil and a bucket of paint, this solution enables cyclists to actively engage in the road network and affirms to the community that road authorities recognise the legitimacy of cyclists as road users.

Alternatively, it may be that, in fact, some locations do not detect bicycles. If this is the case, work needs to be undertaken, as it is clearly a gap in the road system.

Removing this blind-spot on the roads, where cyclists are invisible to the signalling system, may result in fewer cyclists riding through red lights.

“There were no other road users”

This reason is related to the previous one: without vehicles, cyclists couldn’t change the light to green (so again, a stencil and paint could provide the solution). But this one is also related to behavioural norms.

The presence of other road users – whether cyclists or drivers – can have a deterrent effect on the likelihood of infringement. Simply put, some cyclists are more likely to break the law if no-one is watching.

“It was a pedestrian crossing”

One in ten respondents had infringed at a pedestrian crossing (10.7%). This behaviour was seen as carrying little risk as the rider continues to travel straight and there is no interaction with other vehicles.

Danny McL

But for pedestrians there can be fatal consequences, as evidenced by the death of Mr James Gould who was struck by a cyclist riding in a bunch that had ridden through a red light at a pedestrian crossing on Melbourne’s Beach Road in 2006.

In addition, some cyclists infringed when they were riding across the pedestrian crossing, as they would cross as a pedestrian, effectively jay-cycling.

Interestingly, an individual’s previous behaviour was also related to infringement. Respondents who had been fined for driving through a red light had 1.5-times higher odds of infringement when cycling, compared to those who had not been fined when driving.

For some people, it seems, going through a red light is acceptable behaviour whether they are on two wheels or four.

Less problems, more solutions

There is definitely a role for enforcement to reduce the number of cyclists who ride through red lights. As with any other road user, cyclists need to be held accountable for illegal and potentially dangerous behaviour.

Ride Rule: STOP ON RED Amy Gillet Foundation

The current education campaign by the Amy Gillett Foundation, Ride Right - Ride Rules, focuses on cyclist behaviour, and the first rule is Stop on Red.

Increased red light compliance is likely to improve cyclists' image, and the attitudes some road users hold towards cyclists.

But this is just part of the answer. There are gaps in our road network and perhaps we need to begin to consider the safety benefits for road users in relation to their characteristics, rather than blanketing everyone with the same rules as car drivers.

It may be it’s safer for everyone if cyclists turned left at some intersections during the red light phase, and a trial of this could provide insights.

Adding symbols to indicate where cyclists need to ride to activate lights is a necessary and positive step to creating a road system that’s cyclist-inclusive.

Join the conversation

220 Comments sorted by

    1. Phil S

      Physics PhD Student

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Tell that to Mr Gould...oh wait, you can't, because he was killed by a bike (you did read the article right?)

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    2. john richardson

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Umm Gavin, yes they do. It is people's perception that they don't (which is probably why pedestrians feel it's OK to walk on bike track or walk in front of cyclists when crossing the road) and why, clearly, cyclists think it's OK to run pedestrian crossings.

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    3. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Phil S

      1 person was killed by a bicyclist 6 years ago; in contrast cars kill hundreds and maim thousands annually. Bikes are clearly different from cars and should be treated differently.

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    4. Ron Chinchen

      Retired (ex Probation and Parole Officer)

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      I'm a believer that all main roads should have separate lanes for bike users and they should be encouraged. But I totally disagree with Gavin's claim that they should be considered differently. They should be bound by the same rules as apply to motorised vehicles whilst on public streets. Even as a pedestrian I have to abide by the rules of the road when I cross the road at a pedestrian crossing. Sure we can overlook turning to the left against the lights if safe, but little else. And its their responsibility…

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    5. ricphillips

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      That is precisely the glib cliche quoting moral high groung comment that puts people off.

      My son was knocked down and injured by cyclist when he was six. If his head had hit the pavement he could have been killed or permanently damaged.

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    6. peter mackenzie

      Transport Development and Road Safety Researcher

      In reply to Ron Chinchen

      Gavin is falling into the old trap that lack of deaths means all is well. It is a far too narrow focus on the reality of road-use, which is more like a deadly game of dodgems, as Ron notes above.

      Marilyn Johnsons naturalistic research shows that numerous bicycle-car crashes are averted by cyclists evading the erring motorists.

      My own records go back 40 + years. Try this one. A young cyclist pulled out in front of a car at a t-junction, the car swerved to miss the cyclists, into the next…

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    7. Riddley Walker

      .

      In reply to Phil S

      Anecdote is not data. Let’s have a little look at the actual data, shall we?

      Of 279 road deaths in 2012, 35 were pedestrians. 35!

      In the period 2003 – 2012, two thousand, eight hundred and fifty seven people were killed in road fatalities (TAC). Of these, 71 were cyclists killed by motor vehicles. 435 were pedestrians. Of the pedestrians, one, just one, over that whole ten year period, was unfortunately killed by a cyclist in 2006.

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    8. Riddley Walker

      .

      In reply to Riddley Walker

      p.s. I don't have figures for car-pedestrian injury and cyclist-pedestrian injury, so I can't comment, but my guess would be that the rates would be similar for deaths.

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    9. Peter Sommerville

      Scientist & Technologist

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Gavin

      "I occasionally run red lights because bikes don't kill people, cars do"

      Not quite right - in recent times there has been one death of a pedestrian due to cyclists. Admittedly it occurred on Beaconsfield Parade, and involved a cyclist riding in a peloton at a fairly high speed (from memory they ran a red light).

      There are numerous examples of pedestrians being injured by cyclists too.

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    10. Mark Chambers

      logged in via email @velocino.com.au

      In reply to Phil S

      Why do people keep trotting this out.

      Yes, James Gould was killed on Beach Road. An event that was SO UNBELIEVABLY UNUSUAL that we are still talking about it years later. If he'd been hit by a car, no one would remember his name.

      Here's two challenges for you:

      1. name the cyclists killed on Beach Road since James Gould was killed.
      2. name someone else killed by a bike.

      good luck.

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    11. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Peter Sommerville

      I cannot prove this, but I think the wearing of Lycra has a lot to do with mental acuity.

      That said, when I lived inner urban I did run red lights and turn left on my racing bike for the reasons stated in article:

      Left turn was safe.
      No ability to change lights sequence - not sure if marking road with a pattern would help as there so much to be on alert for when riding a bike.

      No, I did not wear Lycra.

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    12. Steve Phillips

      Nurse Practitioner

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      When we moved to Perth from the contry and I attended Uni I would ride with my daughter in the bike seat and drop her at Uni child care. I always used the footpath.
      1. No-one walks anywhere
      2. It was safer
      I rode to a different campus one day and had to use the road. I was sickened by the callous indifference drivers had to the fact my 2yera old was in a seat behind me. Despite riding in the gutter for most of the way I was at one point forced off the road onto the verge by a semi, I fell onto my side trying to protect my daughter.
      From then on it has been the footpath for me and F#$K the law!

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    13. Phil S

      Physics PhD Student

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Thankyou for that wonderful logical argument.

      Gavin: "I break road rules because bikes don't kill people"
      Phil: "Example of how a bike has killed someone"
      Gavin: "Blah blah blah cars are worse so I can do what I want"*

      The fact is that bikes CAN kill people. If you break road rules, you are much more likely to injure or kill someone.

      Your argument is bad, and you should feel bad.

      *Dramatised for effect

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    14. Phil S

      Physics PhD Student

      In reply to Riddley Walker

      Yes, thank you for that.

      Of course cars are worse than bikes. However, Gavin was effectively arguing that bikes don't kill people so it is fine for him to break road rules. I pointed out that the article mentioned someone was killed by a bike.

      So clearly bikes CAN kill people. Generally they don't. However, one would imagine if cyclists started breaking whatever road rules they felt like, more people would die. Isn't that a reasonable assumption? Or do you think cyclists don't need any rules? Are the rules just there for fun? Perhaps you think it is the drivers fault if a cyclist runs a red light and gets hit by a car? Or is that going to far for you?

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    15. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Wearing lyra means you get to your destination dry instead of dripping with sweat.

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    16. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Ron Chinchen

      Right....... so from now on it's OK with you if I take up a whole lane to myself?

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    17. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to peter mackenzie

      Look......... this goes bothe ways you know... I've ridden tens of thousands of miles on public roads, and not ONE of MY near misses with cars have ever been reported by me either.

      It's probably only a matter of five to eight years before there are NO CARS on the road anyway....

      Soon, cyclists will have all the roads to themselves. Pity I'll be too old to make the most of it.

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    18. Michael Lenehan

      retired

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      I admire your optimism (or is it pessimism about the world economy collapsing so no-one can afford cars anymore?). Anyway, I hope you are right about the cars - but 8 years does seem very soon for the automobile to vanish.

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    19. Tim Connors

      System Administrator

      In reply to Phil S

      Yes, and that was newsworthy because it doesn't happen very often. Since then, about 10,000 car occupants have been killed... by other car occupants. Barely newsworthy at all. Pretty consistent with the statement that bikes don't kill people except in freak events (there was a lot of stupid that happened on that day 6 or so years ago).

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    20. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      @ Mike Stasse

      My partner used to wear lycra, beg to differ. Just having a dig at the weekend type rider.

      @ Steve Phillips

      I made all my decisions according to how safe rather than follow rules - too many near misses by motorists deliberately ignoring the fact I was even on the road. I recall deliberating thumping the passenger side window of a motorist determined to turn left irrespective of my being on the road, I avoided being hit by jumping onto footpath. This motorist knew I was there - just did not GaF.

      I too treat all road users be they bike riders, motorists or pedestrians as potential morons - I learned to do this because I started my road use on motorbikes. Being alert, expecting the unexpected is how I behave on the roads. If I need to break road rules to survive I will.

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    21. peter mackenzie

      Transport Development and Road Safety Researcher

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      I agree with you fully Mike that it goes both ways. I'd think most cyclists would agree that motor vehicle drivers put cyclists at risk many times more than the other way around.

      My main point was that just counting deaths is too narrow a focus, and that cyclists unsafe actions can put others at risk.

      I also believe that cyclists will need to report more unsafe actions by drivers to gain better interventions by authorities.

      But as I said elsewhere on this item, that will probably generate even more bad attitudes and potentially aggro by drivers against cyclists.

      Re your car-less future, car users will have to be dragged kicking and screaming away from their cars. Might just have the Westconnex in Sydney and the East-West tunnel in Melbourne built by then - will leave a lot of lane space for cyclists!

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    22. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Lenehan

      Australia will totally run out of oil some time between 2015 and 2020. Allocating fuel to essential services first will mean that very few people will be driving cars. BTW, Peak ALL ENERGY (including nuclear) is expected ~2017.... http://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/

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    23. Peter Sommerville

      Scientist & Technologist

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Diana,
      Neither do I. But for the moment I obey the rules, and if the lights don't change then I lean across and push the pedestrian button.

      Cheers

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    24. Peter Sommerville

      Scientist & Technologist

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      @Dianna Art

      Sounds like an apologia pro vitae sua to me. Imagine if your logic was extended to other circumstances. Imagine if motorists applied the same logic.

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    25. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Peter Sommerville

      Petter

      "if the lights don't change then I lean across and push the pedestrian button"

      What makes you think I have not done that when I have the opportunity?

      I have been discussing avoiding being hit by anything when out riding, you appear to be avoiding the points I have made. Don't stress yourself - won't bother with you again.

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    26. David Bentley

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Gavin,

      What you seem to fail to understand is that cyclists running red lights makes drivers mad. When drivers get mad, cyclists get killed. When cyclists run red lights they put all other cyclists in more danger.

      The running of pedestrian lights is particularly stoopid. They will change very soon, just hold your horses people!

      Disclosure: I do run A red light....at 5am with no cars around at a left hand turn near my house where the sensor doesn't go off. All other times, I just wait…

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    27. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to David Bentley

      I am sorry about your humour bypass, David. If you happen to wear red speedos while swimming, I am doubly sorry for you.

      Just for the record: I don't have one; either from cycling, motorcycling or driving cars, because I stay alert and ready for people to do the most insane things at any given moment.

      And I get to laugh last.

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    28. Eddy Schmid

      Retired

      In reply to Steve Phillips

      Steve, dunno where you've been buddy, but in W.A. and Perth in particular, the major suburb councils have decreed all footpaths to be DUAL USE PATHS for some time now.
      The only issue I find with this, is sometimes it's extremely difficult to FIND a dual use path.
      I'd suggest contacting your local council to verify their view on this issue. I know for a FACT, City of Stirling has done so now for many years.

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    29. Peter Sommerville

      Scientist & Technologist

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Breaking the law is breaking the law Diana, whichever way you cut it. By the way, I am a cyclist too, and I rarely experience the situations you cite to justify ignoring the law.

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  1. Roger Jones

    Professorial Research Fellow at Victoria University

    Riders are also very visible when they do this in front of stationary traffic. But cars still blow red lights far more often than bikes. I remember going for a ride on Beach road shortly after poor James Gould was killed by the bunch at a stop light and counted five cars going through pedestrian crossing red lights in the space of an hour (a couple across that same crossing). I love cameras on traffic lights for this reason.

    I do stop (ride about 200 km a week) because of the rules and because…

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    1. Tim Connors

      System Administrator

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      They do theoretically because there's enough conducting metal in the spokes, and in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. Of course, in practice, there is a difference

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    2. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Tim Connors

      Stainless steel spokes are not magnetic, and neither are Magnesium alloy gears, and most of the rest of the metal in my bike's aluminium..... about the only steel bit's the chain.

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    3. Peter Banks

      retired Civil Engineer

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      They don't need to be Mike - the detectors buried in the road rely on induced circuits in the metal parts of a vehicle to register the vehicle. They are sensitive enough to detect a 20 cent coin, or smaller, if properly tuned - which they usually are.

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  2. Phil S

    Physics PhD Student

    The one that gets me is when bikes suddenly change from being a pedestrian to being on the road. For instance I regularly see bikes riding across a pedestrian crossing at traffic lights, only to suddenly veer off into the road and continue on as if they are a car. I've also seen bikes take shortcuts from a footpath, across a road traffic is about to turn into, so they can get onto the pedestrian crossing faster.

    If cyclists want to be respected on the road, they need to behave like cars and follow all the road rules. Unfortunately, given the behaviour I regularly see, it seems many cyclists are more concerned with getting to their destination in the quickest possible time than actually being safe on the road.

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    1. Tom Nockolds

      Project Manager

      In reply to Phil S

      Philip, I think we're slightly off-topic, but here's my thoughts on your comment:

      I don't care one hoot about being respected on the road by motorists - I assume that none of them will give me any respect whatever I may do. Recognising that car drivers won't give me any respect means I feel compelled to do everything I can do to avoid cycling with cars. This includes riding on the pavement and crossing at pedestrian lights and crossings. Pretty much the only time I'm not breaking the law by riding on the pavement is when I'm on a quiet residential street or I'm on a cycle path which is between the parked cars and the pavement (i.e. completely separated).

      Really, the only respect I'm looking for is respect from road designers and policy makers to realise that bicycles and cars/motorbikes/vans/trucks don't mix when the speed limit is above roughly 30 or 40 km/h.

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    2. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Phil S

      How many pedestrians have you seen knocked down when those cyclists engage in that behaviour? More than zero?

      The only reason I will move from the road to the footpath is if it is safer for me to do so. Sometimes the footpath is the only way to get to the bike path. And I will ONLY do it if I can see that no one else is placed in danger. I think motorists forget that cyclists can SEE, HEAR and in some cases SMELL what is around them much more clearly than a person in a car can. We can also respond more quickly, too.

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    3. Peter Grigg

      Project Manager

      In reply to Phil S

      Can't agree with you on this one, Philip - as Tom says, no rider expects respect from drivers, but no rider will do anything so rash as to put their life in danger. As I've said before, stupidity on a bike leads to squishdom.

      logicisstupid.blogspot.com/2012/09/hating-cyclists.html

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    4. Riddley Walker

      .

      In reply to Phil S

      Hi Phillip, that is an interesting case. On all the bike paths and the specific on-road bike routes there are many instances where the path crosses the road. Cyclists are permitted to ride across at those crossings, which are also pedestrian crossings. Otherwise it defeats the purpose of the bike path, do you see?

      These crossings are made without problems, and you often see a mix of "fast" cyclists, "slow" cyclists, cyclists with kids in trailers, kids, Mums with prams, people with dogs on a leash…

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    5. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Phil S

      It's not illegal to ride on the footpath (and hence a pedestrian crossing) if you're under 12 years old, so I presume that you're referring to adults crossing the road at pedestrian crossings?

      I enjoyed your comment 'many cyclists are more concerned with getting to their destination in the quickest possible time than actually being safe on the road.'
      This is a comment usually levelled by police after the holiday road toll, except the word 'cyclists' is replaced by 'drivers'.
      The irony is delicious....

      '

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    6. Becky Freeman

      Research Fellow/Lecturer at University of Sydney

      In reply to Phil S

      I commute 4 days a week with my 16 month old toddler on the back of my bike. There is one section along our ride that is on a narrow, high traffic road that just feels too unsafe for me to ride on - so I switch to the pavement. This means I actually ride more slowly. It is not about taking a short cut or about getting to work faster, it is about not being hit by a car that either "hates" us or just "doesn't see" us. I wish there were bike lanes for my whole commute, but until there are, I have to make choices that keep us as safe as possible.

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    7. Etienne de Briquenel

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Phil S

      "If cyclists want to be respected on the road, they need to behave like cars and follow all the road rules."

      Rubbish. Respect on the road is not something that has to be earned; it's the basic right of all road users. Time to put this insidious notion to bed.

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    8. Riddley Walker

      .

      In reply to Becky Freeman

      In Melbourne it is legal to ride on footpaths in the company of a child under 12. Not sure for NSW.

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    9. Phil S

      Physics PhD Student

      In reply to Etienne de Briquenel

      No. Respect and safety are completely different things. Everyone has the right to be safe on the road. But if you act in an unsafe manner, whether riding a bike or driving a car, I will not respect you.

      Why do you think drivers get angry with cyclists? Because many (but clearly not all) cyclists do stupid and unsafe things. I've talked to both riders and drivers who agree with this assessment. If you believe there are no stupid cyclists on the roads, I suggest you get out more...

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    10. Phil S

      Physics PhD Student

      In reply to Becky Freeman

      Firstly, there are no on road bike lanes around where I regularly drive. Only some roads have bus lanes. So this is where my perspective comes from.

      Exiting the road onto a footpath at any time is quite safe. Are you are to commended for putting your safety, as well as your childs, above speed.

      Presumably when entering the road you do so at a safe time, and often stop until it is safe to do so?
      My complaint is primarily with cyclists who suddenly change from a pedestrian to a road user, without…

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    11. Phil S

      Physics PhD Student

      In reply to Citizen SG

      It isn't really irony.
      There are both stupid cyclists and stupid drivers....

      And yes, I'm referring to adults. To be honest I don't really care if they ride across an intersection as a pedestrian. What I care about is when they suddenly decide it is time to switch to a road user. It is unexpected for drivers, and for the less competent drivers (and let's be honest, there are quite a few around) it can cause problems.

      They have defensive driving courses. Maybe they should teach defensive riding too?

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    12. Phil S

      Physics PhD Student

      In reply to Tom Nockolds

      Yes, well I am perfectly fine with you being an effective pedestrian for the whole time. My point was specifically relating to those cyclists who feel they can pick and choose who they are at whim. It is dangerous behaviour to change from a pedestrian to a road user, especially if you don't look, don't slow down and it is simply to cut off a small corner of your journey.

      You sound like a sensible bike rider. I don't have a problem with that. I do have a problem with stupid bike riders who then get up in arms over drivers who are just confused by the cyclists erratic behaviour on the road/footpaths.

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    13. Phil S

      Physics PhD Student

      In reply to John Perry

      Yes, going from road to footpath is relatively safe. It is the other way around that is the problem. Since you say "And I will ONLY do it if I can see that no one else is placed in danger.", it sounds like you are a sensible rider. There are quite a few around! But there are also many stupid riders who do not look properly, do not slow down, and just suddenly change what they are doing (eg going from a footpath ONTO a road).

      Many drivers can safely avoid collisions in this situation, but many are not as good a driver as they should be. Defensive bike riding should be taught, and cyclists should not have a problem with coming to a stop before entering a particularly dangerous situation.

      I also think that some cyclists forget that motorists can't respond as quickly as a cyclist, and a quick change in the cyclists behaviour may not leave enough time for a driver to avoid a dangerous situation, especially if the action is illegal.

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    14. Phil S

      Physics PhD Student

      In reply to Peter Grigg

      "but no rider will do anything so rash as to put their life in danger"

      Hahaha, thanks for the laugh!

      No seriously, if all riders were as sensible as you say, I would have nothing to complain about! Unfortunately I've seen stupid behaviour that could easily have lead to disaster

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    15. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Peter Grigg

      I don't expect respect from motorists when I'm driving a car! I treat ALL motorists as if they were morons (most of them are...) and it's kept me out of trouble for over twenty years now... a lesson hard learned.

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    16. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Phil S

      I suggest to you that through sheer weight of numbers, there are far far more stupid car drivers on the road than stupid cyclists.....

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    17. Riddley Walker

      .

      In reply to Phil S

      " cyclists who feel they can pick and choose who they are at whim."

      In fact cyclists can pick and choose who they are at whim. That is one of the many reasons why bikes are different from cars. If you got on a bike you would understand this. You are looking at the issue from a car driver's perspective. Cars are limited, bikes are not. It's quite simple. If you envy a cyclists freedom, and resent the limitations of a car - get a bike!

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    18. Phil S

      Physics PhD Student

      In reply to Riddley Walker

      This is the second time you have stated, without fact, that I am envious of the flexibility of a bike. I could't care less. Each mode of transport is useful in separate situations. The fact that you think bikes are not limited is even more disturbing. I would say that a bike is more limited than a car if you want to get to Brisbane from Melbourne.

      But I digress....

      The point I am trying to make is that erratic behaviour on the road is dangerous. This applies to both drivers and riders. The fact that you think riders can pick and choose who they are on a whim, and be safe is scary.

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  3. Michael Lenehan

    retired

    I'd go for "fewer problems" in the sub heading as there are always less (or is that fewer? ) fatalities if the cyclists ride slowly on the footpath. I'm too old to risk riding my bike on the road these days. I'm often pulled up waiting at the traffic lights on the footpath with no bike helmet with a cop car waiting at the lights right next to me. Someone will eventually fine me - but as they seem to never pull up anyone riding a noisy motorbike these days many must see it as not worth the hassle…

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    1. Riddley Walker

      .

      In reply to Michael Lenehan

      I wouldn't ride on Bell St for example, and Northbound up Queens Pde/High St, there is a section that is incredibly dangerous for bikes - I go on the footpath there too. Otherwise I find the roads mostly OK, but always choose a bike path/lane if possible.

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  4. ian cheong

    logged in via email @acm.org

    I can understand some of the reasons. But we are supposed to be living in a democracy governed by democratic law.

    Running red lights, riding across pedestrian intersections instead of dismounting. Riding at night without lights. Riding without helmets. Obstructing car drivers who dare to protest.

    I think:
    1. Bike riders need a type of licence, after demonstrating they know the rules of the road and roadworthiness of bikes.
    2. Laws can be changed to make certain bike behaviour legal - eg riding through red lights having stopped and given way to pedestrians and cars.

    Bike riders need to behaving like responsible law abiding citizens and we can all get on.

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    1. Robert Moore

      Street Sweeper

      In reply to ian cheong

      1. More and more cyclists on the road, but little in the way of education and skills programs for cyclists. The younger generation is apparently putting off getting a driving licence, so many may not be as aware of the road rules as previous gens. This points to the need for much more public education and training on road safety and cycling skills.

      Motorists also need to be reminded of the road rules, particularly safe overtaking and passing, and lane changing, and menacing driving.

      2. Road…

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    2. Riddley Walker

      .

      In reply to Robert Moore

      In Denmark, children have bike specific training at years 3 and 9. Here we have Bike Ed., but I think it is too random. Should be compulsory as should swimming lessons.

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  5. Tom Nockolds

    Project Manager

    Thanks for the well written article, Marilyn.

    Two comments:

    SLOW DOWN:
    The example of poor James Gould is a poor example of the consequences of cyclists running red lights and a great example of the dangers of high-speed cycling. Yes, the cyclists involved had run a red light, but I very much doubt they would have done this if they weren't in a group engaged in a high-speed race.

    My opinion is that the Amy Gillet foundation has it wrong: the number 1 "ride right" rule should be SLOW DOWN…

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    1. Robert Moore

      Street Sweeper

      In reply to Tom Nockolds

      The main group had gone through on the green as I understand it, but one cyclist was behind and ran the red to catch up, hitting Mr Gould.

      Agree with your last paragraph, authorities are way behind in providing better infrastructure for cyclists. Even when the try they get it wrong, witness Union St in Pyrmont. Lights fail to detect cyclists or only detect for a brief period, and only if you don't move off the correct spot, leading to lengthy delays and much red light ignoring. Motorists get maybe 90 seconds green, cyclists 6.

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    2. delbified

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tom Nockolds

      "high speed cycling"? cyclists are the slowest form of road users. I only wish motorists would slow down. I wonder if I can find an example of a speeding motoring injuring someone.. or 10,000.

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    3. Tom Nockolds

      Project Manager

      In reply to delbified

      @delbified I totally agree that speeding cars are a much greater problem than cyclists going too fast and I also wish motorists would slow down.

      However, my point was focused on the subject of educating cyclists on those actions they can take to improve safety. It's my opinion that educating cyclists on the benefits of 'slowing down' would be more beneficial than educating them on the benefits of an existing well known law 'road rule - stop on red'.

      And I stand by my comment that the cyclist probably would have stopped at the red light if he wasn't taking part in a cycling race.

      Perhaps the addition of 'high speed' was a bit superfluous since 'race' already brings implications of speed.

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    4. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Tom Nockolds

      Like motor vehicles, bicycle road racing should be on a separated road, marshalled and registered with licenced riders. What took place with mr Gould's death, I am led to understand, eventuated from high speed training.
      In high speed trining most cyclists will do from 30-40 kmh (10-70kmh SLOWER than the speed limit on public roads with a mass 10 times less than a car) with sprints of up to 60kmh.
      I agree sprint trianing for cyclists should not occur on busy roads shared with pedestrians but 1 pedestrian death hardly makes an epidemic and, as most commuting cyclists will travel far slower, is hardly relevant to the bulk of commuting cyclists.

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    5. Tom Nockolds

      Project Manager

      In reply to Citizen SG

      @Seamus Gardiner Yes, I completely agree with all of that - particularly the dubious relevance of the example of Mr Gould to the bulk of cyclists.

      I've never trained or raced and so my personal anecdote doesn't compare 30-60 km/h with commuter speeds. Instead, it talks to a general change in my cycling philosophy that said speed of journey was quite unimportant when compared to enjoyment and safety of journey. The resulting increase in safety and enjoyment coupled with lack of concern about how quickly I completed a journey was a revelation, to put it mildly.

      Cheers!

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    6. delbified

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tom Nockolds

      Ironically, I race bikes on "closed", organised and officially sanctioned circuits and guess what... drivers still routinely ignore corner marshalls and drive onto the course, with a bunch of 30 racing cyclists heading towards them at 40-50 km/h! It is astonishing to witness the arrogance and sense of self-entitlement in some people.

      I don't participate in on-road bunch rides, but some of those, including the one which led to Mr Gould's death, appear to be plainly dangerous.

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  6. Urs Baumgartner

    Consultant for Environment and Sustainability

    I have been riding bicycles for my whole lifetime, in many different countries. And I can't help thinking that Australia is the most bicycle hating country I have ever been before. Why do you guys always target at cyclists?
    The loop thing happened to me. And I also believe that cyclist should just ignore a red light, if no one is harmed. If everyone was riding a bike, we wouldn't need any traffic lights at all. Further, cyclist are the answer to increased environmental pollution and traffic jams. You car drivers should be happy for everyone that rides their bikes, not being angry at them when you have to wait at a red light.
    Why don't you switch to a bike - today?

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  7. Geoff Russell

    Computer Programmer, Author

    Having been lucky enough to spend a month cycle touring in Switzerland, the first thing I noticed was that cyclists disobey all manner of road rules very frequently, but nobody gets upset about it. Car drivers are also generally cyclists and understand that its much better to do the illegal thing and run the light when turning than to risk fighting with turning vehicles. Perhaps because helmets aren't compulsory the car drivers understand that even a small bump to a cyclist could kill, so they give…

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    1. Jon Holbrook

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Having ridden in rush hour traffic in Australia for 20 years, things are improving. I get less abuse and more apologies for near misses (which are usually just because the driver didn't see me) than in past years. I suspect (totally unscientifically) that this is because there are more cyclists. However, observing the road rules is something cyclists need to do. As has been said above, it is part of living in a civilised society. If you don't like the road rules, get them changed. Don't just ignore them.

      Having said that, the left turn on red would be a fantastic change, so I might have a word to my local MP about that.

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  8. takver takvera

    Journalist and Editor at Indymedia

    Thankyou Marilyn for the article. Having cycle commuted to work for most of my working life - in Sydney and Melbourne - I have occasionally gone through red lights for all the reasons stated, at low speed and with care and common sense. I judged it was safer for me to do so than come to a complete stop. If there was any doubt on the safety of proceeding, I always stop. I also take into account expectations of other road users around me, so on many occasions will stop in accord with those expectations…

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    1. Tim Connors

      System Administrator

      In reply to takver takvera

      I didn't see any cyclists blow through red lights or intersections in the past 2 days, but I did capture these 2 fools:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWx9Iu7vBY8

      Usual story on our roads though. Very few Melbourne drivers don't go through a light that has just turned red. A classic would have to be the corner of Wurundjeri Way/Flinders, right out in front of the... police headquarters. It's a very long intersection, will be red for 2 seconds, and cars will *still* enter (and get stuck in the middle). Every. Single. Time. But since I've never seen anyone booked for it and I've seen the police do it themselves without lights/sirens, I don't suppose they give a damn.

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  9. David Doe

    Videogame Producer

    Interesting article, thank you for this.

    From my perspective; I'll stop running red lights and footpath-hopping when a) there are dedicated and separated bike lanes to use on more common cycling routes, with St Kilda Rd being a prime example here in Melbourne, and when b) it's safer to do so.

    At the moment it's just safer to run through some (not all) red lights and pedestrian crossings as traffic is either unpredictable, unaware, on uncaring.

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  10. ricphillips

    logged in via Twitter

    I didn't own a car for fifteen years. During that time cycling was a primary form of transport form me. Public transport was second and taxis filled in the late-night home-from-parties gaps.

    During many of my car owning years cycling was still a big part of my personal transport strategy.

    But still many of the commentors would call me 'cyclist hating'.

    The argument seems to be,

    1: That cycling is different - so they should not be subject to the same rules and expectations of behaviour…

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    1. delbified

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to ricphillips

      This is wrong. I race bikes and train on the road, but it is unnecessary for me to ride dangerously. You can ride at full tilt down Beach Rd and obey all red lights. Sure, some riders don't, but it is not their fitness objectives which are limiting them.

      By contrast, I regularly see appallingly dangerous and inconsiderate behaviour by non-competitive riders. A lot of them are part of the bohemian set who don't think the rules apply to them. They're not aggressive or threatening, they don't have rippling leg muscles, but they sure are dangerous on their bikes. The fact they just rode across a pedestrian crossing at a leisurely 5 km/h, scattering old ladies in their wake is not OK.

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    2. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to ricphillips

      a large proportion of racing cyclists' training is not 'going for the burn' as ricphillips puts it. It is riding within heart rate targets which means for a lot of training it is sitting on less than 30 knh or riding < 20kmh up a hill.

      Moreover, even at a fast pace a 'racing cyclist' is still likely to be doing less than a car in an urban area. Even in a school zone.

      Not everyone lives in a city, either. My faster paced training is on bush tracks or country roads where the only thing i am likely to scatter is a bunch of galahs and the only thing I'm likely to startle is an inattentive cow.

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    3. Simon Arthur

      Reader

      In reply to ricphillips

      You certainly have a point on people rushing to get from point A to B, it doesn't matter if they're driving, cycling, or running to catch public transport there are people in all walks of life who take risks from time to time, and some more often than others. I'm sure many of us can remember being bullet-proof teenagers who didn't think anything of taking risks. However the problems I see in my morning commute to work are from middle-age drivers who have learnt to minimise their risks by driving…

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  11. Gary Cassidy

    Interesting article.

    "with road authorities adamant that all cyclists can activate a signal change at all locations"

    Not my experience. Most early mornings if I'm approaching an intersection without any cars around to trigger the lights, I will scoot over and press to the pedestrian button. A bit annoying but at least it works.

    Also, I will often use a pedestrian crossing to get across a road. The alternative is risking my life by crossing through traffic!

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  12. Stuart Eley

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    I'm pretty careful on the road, but still managed to get hit at an intersection (0% fault of me). Luckily no serious injuries (thanks to my helmet which cracked itself and their windshield)

    I am acutely aware of the fact that drivers simply do not see cyclists sometimes. This means that for my own safety I need to minimise any situations where a car will cross my path, or be near to me while performing any sort of manouvre.

    I regularly cross through red lights at a few intersections that are…

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  13. Mark Horner

    logged in via Twitter

    There's a great big "ignore" in almost every article on this sort of issue. It has an historical root.

    Initially, demands from organised and agitating bike riders (almost all of this construction was agitated for by Leagues of Wheelmen and others likewise) in the 1880s and 90s improved road surfaces to the state where there was an arterial networks of roads able to be travelled in most weathers and conditions by bicycles. This was a benefit *shared* with haulage and passenger transport, and…

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    1. Riddley Walker

      .

      In reply to Mark Horner

      Nice rant!

      Cyclists make up about 1% of all journeys in Melbourne. Cycling infrastructure receives about .01% of road funding.

      Well, there's your problem!

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  14. Julian Charters

    Lawyer

    I run red lights because I feel much safer being in front of the traffic where I am visible to other motorists. It's preferable to being stuck in the traffic surrounded by large chunks of angry heavy metal. It also avoids me holding the traffic up as I don't have to start from a standing position when the light changes. My experience in the city is that the traffic rarely catches me before the next set of red lights if I can get a bit of a jump on them. Everyone wins!

    Anger towards cyclists…

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  15. charles davies

    Quizzical Observer

    This looks like a job for "SUPERTONY".
    As Mr Abbott seems to be able to ride a bicycle ( check out all the photos in the media), perhaps someone might be persuaded to approach him to ask him if , maybe , he could spare a moment from his nay-saying to actually do something that might have a positive effect.
    By that I mean advocating for more sensible law to enable left turns on red,ensuring that the traffic light actuators work for bikes (some don't even work for motorcycles, in my experience) and getting all the thousands of embittered motorists off our roads, so that we don't have to fear death by car, truck or bus whenever we want to go for a peaceful ,nonpolluting ride.

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    1. Riddley Walker

      .

      In reply to charles davies

      I have written to Abbott about this. Not even an auto-reply. By contrast I did get a reply from Albanese's secretary about cycling infrastructure.

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  16. Omar

    logged in via Twitter

    There is clearly an unwarranted preoccupation with badly behaving cyclists.

    While I agree on many of the technical issues in this article as to why cyclists are apt to ride through red lights, I would like to add a couple of suggestions and then move on to the more serious underlying behavioural one that guides much of our discussion when it comes to people who choose to ride a bicycle.

    Suggestions:

    1. There is no consistency in the triggering mechanisms. With no feedback to the cyclist…

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  17. J Vandenberg

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    Until you publish an article asking why motorists run red lights/break the speed limit/drive while texting, I'll assume this article is linkbait.

    As noted by other commenters, bikes aren't the problem. Cars, and motorists, are the problem. So many deaths caused by cars, all preventable.

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  18. Riddley Walker

    .

    Hey Marilyn, love your work!

    Did you get any data on the comparative red light running rates between cars and bikes?

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  19. John Perry

    Teacher

    I am a commuting cyclist - ride 1 hour total each day. I think a distinction should be made between riders like me, whose aim is to arrive safely (and not too stinky) at work, and the weekend riders who ride, often dangerously fast, in large groups.

    There are also those who ride in dark clothes without helmets and swerve through the traffic dangerously. That's not me or the other commuting riders either.

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    1. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to John Perry

      What if you're both? Or are you happy enforcing another level of heirarchy:
      commuting cyclists>sports cyclists>cars

      I commute on my old steel bike and also happily partake in road training and organised mass start rides on my race bike(s) (I also drive a car) - what label do you have for me?

      How about we stop labeling anyone, not everyone who drives a car or a truck is a homicidal maniac and not everyone who rides a race bike is ignorant of the safety of others. You might find that some people can use all three methods of transport and still be mindful of others.

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    2. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Unfortunately, Seamus, there are plenty who are ignorant of the nuances that you and I, as cyclists, are much more aware of. Those people make judgements about ALL cyclists based on a small sample of one type of riders - and quite often those are the obnoxious city couriers.

      I wouldn't put a label on you because you use a bike in lots of ways and you have already indicated above that your training is largely confined to country lanes. In the city, the lycra mob make it far too easy for themselves to be stereotyped, because so many of them really are "weekend warriors".

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    3. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Citizen SG

      And I also drive a car. I drive very carefully (I think I'm the only motorist in Melbourne who indicates to change lanes or pull into traffic) and when I drive, that's all I do - no brushing teeth, eating toast, texting, talking on the phone, fiddling with the GPS, gesticulating while deep in conversation with fellow passengers.

      And every time I drive I wish I was on the bike!

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  20. Derek McKinnon

    Manager

    A few years my normal commute to work changed, as my wife had our first baby.

    Suddenly, getting a ticket became far less important than getting home alive. Road rules are for those who won't get killed from someone not paying attention.

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  21. Chris Peck

    logged in via LinkedIn

    This is always a topic that will get a lot of comments (as evidenced in Fairfax media with their click-bait articles seemingly every two weeks). Thankfully this article addresses some of the reasons cyclists run red lights.

    To my mind (as a cyclist) I would like a distinction to be drawn between running red lights and going through red lights. In the first instance (running a red light) the cyclist has little or no regard to the fact that the light is red, a situation I have seen far too often…

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    1. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Chris Peck

      On this terminology I occasionally go thru red lights. But while that distinction may be relevant to cyclists, I don't think it would assuage drivers who seem to resent cyclists' slow speed and the road space they occupy, their greater freedom and their apparently cavalier behaviour.

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    2. peter mackenzie

      Transport Development and Road Safety Researcher

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      As with so many good comments on Marilyn's article, the distinction between red-light running and going through red lights by Chris Peck is important.

      Both are illegal, but the the former is always going to be high-risk, while then latter is not necessarily risky.

      One concern I have is that many, perhaps the majority, of car drivers think their driving is superior, that they know what they are doing, what is safe, and think others need better education.

      So are cyclists really any better…

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    3. Riddley Walker

      .

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Oh yes, the road space they occupy. A cyclist takes up about 2 sq mtr. A car takes up between 20 sq mtr and 200 sq mtr depending on speed.

      http://www.bicyclenetwork.com.au/media/vanilla/file/Make%20Room%20To%20Move%20Poster%20%28Med%29.jpg

      And the slow speed - About 30 years ago Keith Dunstan demonstrated that a bike from Camberwell to the city was faster than a car. That was then!

      Cavalier attitude - A "cavalier attitude" is kind of a casual, almost dismissive attitude. Webster's defines "cavalier", in this usage, as "marked by lofty disregard of others' interests, rights, or feelings; given to airy dismissal of things worthy of attention." Basically a "cavalier attitude" is not caring about things that are important to you or others.

      Yes, I definitely try to maintain a lofty airy disregard at all times :-)

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  22. Adam Butler

    Engineer and Data Analyst

    This is an unfortunate article in that it could have potentially contributed to the "body of knowledge" on cycling issues but has simply led the reader down a well worn path.

    To use a comparatively isolated incident (the 2006 Gould death) as "evidence" of an epidemic of cycling negligence is poor and highly misleading. Other commentators have already quoted car-related deaths, so I need no repeat them.

    The author writes, "There is definitely a role for enforcement to reduce the number of cyclists who ride through red lights. As with any other road user, cyclists need to be held accountable for illegal and potentially dangerous behaviour." The big stick approach has not worked well for a whole range of issues in our society including traffic infringements, drug trafficking, drunkenness. The big stick approach merely justifies the erosion of our civil liberties.

    Unfortunately society sees cyclists as a threat to the status quo and so for many, they exude defensive aggression.

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  23. Peter Arthur
    Peter Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Systems Analyst

    The best thing to do would be to introduce the Idaho Stop Law for cyclists in this country.
    The effect of this law is that cyclists can treat stop signs and red traffic lights in the same manner as give way signs. The cyclist does not need to come to a complete stop, and the cyclist can continue through the sign after giving way to all vehicles and pedestrians they are required to give way to. This law has been in effect in the state of Idaho, USA for about 30 years with no detrimental effects on safety.
    The law is specific to bicycles: it does not apply to other vehicles.

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    1. takver takvera

      Journalist and Editor at Indymedia

      In reply to Peter Arthur

      That is exactly the sort of traffic regulation that should be used that recognises the difference between a bicycle and a motorised vehicle and the differences in mass, speed and vulnerability. Common sense really! Thanks for that example.

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  24. Simon Arthur

    Reader

    The times where I've felt it necessary to use a pedestrian crossing or "run a red" is when the traffic lights don't trigger for a bike. To have the road authorities come up with mind-numbingly silly advice such as "cyclists should wait for a green light in the centre of the traffic lane with 1 pedal low to the ground" is dangerous (too many selfish "roads are for cars" drivers) and just plain illogical - there are many non-metal pedals and crankset on bikes, so even less metal to detect. I also use pedestrian crossings where it's just too dangerous to cross several busy traffic lanes to get into a right-turn lane, and there's no cross-road to do a hook-turn from. In the end the failure seems to be a common one - road authorities have a car-centric mindset and anyone who doesn't fit into their closed-circuit thinking is left to suffer.

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  25. Kate Newton

    logged in via email @ymail.com

    I am a motorist and a cyclist although not so much of the latter on-road now, as I've discovered I value life more as its end becomes closer hence more salient.

    Most Australian motorists hate cyclists period. I am also a psychologist so I'm aware there is a lot of scope for plausible speculation about the effects of various mental and personality states on attitudes and behaviour.

    However I was also trained in scientific methods, so there is Occam to consider, ie don't make things more complicated…

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    1. takver takvera

      Journalist and Editor at Indymedia

      In reply to Kate Newton

      By all means more needs to be spent on cycle infrastructure including dedicated cycleways. But there also needs to be a general behavioural change in how vehicle drivers share the road with other users, not only cyclists but also pedestrians. You only need to look at the culture of road users in much of Europe to see that more respect and courtesy is paid to more vulnerabe road users.

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    2. Kate Newton

      logged in via email @ymail.com

      In reply to takver takvera

      Yes that sounds plausible but I have a couple of reservations.

      Firstly, how much do we know about road conditions in "Europe" (heterogeneous no doubt) and whether there are crucial aspects of certain of their road systems that are more conducive to cyclist-motorist sharing. (I do recall that one of our highest-profile cyclists lost her life on a European road.)

      Secondly, while in principle I fully agree about the desirability of behavioral and "cultural" change, I wonder whether any effective program to achieve this would not be more costly and also less reliably effective than actually building the cycleways.

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    3. Riddley Walker

      .

      In reply to Kate Newton

      I agree. But traffic in the peak hour is doing much less than 50. I think the average speed is currently around 27 kph.

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    4. peter mackenzie

      Transport Development and Road Safety Researcher

      In reply to takver takvera

      Hi Takver and Kate

      I agree we need both more and better cycle infrastructure and we need behavioural change in motorists.

      I don't really understand the hate of cyclists, though I often am concerned for their vulnerability.

      While as Kate says, I think (and hope) it would be a rare motorist who would want to kill a cyclist, in reality, some of the extent of reckless, uncaring behaviour is just as threatening and potentially lethal.

      To change motorists behaviour, we need to differentiate…

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    5. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Kate Newton

      So many paths in Melbourne that could be linked up; so many back streets that could also be linked to these to create continuous, safe pathways. In the suburbs where I live, there are plenty of bike paths but they are: 1. poorly maintained; and 2. not clearly signposted so that you know where you are.

      In other words, creating cycleways is really tiny bickies when you consider what is already there.

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    6. takver takvera

      Journalist and Editor at Indymedia

      In reply to John Perry

      Yes, linking the bikepaths is part of the solution, as well as seperate bikelane infrastructure for major commuter routes. There also needs to be changes to priority so that on priority bike paths/routes cycles should have priority over residential vehicle traffic.
      One of the frustrations with using bikepaths is they sometimes cross multiple streets, and the traffic on those streets always has priority. ie The Upfield Path in Melbourne's northern suburbs. Traffic Lights at major intersections on this path are often poorly timed for cyclists with lengthy waits. I have seen 20+ cyclists queued during peak times. That is one reason many commuter cyclists choose to ride Sydney Rd where the flow is less disrupted as part of the traffic.

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    7. Murray Nicholas

      IT System Engineer

      In reply to John Perry

      John,
      There are, in fact, very few BIKE paths in Melbourne. There's one on either side of Princes Bridge, another along the Port Melbourne foreshore and a third around the bay end of North Road. By far the vast majority of the pathways where bicycles are legally ridden are "Shared Footpaths".
      The distinction is not just pedantry about terminology but legal as well. On a bike path, pedestrians are not allowed (try asking politely for that to be obeyed and see how nice some people can be…

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    8. Murray Nicholas

      IT System Engineer

      In reply to Kate Newton

      I wonder if this is the whole competitive thing about humanity? Thinking about the original question (why do cyclists run red lights) and it's logical, and I suggest, more rational expression (Why do people break laws?) I suspect the answer is that the "offender" percieves and advantage to him/herself over the "competition". The advantage may not be directly competitive - a cyclist might turn left on red to gain some safer road space - or it might be - a motorist may change lanes to get in front…

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    9. Murray Nicholas

      IT System Engineer

      In reply to Kate Newton

      How many cycleways? Where do they start and where do they end? We already have transport infrastructure from door to door for everyone - the roads; we can't realistically duplicate these to make one space for cars and one space for bikes. There are principal routes where this may be justified but we live in a large country with a very low population density. In order to make economically rational use of the infrastructure we can afford we need to teach people to share it properly.

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  26. Peter Sommerville

    Scientist & Technologist

    I am interested in the commentary about turning left at red lights. This has some merit, and it is the same for motorised vehicles too. In the USA vehicles are permitted to turn right (remember they are on the other side of the road) through red lights, provided it is safe to do so. It works well and there is no reason to assume it would not work here too.

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    1. john zeeman

      labourer

      In reply to Peter Sommerville

      It is in fact legal for _any_ vehicle to turn left at a red light on an intersection, unless its specifically prohibited.

      The law was changed when road rules were nationalised about 10 years ago.

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    2. Ravi Shaftesbury

      Geographer

      In reply to john zeeman

      John, a direct reference would be handy here. I don't believe you, and you may be a crazy troll trying to cause many many traffic infringement notices. The burden of proof is upon you.

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    3. Tim Connors

      System Administrator

      In reply to john zeeman

      [citation needed]

      Not all road rules were rationalised. There's the Australian Road Rules, which are then backed in each state by legislation in most cases. Where there is no legislation, the ARRs do not come into effect.

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    4. Peter Sommerville

      Scientist & Technologist

      In reply to john zeeman

      John,

      Your statement is wrong - in Victoria anyway. Here it is illegal to turn left through a red light.

      I think what you are trying to say is that it is legal to turn left if there is a sign indicating you can do so. There are a few intersections in NSW where I know this to be the case. There are none in Victoria of which I am aware.

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  27. Riddley Walker

    .

    Slightly off the topic but...

    Currently 11,000 cyclists ride to work in the city (RACV Royalauto Aug/Sep 2012). Imagine if they all decided to drive their cars in on the one day. Then you would really see traffic chaos.

    What really needs to happen to make Melbourne a cycling city is to draw a 10k radius around the CBD, and make that whole area a cycling priority precinct.

    Congestion is caused by too many cars on the road, and the vast majority of these are single occupant commuters. The…

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    1. peter mackenzie

      Transport Development and Road Safety Researcher

      In reply to Riddley Walker

      Great ideas Riddley, and copious reports and statements by politicans repeat the benefits of public transport, walking and cycling, the need for reducing cars. "We need to get more people on public transport and more freight on rail" etc etc.

      Typical example of contradictory actions, in NSW the former Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) said some 15 years ago, "we can't keep building freeways".

      So what are Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott currently promising voters - "WestConnex" a lovely freeway to take cars into the city, and freight to ports. Price tag $10.5 billion.

      Forget about ride and ride- park and ride - rail shuttles as an alternative -we'll just build more freeways.

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  28. Etienne de Briquenel

    logged in via Twitter

    I'm really happy Marilyn Johnson has looked further than the tired old strategy of increased enforcement. There are cyclists out there who simply run reds because they can get away with it. No argument there. But at the same time a lot of cyclists, particularly when turning left on a red, do so because it's a much safer option. It's not about flouting the law or being arrogant; it's simply about protecting themselves at intersections that are purely designed for automobiles.

    As Johnson suggests, laws that cater for the characteristics of road users, as opposed to 'blanketing everyone with the same rules as car drivers', would give cyclists more protection at intersections, and thus more incentive to obey the rules.

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    1. Kate Newton

      logged in via email @ymail.com

      In reply to Etienne de Briquenel

      I agree that cyclists tend to run red lights because it is often the safer option - to get ahead of the mororist pack, as there is little provision made for cycling on the road.

      More cycleways are needed.

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  29. ben harrison

    logged in via email @liquidmesh.com

    A few years ago I would have little compunction in riding through some red lights (mostly pedestrian lights) if it was safe for me and any others, or there was no-one about. I hate having to stop and restart; it's a waste of energy.

    Then I got into a different mindset about the way Melbourne drivers (in particular) seem to me to disrespect cyclists, and what could be done. I figured the only way to combat motorists' anger at cyclists was to be seen to be doing everything to the letter of the…

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  30. James Gordon

    Teacher

    I obey the road rules and make a point of being courteous and respectful mostly because I am greeted by car drivers with contempt. I am truly baffled by how much hate is out there! Cyclists should obey the road rules, however, there are times when I feel personally threatened and in the past I have been intimidated by drivers at lights. Some will quite literally push you off the road if you are to the left of a lane. This happens most when waiting for a left hand turn. I think it is more about resentment than a slavish love of rules. Most of the time it is perfectly safe to cycle through, however, car drivers hate to see a humble bicycle carving through traffic when they are stationary. In a word, dumb!

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    1. Ravi Shaftesbury

      Geographer

      In reply to James Gordon

      And there's the kicker. As a cyclist, you're darned if you do, so you may as well not. I find myself in many many situations where my life is at risk when I do follow the road rules. So excuse cyclists for feeling the rules are a little grey, because they are. I defy anyone to follow the law to the tee (that's right- take up the whole lane in heavy traffic in the absence 1m headroom, merging with traffic to get to the right turn lane in moving traffic etc) to say that the law actually applies. It is an archaic code written for a time past.

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  31. Tim Scanlon

    Debunker

    Last time I checked, it was the Road Rules, not the Road it-would-be-nice-if-you-followed-these-recommendations.

    I'm also pretty sure that the Road Rules don't have one set for car divers, another set for taxis, another set for cyclists and another set for truck drivers. People need to start being courteous on the road and stop being dicks, cyclists included.

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    1. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      I think you'll find that there ARE road rules that differentiate in exactly the way you have described. Taxis are able to use parts of the kerb that others aren't; truck drivers can't travel down certain roads or lanes; cyclists have traffic boxes just for them.

      There is a good reason these rules exist, and there would be good reasons to implement extra rules differentiating cyclists in the way many of us have described; for example: turning left at a red light when safe and advancing just before the light turns green - in both cases when it is safe to do so.

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    2. takver takvera

      Journalist and Editor at Indymedia

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Actually Tim Scanlon, specific road rules do apply for specific classes of vehicle at present in Australian jurisdictions. You need to go back and study the road regs. And perhaps part of the solution is that road rules for bicycles needs to be overhauled to take into account their different attributes to motorised vehicles. I quite like that Idaho Stop Law for cyclists mentioined by Peter Arthur, which could easily be added to the traffic regulations.

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    3. Tim Scanlon

      Debunker

      In reply to takver takvera

      Takaver and John, you may have missed my point, as it was meant to be a simplified argument for humour. There is no rule that allows taxis to run a red light, no rule that allows trucks to tailgate, no rule that says that bikes are not a vehicle that has to obey the rules.

      Of course there are individual rules that relate to operation and the like. Truck's gears on hills, lanes for car-pooling, buses, and taxis, where certain vehicles can park. But that isn't what I'm talking about. The over-arching rules that apply to all road users are not rules that apply to some just because they don't want them to.

      So, my point was that 37% cyclists thinking that stopping at a red light didn't apply to them, is just another road user being a dick. Doesn't really make a difference if it is a cyclist, car, truck, taxis or bus, we have road rules (mostly) for a reason.

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    4. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Please don't tell me that you think my advancing through a red light 5 seconds before it turns green, after checking 3 times that it is safe to do so, so that I don't hold up the vehicular traffic lined up behind me, is "being a dick".

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    5. Tim Scanlon

      Debunker

      In reply to John Perry

      Where did I say that?

      And that is still unsafe, because you are assuming that someone won't run the lights the other way, it assumes you know which lane will be getting a green light next, etc.

      I know the point you are trying to make, and I'm not a fan of crosswalk lights for very similar reasons, but that still doesn't change the fact that by breaking the law you are (potentially) endangering others. In my book, that is being a dick.

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    6. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      I didn't say you said it. The essence of the statement was to say "I hope this isn't what you mean".

      Tell you what. Next time you're driving through the city and your car is behind my bike, please remember to commend me for waiting for the light to change, in spite of the fact that I held up the traffic and possibly made you wait for the next light. I can tell you that I cop a LOT of aggro for doing just that, with a lot more drivers thinking I'm a dick for holding them up.

      So, in short, I'll go with the non-cyclist calling me a dick on TC rather than getting it from fellow road-users in a real-life situation.

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    7. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      "you may have missed my point, as it was meant to be a simplified argument for humour"

      Looks like I missed the humour as well.

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    8. Tim Scanlon

      Debunker

      In reply to John Perry

      Remind me how wide a bike is again? How wide is a traffic lane? How much of a verge is there at the lights?

      Unless you are on a country road, I can't think of too many traffic lights where you would be holding up traffic unless you decided to sit in the middle of the lane. And I also don't know too many cyclists that aren't going to be overtaken by the traffic within 50m of the intersection regardless of when they take off. So your point is actually moot.

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    9. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      If bikes didn't hold up traffic much of drivers' annoyance at bikes would be avoided. I suffered a driver's rudeness last week for holding him up at the traffic lights, tho taking off as fast as I could and riding as close to the gutter as I could manage without falling over.

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    10. Michael Gormly

      Editor at Superkern Design Pty Ltd

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Tim, the only safe place for a rider in the city is in the centre of the lane. Keeping to the left is an open invitation to be sideswiped as impatient drivers try to 'squeeze' past. At most city intersections there is no verge at the lights, if you care to look. My primary post on this thread reflects many years of observed reality, so I will continue to 'run red lights'. Please read it and reflect.

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    11. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Tim,
      It isn't a moot point at all. John has related a real life scenario that is splayed out at every intersection. A vehicular lane is actually not that wide and when you take into account the space required to negotiate parked vehicles on the other side of the intersection there is not a large space for vehicles to pass a cyclist (particularly givebn the variable skill level of drivers).
      The comments here are from people who ride every day, are intelligent and probably genuinely concerned about…

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    12. Gary Cassidy

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Hi Tim,

      most of the intersections I go through (Mostly around Melbourne and suburbs) have a an island on the other side of the intersection (where the traffic light pole sits) which encroaches onto the road (effectively making the left lane less wide for 1/2 meter) it is very tight for me on a skinny bike and a car to go through simultaneously. Subsequently if cars are behind me at an intersection they either need to squeeze past me or be patient and wait for me to proceed through the intersection. I find some drivers squeeze and some be patient.

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    13. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Agree with your experience as it matches mine.

      Even on a motorbike it is important to dominate the lane by riding slightly closer to the right or left depending on road type. Motorists don't realise that bikes and motorbikes require the same amount of free space as a car.

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    14. Tim Scanlon

      Debunker

      In reply to Citizen SG

      I really do like how everyone has assumed I don't ride a bike and have never done so. I rode to work until only recently when I had my second knee operation.

      I perfectly understand how most drivers in Australia are inattentive and don't watch out for other motorists, especially when they have a low footprint, like bikes and motorbikes.

      But riders have to acknowledge that they are a slow accelerating, slow moving road vehicle and that they are not special. They don't have the right to break the road rules out of a selfish arrogance. So I say again, running a red light is endangering other road users, despite all your protestations to the contrary.

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    15. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      I suppose it was assumed that you were not a bike rider because you stated:
      'Remind me how wide a bike is again? How wide is a traffic lane? How much of a verge is there at the lights?'

      sarcasm doesn't translate well on the internet, perhaps we need a special font for that.

      In any case the experiences of many cyclists are clearly somewhat different to yours. Irrespective of ones's desire to run or not run red lights it remains a problem of safety on a pushbike when waiting for a red light…

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    16. Tim Scanlon

      Debunker

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Which is exactly what people haven't been discussing, rather they have been justifying their lawlessness.

      Personally I think that there should be bike lanes or paths (not shared paths, they don't work very well) on all main roads. I also think that there should be car free zones in cities. I also think that drivers should have to re-sit their license once every 5 years.

      All of these things seek to make cycling safer and more recognised as a means of transport. Add to that some encouragement for facilities at work for showering and changing, and we could dramatically change the CBD and road usage.

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    17. Murray Nicholas

      IT System Engineer

      In reply to John Perry

      Section 13 (I think) of the Victorian Road Rules does differentiate in exactly that way - it lists the things cyclists may and may not do which differ from those things for a motorist.
      The earlier part of the rules (between about 15 and 20) describe who is a pedestrian, rider and driver and what is a vehicle (car, bus, motorcycle, bicycle, animal, animal drawn vehicle and, believe it or not, an aircushion vehicle). The rules also state that "driver" shall be taken to include "rider" unless specifically…

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    18. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      "Which is exactly what people haven't been discussing, rather they have been justifying their lawlessness."

      The title of the article is "Why cyclists ride through traffic lights" - I think we could successfully argue that we have been "on topic"

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  32. David Sutherland

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    One of the very interesting aspects of the cycling debate is how often the arguments are filtered through a car-centric perspective. That car-centric view says that roads are really only for motorised vehicles, completely forgetting the history of roads and their users and the manner by which roads are paid for. That view is the basis for a common attitude that cyclists on roads can legitimately be targeted by car drivers who cut them off, turn in front of them, run into them with impunity. That…

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    1. Tim Scanlon

      Debunker

      In reply to David Sutherland

      So running a red light is okay, just as long as you are on a bike?

      Please tell me more about responsible road usage.

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    2. David Sutherland

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      "Running a red light" is emotive language.

      Every week when I am in Canberra I legitimately drive (and sometimes ride) through red lights when I am turning left. Is that "running a red light"? No, it is passing through a red light in accordance with the road rules.

      I have done similarly in the USA.

      Miraculously I have somehow survived those events! Why? Because passing through red lights is a very safe activity in certain situations- which are the situations allowed in those jurisdictions for doing that activity.

      My point was, therefore, that using a rational approach to movement of vehicles rather than a car-centric approach would allow cyclists to pass through red lights in certain circumstances even if cars weren't allowed to, because the dynamics of the different modes of transport are...well...different.

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    3. Tim Scanlon

      Debunker

      In reply to David Sutherland

      It isn't emotive language. Running a red light is actually defined as entering a controlled intersection by crossing the white lines designating the intersection. So if you cross the white line at an intersection that has a red light defining no one in that lane shall enter, then you have broken the road rules.

      And it isn't safe to do so. You are just kidding yourself. I could argue that the traffic lights don't know when it is safe for me to enter an intersection, so I should just judge for myself…

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    4. delbified

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      "You are just kidding yourself. I could argue that the traffic lights don't know when it is safe for me to enter an intersection, so I should just judge for myself. But that is exactly the problem, you are pretending that you are making a safe judgement when you are not in control of the intersection."

      Umm... so how do you negotiate intersections that are not fitted with traffic lights?!

      There is nothing _inherently_ unsafe about ignoring traffic lights. They are placed at intersections for…

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    5. Tim Scanlon

      Debunker

      In reply to delbified

      And the person coming the other way is thinking the same thing....

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    6. delbified

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      which is why every intersection without traffic lights is littered with wrecked cars.... umm..

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    7. Tim Scanlon

      Debunker

      In reply to delbified

      That is a fallacy. You are assuming that every intersection has good visibility, that every intersection will/won't have traffic, that every driver won't have time to react, etc, etc.

      My point is that you can't assume that you can just run a red light safely. Speaking from a country driver's perspective, people get into the habit of running intersections because there never is any traffic, until the time there is and they are cleaned up. You see the same thing in the cities too, but fortunately there are more controlled intersections to lessen the odds of the crashes.

      Either way, it is that sort of arrogant road use that causes accidents in the first place.

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    8. delbified

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      By "running a red light safely", I mean slowing or stopping first, and proceeding through the red only if and when it is safe to do so. You insist on interpreting it as meaning running straight through it without checking. That's known in debating circles as a strawman argument.

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    9. Tim Scanlon

      Debunker

      In reply to delbified

      No, it is referring to the term as defined by the national road rules in the link I have already provided.
      http://www.ntc.gov.au/filemedia/Reports/ARR_February_2009_final.pdf

      I'll phrase it another way: you have no control over the rest of the traffic on the road. You cannot guarantee when and how they will appear and react. That is why we have rules, so that you can guarantee (to some extent) how other road users will behave. By not obeying those rules, you are endangering yourself and others.

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    10. delbified

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      I understand what you're saying, but you're not understanding me.

      Rules provide no guarantee of how people will behave. They merely encourage them to behave in a desirable manner. At intersections, there is a defined code of behaviour that gives priority to some traffic over other traffic. This can be defined by traffic lights, signage, or just the default "give way to the right".

      You can run a red light and still comply with the intent of it - to give priority to other traffic. You just need to ensure that there is no other traffic approaching. The effectiveness of that depends on the quality of judgment employed by the individual. Cyclists are typically very good at using that sort of judgment - as they have greater incentive than motorists (i.e. the higher likelihood of dying if they use poor judgment).

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    11. Tim Scanlon

      Debunker

      In reply to delbified

      And you don't understand what I'm saying: you are advocating not following the rules and creating the very problem you are supposedly reacting to.

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    12. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to delbified

      I agree. If it is a choice between winding up mulched under the wheels of a car or breaking road rules by taking the bike up onto the footpath - I choose life.

      I really don't want my epitaph to read "died young but obeyed traffic rules".

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    13. Ravi Shaftesbury

      Geographer

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Oh, you guys. You talk as though there is only one real ethos to riding a bike. The fact of the matter is, the beauty of riding a bike is a cultural discovery of which you're both pioneers, and the real rules (i.e. the ones followed by convention and the ones that are ignored acceptably) haven't been settled yet. You both possess valid arguments, neither of which is better than the other. As an exemplar with cars, it is illegal to straddle a lane to pass a parked car, but people do it, and everyone accepts it. Funnily enough, that's going to have to change as more bikes get the nerve to claim a whole lane when necessary. This is a key point in the antagonistic attitudes of drivers, because they got lazy with the couple of decades of unchallenged dominance of the road. Now, the both of you obviously do see the merits of each others' arguments. Kiss, make up, and join forces in fighting the real enemy - dangerous complacency of road users.

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    14. delbified

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      You are really missing the point - I am questioning whether the rules should be changed, not advocating breaking them.

      You seem to be arguing that breaking the rules will encourage other road users to follow suit and that this will lead to a breakdown in orderly conduct on the roads. I agree, but only so long as it is in fact breaking the rules. That can be changed.

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  33. Ryan Farquharson

    Research Officer

    Just about to jump on my bike for a pleasant ride home. Whilst doing so I will get 40 minutes of vigorous activity, I won't burn any fossil fuels, I won't make a net contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, I won't cause any traffic congestion, I will smile and wave to those I pass by, and it won't cost me a cent.

    Have a lovely evening.

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  34. Michael Gormly

    Editor at Superkern Design Pty Ltd

    "There is definitely a role for enforcement to reduce the number of cyclists who ride through red lights." No evidence is offered for this (except the one exceptional death seven years ago) and the article totally ignores the reality of urban bike riding. It ignores that it is cyclists who are at-risk from cars when they run the lights, and vice-versa when cars run the lights, hence the law. It ignores that riders have far, far better left-right vision than drivers at intersections, so running the…

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  35. Murray Holdom

    Student

    As a cyclist, I often run red lights.

    Riding a bike in a city has given me a great awareness of traffic. For example, by looking at the traffic lights in other directions, I can tell which lanes have the right of way.

    Also, by not triggering traffic loops and pedestrian crossing signals, I'm allowing traffic to flow more freely.

    Will I accept the blame if I cause a crash? Yes
    Have I ever been involved in a motor vehicle crash? No
    Is following all laws to the letter, without awareness of the situation, a benefit to society? In my opinion, no

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  36. Jay HR

    Student

    Wow! So many haters here.

    If this is an issue of public space use, perhaps we should stop a minute, take a deep breath and find ways to adopt positive change.

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  37. ian cheong

    logged in via email @acm.org

    There are many places where car are permitted to turn left/right on red. Changing the law to define the circumstances when it would be safe for bike to advance through a red light costs not much and would legitimise what the safe riders currently break the law to do.

    Only one person said anything about the bike licencing issue. Education is nice. How does we make it mandatory for all riders to know the rules of the road? Riding without helmets or lights is not safe, but a rider may not perceive the danger.

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  38. Tim Connors

    System Administrator

    I wait at the vast majority of lights. I resent doing so in light traffic - lights are there to control unaware drivers in control of a bumbling hulking boxes without any situational awareness, and I'm fully aware of my surroundings (although I see many people on bikes -- I hesitate to call them cyclists as they never look too experienced -- who aren't).

    But there are 2 lights I get fed up at occasionally and go through when safe. One light in Camberwell, crossing Burke road that waits the full…

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  39. Jason Chandler

    Musician

    Be visible, be predictable, obey the road rules just like every other road user is required to. It's not that hard. Minimise your risk by doing everything you can AND stay within the road rules.

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  40. Kim Cooper

    Marketing Communications Manager

    As a cyclist I find that I will run a red light when I see an opportunity to get in front of the traffic if i'm travelling on a road that doesn't provide much room for cyclists. However I always travel on bike lanes or the footpath where possible and don't cycle through pedestrians. As a driver I find it nerve racking trying to maneuver around cyclists and watch the other cars, etc. on narrow roads. Therefore I personally prefer when cyclists choose to escape safely in front, as I do. My safety, and pedestrians, whilst cycling on the road comes before the thoughts of a driver, ie. if he is annoyed with my running a red light safely. Its most of the people on scooters that I find are the biggest danger! And they just seem to be getting crazier by the day.

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    1. Peter Kretsch

      Environmental modeller

      In reply to Kim Cooper

      I agree. Another point that seems to be missed is bike lanes often don't exist in the 50 m either side of intersections because right-turn lanes take up the required width of the road. To avoid the issue of an impatient driver jamming me into the footpath on the other side of the intersection due to my slower acceleration it can sometimes make sense to cross the intersection when safe. I value my life more than I value the law, and so should others.

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  41. Markie Linhart

    Rouleur

    Disjointed thoughts relevant to this topic.

    First, let me say that if you're a road user then you have to abide by the rules. Simple as that, whether you ride a bicycle, motor cycle, or drive a truck/car/van. Having said that there are circumstances where the risk of infringement is the only sensible or available way forward - and on occasion I'm no angel, let me tell you.

    I've always seen cycling - being human powered (yes, ebikes excepted) - as an extension of perambulation, rather than a…

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    1. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Markie Linhart

      Thanks for the most excellent links, Markie.

      Agree about LHT. While living in USA, I became accustomed to RHT anytime with care - a place with far more congestion than here in Oz. Never had a problem.

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  42. Wendy Forsyth

    logged in via Twitter

    "Less problems, more solutions."
    This should read "Fewer problems, more solutions".
    It was interesting to read the views of cyclists with regard to road rules. Until Australia catches up with Europe with regard to cyclists and their place on our roads, there will be conflict. Cyclists are a brave lot here in Melbourne. I was nearly killed riding in Singapore, and although Melbourne is safer, there's much more to be done.

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  43. Murray Nicholas

    IT System Engineer

    Why is this a topic worthy of conversation? Why do so many people have such strong opinions about what "they" should or should not do?
    When did you last have a friend or colleague, knowing you drive a motor car and own a mobile phone, come to you in high dudgeon ranting about the driver s/he saw meandering down the road with a phone held tightly to the ear? When did you last year a radio announcer winding up the talkback callers about such an issue? Have you ever read an article like this one…

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    1. Riddley Walker

      .

      In reply to Murray Nicholas

      Love your work Murray. I just copied and pasted that into my collection of cycling comments, hope you don't mind...

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    2. peter mackenzie

      Transport Development and Road Safety Researcher

      In reply to Murray Nicholas

      Good point Murray. Can't comment on anyone else, but I can tell you I reported several car drivers to police recently - not because they were breaking the law, but because they were putting other motorists in danger- and that's after I got out of their way - so their driving stopped affecting me but I was concerned about others.

      I can't think of a situation were I would "chase down" a cyclist - it is possible - but they'd have to be pretty reckless.

      Perhaps some cyclists, knowing of the level of angst by motorists against cyclists, see red light running cyclists as adding to the problem. But that's only speculation on my part.

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  44. John Harland

    bicycle technician

    37% of cyclists acknowledge having gone through a red light at some time.

    And what proportion of motorists? I would be surprised if it were much different. Particularly if the detector loop in the road does not detect their car.

    Not to mention the usual two, or even three cars that will go through any intersection in Victoria after the light has turned red. The rate is much lower in South Australia, in my experience and I don't know how it compares with the other states.

    Even higher is the…

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    1. peter mackenzie

      Transport Development and Road Safety Researcher

      In reply to John Harland

      John, from the reports by you and other cyclists on motorist red runners, ironically you may be more at risk going through green lights than carefully going through reds. Especially if you are a bit less cautious going through the greens.

      I watched a light turn green recently and 2 cars came through on a turn 2-3 seconds after we had the green. I was in a car, but I still don't want to take the risk of being injured in such a situation.

      Cyclists can't afford that risk at all. (same with pedestrians, motorcyclists). A truck or bus driver would be at risk of having someone dead under his truck, so they wouldn't need it either.

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    2. peter mackenzie

      Transport Development and Road Safety Researcher

      In reply to peter mackenzie

      John, where I said "you" it didn't mean you personally, but referred to any rider.

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  45. James Pollock

    logged in via Facebook

    Riding through pedestrian lights can be dangerous if you're a selfish moron and you're sprinting in a bunch with your mates with no regard to anyone else' safety. If you stop at the lights, give some respect to the people crossing, then roll through at walking pace, no-one gets hurt. I appreciate they can't mandate common sense so riding through lights must be illegal but it's a pity we're all tarnished by the same brush just because one idiot felt his morning race was more important than someone else safety.

    Last time I struck a pedestrian it was because they were weaving through traffic against the lights in Elizabeth Street Melbourne. Thankfully I was paying more attention than she was and she was merely startled by our brush. I think you'll find that it's quite common for cyclist/pedestrian collisions for the pedestrian to be at fault.

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    1. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to James Pollock

      I came very close to a visually impaired older man who, very oddly, stepped straight onto the road to cross it but not at an automated pedestrian crossing, and without really checking. I could see him 100 metres or so back and saw that his behaviour was unusual (while he was still on the footpath), so rang the bell. By the time I got too close to brake safely (I would have had a serious accident had I swerved) I called out "hey" as I went past, which was when he had put one foot onto the road. He went into a flap as you can imagine (was very startled) but did quickly retreat to the footpath.

      The vehicular traffic was only a couple of hundred metres behind me so had caught up to me when I reached the next intersection. What did one driver decide to do? Abuse me for "scaring" the old man! Would she rather he got scared but unhurt by the cyclist, or cleaned up by a car a few seconds later?!?

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  46. David Sutherland

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    Motorists have the ability to break most of the road rules- and they do habitually- whereas cyclists are far more limited in the number of rules they can break.

    We know that if the incidences of rule breaking could be recorded and ascribed to cyclists or motorists, the difference in number recorded would be extraordinarily large by a factor of hundreds or thousands against the motorists.

    We know that if an incident occurs as a result of rule breaking there will be far more damage or injury caused to potentially innocent parties by the motorists when compared with cyclists.

    I therefore agree with some other respondents who ask: why on earth cyclists are being singled out here?

    It is also clear that articles like this, because they concentrate on cyclists rather than the real miscreants, and because they don't put their research into context, add fuel to the fires of hatred that seem to be burning out there.

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  47. gary scholz

    logged in via email @inbox.com

    i live in melb and I run most red lights i come aacross . . it is far less dangerous than the way lots of cars and trucks pass me . Basically i feel lots (maybe most) car s resent my presence on the road , they dont want to share . some drivers think bikes should not be allowed on the road at all . So I feel i am not respected so i wont respect the rules in return . My life is placed in danger regulary by drivers .

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  48. Michael Sherry
    Michael Sherry is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Photographer

    Personally, as a cyclist, I would appreciate it if the Gov would stop telling me what to do. I'm an intelligent and able-minded individual that knows how to ride a bike, and ride it safely, AVOIDING EVERYONE ELSE on the roads. It's not hard to cross a road - any road - without being hit by a car whether I'm technically allowed to at that point in time, or not. I'm basically crossing when, say an inpatient pedestrian would do so through traffic.

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  49. Joan Bennett

    logged in via email @aetlimited.com.au

    There is also the angle that riding a bicycle is a dangerous pursuit, so perhaps cyclists subconscious wish to be injured or killed (Freud’s Thanatos?)

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    1. David Sutherland

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Joan Bennett

      Nice try. But no. While I can't speak for other cyclists, I am nevertheless sure most of them, like me, would prefer to cycle in an environment free of the dangers posed to us by motorists. It would certainly be a lot more relaxing.

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    2. Ravi Shaftesbury

      Geographer

      In reply to Joan Bennett

      Them's some inflammatory words that contain a smattering of intimidation you use there, Joan. Also, a little misinformed. In the context of this article, I am assuming you are suggesting that cyclists who run red lights have some kind of (subconscious) death wish. Recent statistics point to what looks like NO crashes for cyclists running red lights, but lots and lots of incidents where a cyclist was going through green and got collected by maliciously thoughtless operators of cars:
      http://www.bicyclenetwork.com.au/media/vanilla/file/CASR%20Adelaide%20crash%20study.pdf

      I reckon you might be a person who bemoans why kids don't go outside to play anymore like you used to. Well, attitudes like yours are actually a significant part of the reason.

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    3. peter mackenzie

      Transport Development and Road Safety Researcher

      In reply to Ravi Shaftesbury

      Thanks Ramesh, that's areally good reference you included - one I hadn't seen before.

      I noticed yesterday, that at a particular roundabout, the A-pillar on my car did a really good job of blocking my view of a registered trail bike who was already on the roundabout to my right.

      Years ago when driving a bus, I found at one roundabout, that the angle of entry roads, the bus mirror, speeds of entry, and one overgrown shrub combined to block the view of another motorcycle.

      In both cases, it…

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    4. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to peter mackenzie

      Peter

      Yours is one of the most reasoned and logical comments on this page.

      Ever thought of cloning yourself to benefit future generations?

      ;)

      Removing road hazards which block vision is a part of the solution, another is consideration of road surfaces - now they cannot all be perfect stretches of smooth bitumen. However, in cities like Melbourne, there are tram tracks (which require skill to traverse in wet conditions), low concrete dividers and other deliberately placed traffic 'guidance' which only work for 4 wheeled vehicles not for the 2 wheeled.

      Getting a sense from many of the irate motorists that: "Four wheels good, two wheels bad".

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    5. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Ravi Shaftesbury

      Ramesh

      I did see the 'moon-walking-bear' but only due to having watched similar instructive videos before.

      I agree, should be compulsory viewing. Then I'm of the belief that all would-be motorists should spend 12 months riding a motorcycle before being allowed behind the steering wheel of anything else, guess I'll just have to dream on about that idea.

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    6. peter mackenzie

      Transport Development and Road Safety Researcher

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Thanks for the kind words Diana.

      Good points about the tram tracks and other hazards - and yes, unfortunately the system is made for 4 wheeled vehicles, not 2.

      Also the authorities overfocus on the individual behaviours of road users they call the 4 killers (ie speed, fatigue, innatention, drink-driving), -when there are far more factors - including weather, light, tram tracks, low dividers you mention - the list goes on - and these factors interact together in complex ways to create risk.

      To make it all more complicated, what is illegal - ie going through red lights - will not automatically be unsafe (but will be at least some of the time) and what is unsafe is not always illegal.

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  50. Ben Neilson

    Marine Engineer / Farmer

    Is there any reason this needs to be a huge issue? I've noticed we Australians seem to get pretty irate when we see someone 'get away with something'. We live surrounded by laws and rules. What happened to use of a bit of judgement or common sense and then taking responsibility for the result?

    I could ask the same questions and relate it to motorcycles or cars as well. What's worth demerit points and a fine in one state is accepted in another, even under our 'National Road Rules'.

    If a cyclist arrives at a red light at 6am on the way to work and there's no traffic in sight with clear lines of view then why not carry on? If they get struck then they clearly exercised poor judgement.

    One can travel through many countries and see traffic flow really well despite the lack of traffic police booking people for exercising their judgement.

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    1. John Harland

      bicycle technician

      In reply to Ben Neilson

      Australians getting so upset about minor lawbreaking is relatively recent.

      Perhaps it reflects a couple of decades of being urged to dob in lawbreakers and several decades of increasingly unjust laws, such as the terrorism laws, the removal of the right to silence in NSW and being obliged to give your name and address to police in Victoria at any time.

      If car drivers had to drive their cars carefully to line up with the traffic sensor in order to trip traffic liights, you would see a lot more…

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  51. Walter Sheppard

    Environmentalist

    Not all loops in the road are activated by scooters either. Would be good to see a similar article on two wheeled motorised vehicles where four wheeled vehicle tolerances differ markedly between states particularly around moving through stationary traffic. It appears to be more acceptable in the big cities but not in the smaller ones.

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  52. John Davidson

    Retired engineer

    At simple intersections it would usually make sense to replace red stop lights with "GIVE WAY LIGHTS". At pedestrian crossings it may also make sense to replace the red lights with "GIVE WAY TO PEDESTRIANS" and "GIVE WAY TO CAR LIGHTS".
    Cyclists aren't the only ones who are expected sit waiting for lights to change when it is clearly OK to cross or drive through the intersection.
    All that is achieved by pointless time wasting is rising impatience. Impatient drivers are a safety problem.

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  53. Iain Millar

    Unemployed at Centrelink

    Lets not beat around the bush, cyclists break the law because they are difficult to identify. Only the police can ask for a name and address and that given may well be false.
    Until cyclists have a registration number on their (compulsory) helmets all abberant behaviour will continue to flourish.
    There is a large percentage of cyclists who show total contempt for all other road users.

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    1. Markie Linhart

      Rouleur

      In reply to Iain Millar

      Banter is one thing Mr Millar - personal abuse is offensive, and you've been reported…

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    2. Iain Millar

      Unemployed at Centrelink

      In reply to Markie Linhart

      With your rather pretentious "occupation" and your rather precious "you've been reported" manner, it is little wonder that you come in for criticism.
      The implication that my original post was tongue-in-cheek because it was April Fools Day is indicative of the inherent arrogance of pushbike riders individually and in packs.
      I stand by my initial tenet, that the lycra-clad-louts break the law because they cannot be identified.

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    3. Ravi Shaftesbury

      Geographer

      In reply to Iain Millar

      My dear Iain,
      Your lack of intent to troll doesn't stop you from being a troll. For you next trick, I'm sure you're going to pull out the old "I pay rego and therefore the road, bikes don't so shouldn't be there" line. Your call for bike registration to reduce traffic code infringements fails to recognise some truly important factors.

      First, it's been shown repeatedly with report after report and even implementation abandonments that they just aren't worth the hassle.

      Secondly, you neglect to take into account that drivers of cars regularly break the law too. You've never run a red light, rolled over a stop sign, sped up to get through an amber light, straddled lanes to pass a parked car etc. have you.

      The funny thing is that I reckon a significant, though unconscious, reason why you don't ride is because you're afraid of the irrational and antagonistic anger only you know that is capable of some drivers towards cyclists. Get on your bike, son.

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    4. Kim Cooper

      Marketing Communications Manager

      In reply to Iain Millar

      I can see why you are unemployed, and you most likely love listening to John Laws. Why must you spread your anger when obviously no one cares to hear it. The forum is meant for intelligent, impersonal thoughts and opinions. Why don't you go for a nice bike ride and bond with nature.

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    5. Markie Linhart

      Rouleur

      In reply to Iain Millar

      Mate, there's not a stitch of lycra in my cupboard - you're making assumptions about how I ride because of my descriptor, just as you're making assumptions about all cyclists being lawbreakers.

      And yes I did report you as being abusive and offensive - because you are…

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    6. Iain Millar

      Unemployed at Centrelink

      In reply to Ravi Shaftesbury

      First, these mythical reports, please cite one example.
      Second, I concede that drivers break the law; all the more reason for cyclists to act in an exemplary manner at all times to preserve their belief that they hold the moral high ground.
      Your last para has an element of truth, I am not suicidal so I don't participate in that never-ending game of bluff between the 80kg bike and the 1500kg sedan.

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    7. Iain Millar

      Unemployed at Centrelink

      In reply to Kim Cooper

      That's your professional opinion is it? FYI I'm unemployed because I don't have to work and the only thing I have ever admired about John Laws is his taste in cars.
      I'm not angry, I'm merely providing a balance to the peleton of self-righteousness that comprises the mutual-admiration-society of pushbike riders.
      They are very much like chooks; gang up and peck the critic to death regardless of the validity of his arguments.

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    8. Iain Millar

      Unemployed at Centrelink

      In reply to Markie Linhart

      Hmmm, as a spectator I would have assumed that lycra was costume de rigueur for a rouleur.
      FYI I have both a Colnago and a Mittiga in my shed awaiting welding into a garden ornament because I am embarrassed to be recognised as a rider - their behaviour is getting worse, their arrogance is appalling and their pechant for getting into dangerous situations and then proclaiming "it's all the motorists fault" is dangerous.

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  54. Andrei Reztsov

    Mathematician, Senior Research Officer at the ACCM at UNSW Australia

    One of the first lines of the Article is giving wrong statement: “You’re mindful of traffic infringement fines and public safety”. It should be re-written as following: “You’re mindful of public safety”. And full stop here. Safety is only reason for stopping on red light, not the fact that Police could find and fine you. We are robbing banks or stealing from supermarket because we could be caught.

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    1. Iain Millar

      Unemployed at Centrelink

      In reply to Andrei Reztsov

      No, you're not robbing banks or stealing - mathematicians, in my personal view, wouldn't be capable of that, but, as a cyclist become feral and break all laws God gave, simply because they can't be identified.

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    2. Andrei Reztsov

      Mathematician, Senior Research Officer at the ACCM at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Iain Millar

      I am OK with the fact that that the push-bikes are on the roads. Let’s try to improve the safety of their trips as well as trips of other people (who are in vehicles, not on bikes). Let’s try to make people on bikes equal participants of traffic who also holds the everybody’s safety responsibilities. This is not an easy task. There is not easy solution. My personal experience as a driver of private car tells me that it is easy for me to give enough safe space for push-bikes if they are in front…

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