.red light

I've become something of a stroppy red light enforcer recently. That makes it sound more exciting than the truth of the matter - which is basically that if I'm on the bike and see someone running a red I'll give them my tuppenceworth.

What gives me the right? I hear the cry. It doesn't harm you! I have thrown at me. Well, this is kind of my point, I think it does.

I'm not one of the pedestrians who you might hit; nor am I the motorist who might hit you assuming the way is clear because he has a green light (okay, yes, we should never assume the way is clear, but by the same token, if I ride through a green light and get sideswiped by a car going through a red I'd be most annoyed if someone suggested I should have anticipated that happening). But what I am is a cyclist. And that matters. Even more so, I'm a cyclist who tries to campaign to change people's views and improvew the lot of cyclists. Can you see where I'm going with this?

Yes, actually, I can understand that the danger posed by running a red light is usually more to yourself than other people, and it's your inalienable right to put yourself into a position that could see you squashed by an artic. But in so-doing what you also manage is backing up and cementing that opinion in a relatively large number of people that cyclists don't abide by the rules. And we start to play knock-on with that theory.

Anyone who has tried to campaign about cycling will know that if you raise the subject of bikes with non-cyclists there are things that always come up. Running red lights; riding on pavements; not having lights. Without fail. You start from a point of no return. Cyclists are already up against it. 'Why bother trying to make things better for cyclists if cyclists are just going to do whatever they please and run about as if the rules of the road don't apply to them?' I've heard it too many times.

Of course it's just an excuse. Absolutely. But it's an excuse that, especially if backed up by the actions of a minority who are confirming that excuse, can be used to remarkable effect not to put infrastructure in place for cyclists. A recent Edinburgh consultation on 20mph zones requested submissions, and a couple of these, however seemingly random, made mention of cyclists running red lights. It had precisely nothing to do with the consultation, and yet these people thought it worthwhile to add.

Would that excuse be replaced by something else if all cyclists stopped at red? Of course it would, but the more we can knock back by our actions the better, because excuses such as cyclists looking stupid wearing lycra start to sound more and more desperate. But in the meantime the excuse has a misplaced legitimacy, and a legitimacy that influences every cyclist on the roads every day.

That is why I would like you to stop at a red light. Because a one minute wait is a lot less inconvenient than arguing against years of ingrained excuse-making.

.the end

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