Cyclotherapy: 'Whenever I'm in front of a police car at traffic lights, I throw my bike over my shoulder and make a run for it'
It's time to dig up an old favourite this week: red-light jumping. I've been thinking about the ethics of red-light jumping a little more than usual recently. As it happens, I've been interested in getting involved in politics, and wondered what I would do if I ever happened to become an elected official.
As became clear when David Cameron was caught riding the wrong way down a one-way street, politicians appear incredibly hypocritical if they go around breaking the law while preaching to everyone else at the same time. To my mind, politicians should surely be the example that everyone else should follow, not people who believe that their privileged situation leaves them with a right to flout the law.
The problem is that when it comes to the laws that ban cyclists from jumping red lights, I fundamentally disagree with them. As I've written before, it's often safer for a cyclist to get ahead of the traffic by jumping a light, and as long as it's always done with care – giving way to any traffic (cars or pedestrians) that have the right of way – it shouldn't be dangerous. It's certainly much safer than one of the legal courses of action, which is to hop off your bike and run with it across a busy junction. Incidentally, this is what I do whenever I end up in front of a police car at traffic lights. Rather than risking a ticket, I risk my life, by throwing my bike over my shoulder and making a run for it. I hope the irony is not lost on the officers looking on.
Pedestrians can (and do) cross busy road junctions how they like, yet when it comes to bicycles, the law says you must stop at a red light, even though bikers can get across much faster and much more safely. It's entirely inconsistent.
One thing I certainly would do if I ever became a politician is to work towards changing the road laws so that they are safer and more flexible for bikes. Letting cyclists turn left at red traffic lights, or jump lights when they're coming along the top-side of a T-junction, would be easy measures to make the roads safer and more convenient for cyclists.
Encouragingly, organisations such as Cycling England – which recently received a windfall from the Government to improve facilities for cycling around the country – are already working hard to come up with ways of making city roads more bike-friendly.
But that doesn't solve the problem of what to do in the meantime. Sadly, until the law's been changed, I think that politicians should be expected to stop at red lights – however ludicrous I might think the law is. But for me, it'll be a hard habit to break.
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