Robert Hanks: The Cycling Column

Let's all start stopping at the red light
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Indy Lifestyle Online

When did cars stop letting pedestrians walk across zebra crossings? Not the ones that drive straight through - they're probably more dangerous, but at least you know where you stand with them. I mean the ones who stop, but then won't give you time to cross.

Twice this past two days I've had my heels snapped at by vans that started to move off before I'd even got to the middle.

Judging by conversations with non-cyclists, you would think that only cyclists break the Highway Code. Which brings us to stopatred.org, a campaign launched last month by Andy Shrimpton, who runs Cycling Heaven, a bike shop in York.

The campaign's intention is to persuade cyclists to obey the law - specifically, not running red lights. As a law-abiding cyclist, you can sign an online pledge never to indulge in this nefarious practice; you can also download logos and posters with the slogan "Use Your Head, Stop At Red". The website has been up a month and had 970 pledges.

The campaign has aroused surprising controversy on online cycling message boards - surprising, that is, given that its object is something as neutral as obeying the law. A few object to it on the grounds that they know what they're doing, they're risking nobody's life but their own, and they can't see why they shouldn't jump a few lights. If they can't see that in a world where people pick and choose which road rules they're going to obey, cyclists are going to be the losers, well, what hope is there?

Sometimes you need to break the Highway Code to avoid danger, but when does red-light-jumping ever make you safer?

A larger group objects to stopatred on the grounds that the real problem isn't with cyclists, it's with motorists. And a large minority of motorists are bloody awful. Since taking my cycle-training session a couple of weeks back, I've been conscientious about holding my place in the flow of traffic, making sure that the cars know I'm there. Even when there's virtually no space for a car to overtake, and even when you're moving at the same speed as all the cars around you, drivers feel some weird obligation to squeeze past, regardless of the risk they're imposing on you.

But I also think that every time a driver sees a cyclist jump a red light, it makes them that bit less receptive to cyclists' problems. If you are thinking of signing up to stopatred, you might also take some time to log on to givecyclistsroom.co.uk and purchase one of its stickers.

The other objection to stopatred is that it looks like a collective admission of guilt, but that's a good reason to take the moral high ground. Shrimpton puts forward three reasons for not RLJ-ing: it is dangerous, it annoys people, and it is bad PR for cycling. I don't like signing things, so won't press that point; but we should all stop at red lights, and look as smug as possible while we're doing it.

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