The run a red revolution

It may be a long standing joke (or sense of frustration) amongst motorists that cyclists think they have specialist privileges when it comes to observance of the Highway Code, but the joke may be on motorists if a recently published report has its way.

The results of the “Construction Traffic and Cycle Safety” Report suggest that cyclists should be awarded the privilege of a legal right to turn left at a red light, when there is no oncoming traffic. Accident data between January 2007 and August 2014 has shown that there were no cycling fatalities caused by a cyclist turning into a carriageway on a red light, suggesting that there is no increased danger to cyclist or motorist in allowing cyclists to do so. The prevailing, and perhaps mythical, view prior the report had been that the practice of cyclists turning left onto a road at a red light was dangerous and cause of fatalities and injuries.

The principle of turning to the nearside is one that has already been adopted in other countries. The USA is well known for its “Right on Red” policy that allows motorists to turn right at a red light when there is no oncoming traffic. The City of Paris has already trialled cyclists being able to turn to the nearside and has found no safety concerns for either cyclists or pedestrians, and has therefore made it legal.

Any change in the law to allow such a practice in England and Wales would have to be enacted by Parliament, so it would be some time before we saw this change. But this report could be the first step in a brighter future for cyclists and an era of envy for motorists.

The manoeuvre relies on cyclists to check for oncoming traffic, and it would be their responsibility to ensure that they enter the carriageway only when they have right of way to do so, i.e. when no vehicle or other cyclist is approaching. This is not exactly ground breaking, as any road user or pedestrian already has responsibility to ensure they avoid another road user’s right of way.

What is likely to be the challenge presented to road users is the concept that motorists (and other cyclists) will have to be acutely aware that despite a green light giving them right of way over a junction or crossing, a cyclist may enter the carriageway ahead of them, in what is currently an “unconventional way”. We would all no doubt adjust to this new rule if introduced, but it will be interesting to see if there is an increase in collisions with cyclists within the first year or so of any law being enacted.

Helmets and horns at the ready!