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Should cyclists run red lights?


Apr 23, 2006
I invite your opinions on this one.

Personally, i run them if I think they are safe. I stop at major intersections of course, but I blow through them after checking they are safe if they are not biggies.

Still it is a moral question. We rail at motorists who break the law and endanger us. My view is that there is a large difference between a car breaking the rules and a bike. The roads are largely designed for cars, not bikes, so whereas we are entitled to our liberties, endangering no one as we do, so cars need to understand the balance of their responsibilities.

Anyway, have your say!
I concur: I run them whenever possible without endangering others and/or myself.

Apart from moral implications and different stipulations for motorists and cyclists I believe that the ubiquity of traffic signals in Tokyo is unbearable. Even the smallest intersections are controlled by traffic lights. Overregulations leads to defiance of traffic ordinances.

However, I don't think it is legally and practically feasible to introduce different traffic regulations for cyclists and motorists, as long as both share the same roads. And even if there were bicycle lanes, would we roadies use them??
NOT! I never run red lights.

So Philip, it must take you forever to get anywhere! I agree with Thomas and Ash here. At big intersections I grab the nearest pole and wait, otherwise I look and then go for it, usually looking behind for any coppers! Although I doubt they even care about such small infringements. Usually they look the other way, and this is speaking from experience.
I do wonder what other motorists think about it though. The other day I ran a red and was almost run off the road by a concrete truck, whom I was :bike:sure did it on purpose. I opened up the taps in hope of catching him and giving him a bit of verbal abuse, but unfortunately he floored it after probably seeing me getting closer in his rearview mirror!
I find I obey lights more often than not these days, though I'm out in the inaka so don't have to deal with them every...single...block...for...forty...kilometers, unlike those of you in the depths of Tokyo.

My thinking is if I'm nice and play by the rules, I get the moral right to knock on the doors of those dump-truck-the-size-of-my-house to which Mike refers that urge you up on to the sidewalk by passing six inches from your right earlobe...
I have ran red lights on every other occassion but I have noted it to myself that it is a bad practice. Especially when I take new group riders out and blow through a red light that I am usely accustomed to running, just messes with their new rider mindset. Plus with the new riders if you stop at every ride light, then they become more apt to defensive ride along with you. For example, I rode a day with a new rider and I cautiously entered intersections with red lights, slowed and if clear proceeded. Then the new rider was like, "Okay, I guess we are doing all reds like this"? So the next light which is a major intersection, I decided to fully stop and even motioned a hand signal, but he plowed into from behind. I now treat all red lights the same. We expect it from motorists, it should be the same for cyclists. Plus when we start running red lights, we make it very dangerous for pedestrians.
I do tend to jump small lights if there's nothing coming. On some routes there's simply too many lights and their syncing is pretty awful.

Regarding the moral dimensions, I guess this can be context specific. If you look at how other cyclists on ma-ma chariots ride, then I guess the occassional jumping of a light is pretty small beer; though of course, just cause they do it doesn't mean we all should .... it is irritating when they zoom past you though.
Yes & No!

I suppose the term, "RUN a red-light" is a little ambiguous;
Does it mean "Ignore red-lights" all together", or does it mean "Go through after you've stopped & checked whether it's safe or not?".

Come on, guys! Most of us are from countries where a "Red-Light" means STOP!!! And even a yellow/amber light also means STOP!

I will swing half-way between "ambiguity", and say definitely, "STOP! AT EVERY RED-LIGHT!", But..
Then, after checking that there are no cars coming, proceed through the intersection at your own caution.

>Shay: It's entirely possible that the new-guy saw you "not stopping", and he copied you; but he DIDN'T see you "checking for traffic" before you went through.

That said, I've had to come to a complete sudden-stop at red-lights from a fairly high speed to check the intersection, while a "mama-chari" (on the side-walk) has ridden straight across the same intersection without even a glance to either side ... right next to me - that's kind of annoying.

Then another time, after I'd come to a complete stop and checked that no cars were coming, I went through the red-light, and some old guy started screaming at me for going through! (Why doesn't he yell at mama-chari's like that?)
- Mama-chari's go through without looking.
- Real bike riders stop & check first (And I still don't know how they live longer:p)

So, if asked for an answer, it's "YES! Stop at every red-light".
But.. "NO! You shouldn't have to wait until the light turns green before you move along" - as long as the coast is clear - Just stop, check, and keep it safe!

Common sense prevails!
If I'm in our team uniform I stop. Motorists have been know to report back to the sponsor SEO cycle. Also good advertising for our team to stop at reds and obey the laws...( I try to only wear my uniform when in a race or if my other stuff is in the washing machine).

That being said... I run reds when it is safe to do so.
If kids are around I try and set a good example and sneak through when they glance away. :rolleyes:

I drive a car, walk dogs and am sometimes known to have walked as a pedestrian so I look at cycling from all those angles... be empathetic to your other roles as a ningen. If you're going to piss somebody off by your actions then you should think about it... then piss them off.

I had 2 mopeds and an oyaji pass me on the road the other morning as they raced to the red light just up ahead.

The 2 mopeds pulled to the front and I pulled up next to the oyaji as he was riding to the right of the lane. We were in a perfect 2X2 formation.
The light changed and we all rode off in formation... I could see the oyaji's face in his mirror as he was just a little in front of me. I felt safe and was not breaking any rules.

The oyaji then decides to suddenly turn left into a gas station and I caught his indicator light flick on the exact time he turned. Obviously he had no idea I was there and couldn't imagine that cyclist he passed way back was still with him.

I slammed on my brakes back wheel fishing wheeling and I managed to swerve around the back of him as I let out an ear damaging 'OIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII'. The station attendants looked at me like I was a crazy man. I didn't stop, just kept going with my heart rate probably at max.... :gun:

After that red light (stopping) incident I strategically ran every red light after that in anger and escaped from any danger following behind me.....

Rules were made to be broken just don't break anything else or get caught... Send out the Bat radar (BEEP) so you know when the cops have a trap set up on your favorite intersection. Be ready to outrun them and have double back escape routes in your mind at all times. :D

(in busy areas I always stop and don't run reds I will go through them very slowly..only as they are just about to go green and only if it's 100% safe to do so.)

1. "Running" a red-light. - Completely ignoring it!
2. "Stopping" briefly (but completely) to check for oncoming traffic, then going through.
3. "Stopping" completely for the duration of the 'red'.

Maybe it's just me, but when you use the term (1) "'RUN' a red light", it sounds like you're an ambulance or fire-engine with lights flashing - and that you can just go through any intersection you feel like - a little bit arrogant, perhaps.
Whereas term (3) - stopping for the whole time the light is red, even when there is obviously no danger of any cars from either/any side, is a little bit too... over-cautious!
I'm basically a (2) guy - Stop for EVERY red, but if it's clear, then go!

Each of them have their own good & bad points:
"1", is almost always bad, unless... you know the road & that particular set of traffic lights like the back of your hand.
"3", is good for when riding with people who are new to the bike, or when you're on roads for the first time, and when on roads that you're not sure of.
"2", is kind of in between - You keep safe by actually STOPPING! But then you bend the law by going through when it's safe - like a "mama-chari", but safer!

Please don't ever say to me, (1) "I 'RAN' a red-light, and got hit!" - I will have no sympathy for you whatsoever - It serves yourself right!
And by the same token, don't say to me, (3) "I was late because I observed every single traffic-light on the way here".
(2) Is... as they say, "Taking the middle road!"

But so there's no misunderstanding, please change the:
(1) "RUN" a red-light (IGNORE) to...
(2) "GO THROUGH" a red-light (STOP & CHECK) and then to...
(3) "OBSERVE" a red-light (STOP & WAIT FOR GREEN).

ie. "I run some lights on Mito-kaido because they're only for pedestrians, and there are never any cars coming from the side. But along Edo-dori, I have to stop and go through some places because I'm not sure if a car will be rolling through or not. And if I have to turn onto Showa-dori, I don't know many of those intersections, so I will observe every traffic signal."

Rubber Down! Travis
Red lights are GREAT!

--> Hey philip
that's defintily the joke of the day!!!!!
you "passing mr. red light" himslef :D:D

It's the only way I can keep up with you Christoph :D

I read you crashed into a car :eek:uch: Are you OK? It was probably Ash jumping red lights in his car ;)



Just joking Ash :)

hi all!

Very interesting!

Just to be clear, 'running a red light' simply means going through while it is still red. I didn't mean sailing through without looking obviously. Perhaps 'sneaking' red lights might be a better term! I mean first you slow down or stop, check out it is safe and then blow through.

I take this approach to every red light, there are way to many of them anyway in this over-regulated place we live! I am reminded of a comic I once saw of a deserted street with no cars for miles around, a clock that says it is 3am in the morning and somebody waiting at the curbside because the light says 'don't walk'.
Cyclists should jump red lights . . .

Women cyclists 'risk death' by obeying traffic lights
Women cyclists are far more likely to be killed by a lorry because, unlike men, they tend to obey red lights and wait at junctions in the driver's blind spot, according to a study.

Interesting article in The Times. It concludes you need to be aggressive and assertive to survive as a cyclist.



To obey, or not to obey . . .

Not getting flattened by a 50,000 pound "big rig" is a good reason to stop at a red light if you're on a bicycle. But how about less skin-saving reasons? Are there in fact, good reasons to ignore traffic regulations when you can, because after all, they are really meant just for cars?

It's a question that comes readily to mind at times, particularly say when pedaling up a steep hill or going down one, and having to stop at a red light in the middle. Many of us often just cruise through with a careful glance in each direction, but we feel guilty about it. Should we?

Maybe not. If you look historically, you'll find that there were practically no traffic regulations as we know them before cars. No stop signs. No traffic lights. No left turn lanes. In the 19th century, the streets of New York were a seething mass of horse drawn wagons, walking adults, playing children and yes, in the late 19th century, bicyclists.

See the whole of this excellent article at Streets Blog:



Women cyclists 'risk death' by obeying traffic lights
Women cyclists are far more likely to be killed by a lorry because, unlike men, they tend to obey red lights and wait at junctions in the driver's blind spot, according to a study.

Interesting article in The Times. It concludes you need to be aggressive and assertive to survive as a cyclist.




Positioning your bike alongside a lorry at a junction is potentially signing your own death warrant. The only time this is safe is if you are completely confident you can out-accelerate the lorry and be across the junction before it has even started rolling, and you need to be waiting for the light right at the front of the lorry. Otherwise, slot in behind the lorry. There is usually at least a bike-length of space between the lorry and the next vehicle.
If the vehicles at the front of the red traffic-light queue are signalling to turn left, I position my bike on their right. This gives me a bit of clear space, as they are slow turning left and I can be well on my way before vehicles start coming straight. Even if the vehicles are not signalling, that doesn't mean they aren't going to turn. Approaching a junction with green lights, if the vehicle behind me is signalling left, I move my bike out into the lane to show that I will be going straight on and discourage the driver from passing me and doing a last minute left across my path.
We are not quite so exposed to this in Tokyo as the lorries are small by comparison to Euro wagons and US trucks, so the driver is more likely to see us, but they're still big enough to flatten us if they turn across our path.

A lot of people started commuting by bike recently in London after the terrorist attacks on the Underground and the congestion charge, so there are a lot of inexperienced cyclists on the streets there, and it's an unforgiving place to learn the skills you need.

Let's be careful out there....
Common Sense!!!

This argument is getting really stupid!
1. A "red" is a "red", for cars, trucks (lorries), buses, pedestrians AND cyclists!
2. If someone puts themself in a position where they can't be seen by the driver (of whatever vehicle - either in front, or behind), then they're asking for trouble.
3. Trucks ARE king of the road! - If a truck is stopped at a red-light, and you know that it will take off at a faster speed that you can pedal in front of him, WHY? WHY? WHY? do you still feel the need to be in front of him at the red-light?
Leave them the f#ck alone! Stay behind them, and let them take off first!

As for being seen... Of course you need to be slightly aggressive - but that only means "showing your presence!" - In Japanese, SON-ZAI-KAN 存在感!
"Aggressiveness" as a rider, should only mean letting the motorists around you know that, "HEY! I'm here too buddy! But I'm riding in a straight line as close to the (white) line as possible, so if you can pass me without hitting me, please do so!"
As a cyclist - even on a $2,000 - $3,000 machine - the cars own the road.
To take a quote (from one of Lance Armstrong's books, by the way);

Of course cyclists have every right to be on the road as well, but let's face it we ARE a minority out there, so I think the best thing to do is to NOT UPSET those guys in motorized steel boxes! And the best way we can all do that is by setting a good example, and showing the drivers around us that "not all cyclists are law-breaking, swerving, riding-out-in-the-middle-of-the-road, red-light-running IDIOTS!"

Lastly, yes! There are people out there in vehicles who seem to have some "animosity" towards cyclists - But I think that's more of a personality problem, rather than a "cyclist vs motorist" problem. They only account for about 2% of drivers though, so just leave them be, and once they've passed you, you can forget about them.

Rubber Down!
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