Understanding Red Light Jumpers

The jumping of red traffic lights by cyclists is one of the biggest criticisms levelled against cyclists in Dublin.

If you stand at any traffic junction in the city centre for a minute or two, you’re more or less guaranteed to spot a cyclist jumping a red light. Indeed on certain routes in the city it’s become the norm to break the lights, and as a cyclist you can sometimes get a strange look if you stop and wait at the lights.

Drawing from Bikeyface - click for more!
Drawing from Bikeyface – click for more!

There are all kinds of reasons/excuses given by red light jumpers (RLJers) as to why they break the lights – and some have more merit than others. In certain circumstances a badly designed road, or a combination of dangerous vehicles (buses, lorries, etc.) at a junction can make it quite dangerous to stop and wait at the lights. Cyclists can end up trapped with very little space, or in the blind spot of a vehicle, which makes them vulnerable when traffic starts moving again. However, in the vast majority of cases that I see in Dublin, it’s not avoiding danger that motivates RLJers, it’s more a case that it’s too inconvenient to stop.

It also becomes learnt behaviour for new cyclists too. They see lots of other bikes sailing straight through the lights, and think that it must be okay for them to do the same. And the vast majority of the time, it doesn’t cause any problems, if you’re careful about it. There isn’t a massive problem with RLJers being mowed down by cars. And in Dublin the guards don’t seem to care about it either. Indeed many garda cyclists seem to be just as bad at ignoring red lights as everyone else.

So why should we be bothered about cyclists who jump red lights?

Well it could also be argued that jumping red lights on a bike contributes in a very visible way to the general sense of lawlessness on Ireland’s roads. A car driver may subconsciously think “if a cyclist can jump a red light without causing a problem or being caught, then maybe I can too”. And what worries me is that drivers already have a pretty relaxed attitude to adhering to the rules of the road (such as speeding, using mobile phones, illegal/dangerous parking, and so on), and I don’t want to give them any excuses for their behaviour to deteriorate any further.

What I’d prefer is that all road users, cyclists and drivers, adhere to the rules of the road – and also that the garda put some effort into enforcing traffic regulations.

Richard Bloomfield

Richard is the founder of Dublin Bike Blog. He commutes to work every day by bike, come rain or shine, on his Dutch city bike. You can read more from Richard on his blog richardbloomfield.ie.

2 thoughts on “Understanding Red Light Jumpers

  • 10 September, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    As a “foreign national” driver who’s been here for 12 years I was amazed at the relaxed attitude to red lights by other car drivers. For the last 4 months I’ve been cycling to work across Dublin, it’s a 23km distance and I counted 51 set of traffic lights. I think two factors contribute to this relaxed attitude, the obsession with traffic lights at every junction which could be better served by roundabouts or give-ways, the timing of the lights are extremely slow (newer lights have sensors and are a bit smarter) presumably to allow for red light jumpers.
    As a cyclist trying to get to work in a reasonable time, loosing all momentum 51 times (worst case) makes the journey much harder and longer and is unnecessary in most instances.


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