13 January 2010
Green light for red-light jumping on lethal London Road
Here's another example where a cyclist is much safer jumping the red lights. It's London Road, which runs northwest from the howdah riders of the Elephant and Castle to the trapeze artists and clowns of St George's Circus.
The pic right shows the view looking south towards the Elephant. The cyclist has just jumped a red light. And he's quite right to do so.
Here's why. Going north (right), from the lights, the left-hand lane is buses and cycles only. The rest of the road carries two lanes of oncoming regular traffic.
So what happens if you obediently wait for the green before setting off? You probably have a bus on your tail. And, unfortunately, not all the drivers are patient enough to wait for safety before overtaking you.
Many buses, perhaps finding the oncoming traffic is oncoming faster than they expected, cut in lethally close as they overtake you at high speed (right). Riding assertively, in the middle of the lane, is no use; it only makes drivers more impatient and more liable to overtake dangerously. Roughly speaking, I'd say that if you obey the lights, you get cut up between one in ten times, and five in ten times, depending on how fast a cyclist you are.
We had a very unpleasant such incident on Monday night. A near-death experience. A brush with mortality and a bus's boundary layer. I glimpsed my doppelgänger, riding a ghostly bike identical to mine, and he looked just like me, only older. It wasn't nice at all. And what did the driver have to say for himself? 'I dunno what you're talking about', before slamming the window shut. Anyway, the matter is currently in the hands of Transport for London's email profanity filter.
A few days ago I covered the new cycle lane at the north end of Blackfriars Bridge, whose only effect is to stop cyclists while giving no safety benefit. No wonder cyclists ignore the red there. (TfL haven't done anything about it yet, though they say they're aware and that the current signal phasing is only a temporary measure. Yeah, well, the Eiffel Tower was only a temporary measure in 1889.) But busting a red there is a matter of bypassing stupidity and inconvenience. Busting the red here, on London Road, is actually a safety benefit: you can put a safe distance between you and the assassin driving the wheeled office block behind you.
As it happens, I always stop at reds. Always. It's a sort of pride-cum-PR thing: I have a superiority complex as a cyclist, and want to show that I'm better than those idiot drivers who ignore ASLs and push their luck at the lights.
But my advice for anyone cycling this stretch is, for your own safety, to ignore the reds (if safe to do so, of course). I won't. But in this case you should do as I say, not do as I do.