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Paris Cyclists Allowed To Run Red Lights 11

Eiffel Tower bicycle

“Guess what? I’m French! – Photo by Rohand / ratemyvelo.com

Paris city councillors recently voted to give the green light to cyclists to legally proceed through red lights in the French capital. The pilot program will be tested at 15 intersections in east end of Paris and if successful will roll out to 1,700 intersections across the city.

Cyclists must of course yield to pedestrians and oncoming traffic before proceeding through these designated intersections and would be held liable if they caused a collision.

The Telegraph reports that the measure has already been tested in Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Nantes, where “these experiments have led to no rise in the number of accidents”.

“It makes cycle traffic more fluid and avoids bunching up cyclists when the traffic lights go green for motorists,” said municipal authorities quoted in the Telegraph article.

Anyone who rides a bicycle in a large city with inadequate bicycle infrastructure will know that blindly obeying laws that were primarily written for motor vehicles often puts cyclists in more danger. When cyclists are bunched up a red light, they are often dangerously squeezed by drivers racing to get a jump start  after the light turns green.

Traffic signals that allow pedestrians and cyclists to proceed before cars have been shown to help reduce conflict. Likewise, having a cyclist wait at an empty intersection makes little sense since cyclists pose very little danger to others and are inherently more aware of their surroundings – for they are not confined in a cage of glass and metal with endless internal distractions and a limited view.

The fact that our traffic signals exist solely to contain the death and destruction that motor vehicles cause is often forgotten.

Here in China this is not the case. Car culture arrived so recently in China that everybody here knows that traffic signals were nonexistent prior to the onslaught of motor vehicles that came with the recent car boom.

Thus, cyclists and scooters are not required to obey traffic signals, whereas waiting for a green light here is mandatory for car drivers.

I have always said that I believe being courteous is far more important for cyclists than blindly obeying laws that were created without bicyclists in mind.

Perhaps allowing cyclists to legally pass through red traffic lights will help reduce the animosity that drivers feel when they see a cyclist breaking the law.

Here in China, drivers have no animosity towards cyclists even though cyclists don’t need to wait alongside drivers for a green light.

As a result, road rage is virtually nonexistent here and riding a bicycle is far more pleasant and safe – even on the few roads that lack physically separated bike lanes.

Thanks for the tip @macbeestje / @TreeHugger

James D. Schwartz is a Transportation Pragmatist and the Editor of The Urban Country. James is based in Toronto, Canada and is currently residing in Hainan, China. You can contact James at james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com or follow him on Twitter.

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  • http://twitter.com/glhjr MyWHaT/G. Howe

    Not sure that is accurate to say that bicyclists aren’t required to wait for the lights in China.

    I fondly recall being held in “timeout” for inching forward and attempting to go on red. The “auntie” who was the enforcer at this particular intersection was really strict and if you acted up, she’d force you to the sidewalk and make you wait a full cycle before letting you go. Meanwhile, while she was reprimanding the offender dozens of other bicyclists would take advantage and proceed unencumbered. Fun stuff.

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      Hi Gary, good point. There are a few intersections here in Haikou that are enforced by the traffic “aunties”, but this only happens at the very busy downtown intersections where it’s not usually safe to proceed anyway. So to clarify, cyclists and scooters are not required to wait for a green light if it is safe to proceed (which is the same thing that Paris is allowing on certain intersections).

  • http://twitter.com/glhjr MyWHaT/Gary L. Howe

    Not sure that is accurate to say that bicyclists aren’t required to wait for the lights in China.

    I fondly recall being held in “timeout” for inching forward and attempting to go on red. The “auntie” who was the enforcer at this particular intersection was really strict and if you acted up, she’d force you to the sidewalk and make you wait a full cycle before letting you go. Meanwhile, while she was reprimanding the offender dozens of other bicyclists would take advantage and proceed unencumbered. Fun stuff.

  • Tkeen

    Several places in the US allow motorcyclists to pass through red lights, largely because those intersections have weight sensors to trigger the lights, that motorcyclists are too light to set off.

  • Tkeen

    Several places in the US allow motorcyclists to pass through red lights, largely because those intersections have weight sensors to trigger the lights, that motorcyclists are too light to set off.

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    Hi Gary, good point. There are a few intersections here in Haikou that are enforced by the traffic “aunties”, but this only happens at the very busy downtown intersections where it’s not usually safe to proceed anyway. So to clarify, cyclists and scooters are not required to wait for a green light if it is safe to proceed (which is the same thing that Paris is allowing on certain intersections).

  • Dragan Jovanović

    Here it seems it’s only on T junctions :
    “The Parisian system now allows cyclists to turn right at a red light when approaching a T-junction (the equivalent of turning left in Britain) or to carry straight on through a red light when travelling straight on at a T-junction.”
    (source : http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/cyclesafety/article3314892.ece)

    I would like to read about this on some really relevant site, not in the news.

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      The Times is the only source I can find that even mentions the T-Junctions. It wasn’t mentioned in the Telegraph source that I referenced.

      However, I’m not sure how relevant it is, because if successful the initiative will be rolled out to 1,700 intersections across the city with 30km/h speed limits. There is nothing I can find that indicates that these 1,700 intersections are all t-junctions.

      Furthermore, road.cc claims that it isn’t just cyclists riding the curb/kerb approaching the t-intersection that are exempt from the traffic signals:

      “Councillors in Paris voted to adopt the trial that will see cyclists in areas around the Canal Saint-Martin in the 10th Arrondisement allowed to ignore traffic lights when turning right, or at T-junctions, including where the cyclist is riding along the main road and another one joins from the side.”

  • Dragan Jovanović

    Here it seems it’s only on T junctions :
    “The Parisian system now allows cyclists to turn right at a red light when approaching a T-junction (the equivalent of turning left in Britain) or to carry straight on through a red light when travelling straight on at a T-junction.”
    (source : http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/cyclesafety/article3314892.ece)

    I would like to read about this on some really relevant site, not in the news.

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    The Times is the only source I can find that even mentions the T-Junctions. It wasn’t mentioned in the Telegraph source that I referenced.

    However, I’m not sure how relevant it is, because if successful the initiative will be rolled out to 1,700 intersections across the city with 30km/h speed limits. There is nothing I can find that indicates that these 1,700 intersections are all t-junctions.

    Furthermore, road.cc claims that it isn’t just cyclists riding the curb/kerb approaching the t-intersection that are exempt from the traffic signals:

    “Councillors in Paris voted to adopt the trial that will see cyclists in areas around the Canal Saint-Martin in the 10th Arrondisement allowed to ignore traffic lights when turning right, or at T-junctions, including where the cyclist is riding along the main road and another one joins from the side.”

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