Cyclists can run red lights in Paris

Following a successful three-year trial, cyclists can run red lights in Paris. Newly installed bicycle signals allow bicycles to turn right or go straight across at a T-junction while motorised traffic will have to wait.

cyclists can run red lights

It has long been argued that traffic lights exist to force car drivers to allow pedestrians to cross the road, regulate the flow of traffic and moderate speed – factors that apply differently, if at all, to cyclists.

The new law in Paris allows bicycles to turn right or go straight across at a T-junction if the road is clear – even when the lights are red. Traffic lights for bicycles will be placed under the traffic lights for cars.

It is hoped the new rules will improve the flow of cycle traffic, ease the smog that has plagued the city this year and help encourage 15% of all journeys to be undertaken by bicycle.

cyclists can run red lights in Paris

cyclists run red lightIt seems only logical to allow cyclists to make turns on red when it is safe for them to do so. The reason some cyclists go through red lights might be because traffic lights are unable to detect aluminium, carbon fibre and titanium-framed bikes.

Many traffic lights in towns and cities can detect whether vehicles are waiting, and change their phasing accordingly, but the technology on which they rely recognises only ferrous metals – such as the steel in cars and lorries. The result is that these ‘intelligent’ traffic lights are not clever enough to detect carbon fibre-framed bicycles. In fact, anything other than a traditional steel frame may not be registered.

This technological blindness leaves the rider of a carbon fibre, aluminium or titanium-framed bike invisible to traffic lights. Unreliable detection of bicycles by traffic lights can mean cyclists wait longer if there are no cars or lorries around. The frustration that ensues may prompt some to jump the red light.

A new detection system currently being tested in Glasgow, London and Bournemouth uses radar to detect 98 – 99 per cent of bicycles, irrespective of what they are made from.

Red light jumping

Every time you jump a red light on a bicycle in Britain you fuel the popular misconception that cyclists are less law abiding, and more careless, than motorists.

According to a 2008 Freedom of Information Request, in London, (a notoriously rich mix of pedestrians, cyclists and traffic lights), no pedestrians were killed in collision with a cyclist going through a red light between 1998-2007. Cyclists were involved in only a small percentage of injuries to them. Over the same period, 12 pedestrians were killed by motorists jumping red lights – a fact that did not prompt newspapers write headlines about the danger from cars.

The technological deficiencies of traffic lights mentioned above are interesting, and it is right that they are being corrected, but they do not explain why red light jumping occurs.

The question of whether, in certain circumstances (and always once all those on foot have crossed), it is safer for a cyclist to cross a junction while the light is still red is hard to answer and harder still for the media, and non-cyclists in general, to even contemplate.

The majority of serious road traffic collisions involving bicycles may occur on or near junctions, but have little to do with red light jumping. The single most serious risk to cyclists in urban areas is posed by lorries pulling away from lights and/or turning left. Indeed, some suspect the disproportionately-high number of women cyclists killed by lorries in this way may be explained by a reluctance to wait in front of a queue of traffic at lights (and perhaps pull away just before the light turns green), and a willingness to wait beside the kerb on the inside of traffic.

Red light jumping is one of a number of divisive road safety issues that masks the most important question of all: Who are our streets for?

Cycle insurance from the ETA

On the face of it, one cycle insurance policy is much like another, but the devil is the detail. How much excess you will be charged is just one of the things that varies wildly between providers. Another is so called ‘new-for-old’ replacement – many insurers use this term, but if your bicycle is more than a few years old, devalue it severely. This means you are left out of pocket when you come to replace it.

ETA cycle insurance has a low standard excess of 5% (minimum £25) and offers a new-for-old for life – how ever old the bike, if it’s stolen you get enough to buy a new model.

ETA 25 yearsFor 25 years we have been providing straightforward, affordable bicycle insurance. Whether you use your bike to commute, shop, race or amble in the park, ETA Cycle Insurance has you covered. We never devalues bikes no matter their age, allow you to buy your replacement bike wherever you like, replace stolen quick release components and we handle claims in-house. Can your insurance provider say the same?

Furthermore, every cycle insurance policy you buy helps support the work of the ETA Trust, our charity campaigning for a cleaner, safer transport future.


  1. Doug Milsom


    In the USA, at least in some cities there, motorists are also allowed to turn right at a red light if the road is clear. I assumed that they also had a duty to allow pedestrians to cross! This seemed a very sensible idea, but of course, we never copy America’s good ideas, only their bad ones. I admit that I was there several years go. I believe that our laws should adopt a principle of their being no such thing as a victim-less crime. We should be able to cross red lights on empty roads (if we can find one!). and ride considerately on footpaths, giving pedestrians the right of way.

  2. David


    I have several steel bikes and they don’t trip the lights either, in fact neither did my motorbikes when I used to ride them.

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