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Cycle Law

Cycling Offences – Jumping Red Lights

Under section 36 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Traffic Signs Regulations and regulations 10 and 36(1) of the Directions and Directions 2002, road users must not cross the stop line when the traffic lights are red.

This offence, also known as “red light jumping”, applies to cyclists as well as motorists. The maximum penalty for red light jumping is a £1,000 fine and six penalty points on the driver’s licence. However, in most cases, a driver will get a Fixed Penalty Notice (or On-the-Spot fine) of £30 [1], while the maximum would only ever be imposed if the Fixed Penalty Notice is contested and taken to court. The punishment is also applicable to cyclists who, if caught, can be issued a Fixed Penalty Notice of £30.

However, there can be more serious consequences, as was seen in December 2013 when a cyclist was jailed for 12 months after jumping a red light, knocking down a nine-year-old girl and leaving the scene. The cyclist collided with the girl at what eyewitnesses estimated to be 30mph. He had failed to stop at the red light and the girl stepped out onto the pedestrian crossing.

The judge told the cyclist he was the only one to blame for the “incredibly selfish criminal act” after the cyclist admitted to a charge of causing grievous bodily harm. Despite the potentially serious consequences, only four per cent of all pedestrian injuries as a result of red light jumping have been caused by cyclists, with the remaining 96% involving motor vehicles [2].

Yet cyclists appear to frequently jump red lights and more than 4,000 cyclists were issued Fixed Penalty Notices after being caught jumping red lights or ignoring other road signs in 2013 [3]. The Institute of Advanced Motorists has also revealed in its research that 57% of cyclists admit to running red lights [4], while a YouGov poll revealed that 35% of cyclists at least “occasionally” ignore red lights [5].

But if it’s illegal for a cyclist to jump a red light, as it is for any other road user, why do so many cyclists think it’s acceptable and frequently do it?

The National Cycling Charity believes some cyclists jump red lights as they feel safer moving into the open spaces at junctions rather than waiting with fellow road users, who often accelerate into the junction once the traffic light turns green [6]. However, statistics show that in 2012, “Disobeyed automatic traffic signal” (which includes red light jumping) was assigned by the police to one per cent of pedal cycles involved in reported incidents where a contributory factor was given to one of the vehicles involved  [7].

This is roughly the same percentage assigned to cars. PC James Aveling, an experienced City of London bike patrol officer, argues that the statistics disguise the size of the problem caused by cyclists jumping red lights because there is no legal obligation to report collisions between bikes and pedestrians [8].

Nevertheless, contrary to popular belief, cyclists are not the only road users who regularly jump red lights. According to the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, red light jumping in London is prevalent among motorists, with 47,932 fines issued in 2006 for drivers caught jumping red lights (that is, 130 drivers a day) [9].

Although much has been said about allowing cyclists to jump red lights in certain situations, or reducing the fine for the offence, cyclists are under the same laws as other road users when it comes to obeying road sign and signals. Jumping a red light is dangerous behaviour, regardless of whether you are behind a steering wheel or handlebars.

In London, between 2001 and 2005, three cyclists and seven motor vehicle occupants were killed when a motorist jumped a red light, while two cyclists were killed by red light jumping during the same period [10].

[1] The Road Safety (Financial Penalty Deposit) (Appropriate Amount) Sch 1, Table 5(9)

[2] Transport for London ‘Travel in London, Report 4’ (2011). Available at: <> accessed March 2014.

[3] Massey and Thomas, ‘More than 11,000 cyclists caught running through red lights and riding on pavements in just one year’ MailOnline (18th January 2014). Available at: <> accessed March 2013.

[4] Institute of Advanced Motorists, ‘Do cyclists jump red lights?’ (14th May 2012). Available at <> accessed March 2014.

[5] W Jordan, ‘Most London Cyclists Don’t Run Red Lights – But Many Do’ YouGov (21st November 2013). Available at <> accessed March 2014.

[6] The National Cycling Charity, ‘Cyclists’ behaviour and the law’ (January 2014), 9

[7] Department of Transport, ‘Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2012’  (September 2013), Table RAS 50005. Available at <> accessed March 2014.

[8] P Walker, ‘Why do police target cyclists who jump red lights?’ The Guardian (16th April 2010). Available at <> accessed March 2014.

[9] Questions to the Mayor (Ken Livingstone), 18th October 2006 from Jenny Jones. Available at <> accessed March 2014.

[10] The National Cycling Charity, ‘Cyclists’ behaviour and the law’ (January 2014), 10

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