France Grants Cyclists the Right to Run Red Lights

Andrew Ciscel/CC BY 2.0

In most cases, traffic rules are designed to vehicles and their occupants from succumbing to the pitfalls of Newton's laws of motion -- but until now, bicyclists have been subject to the same rules and regulations as the multi-ton vehicles with which they share the road. Following a nationwide pro-cycling campaign, French lawmakers recently issued a decree allowing cyclists in some cities to disregard red lights at certain intersections, not merely because such regulations work against cycling physics, but because it actually makes roads safer for everyone.

The newly relaxed rules of the road for cyclists is now being tested across 15 intersections in Paris, though with it bike-commuters aren't given full liberty to blow through crossing points unreasonably. Law will continue to require that cyclists yield to pedestrians and opposing traffic, though that's quite likely consistant with the standards of etiquette and personal safety most cyclists abide to anyways.

According to The Telegraph, the lawmakers believe that the new decree will prevent some of the dangers which arrise from too many cyclists proceeding through an intersection only once the light turns green. In fact, allowing riders to rely on their own judgement may actually be safer:

The measure is already being tested in Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Nantes, where "these experiments have led to no rise in the number of accidents," according to Paris' town hall.

"On my daily bike run I go through three red lights so it saves me time," Caroline, a cyclist in Nantes, told RTL radio. "I just need to look left to see whether a car or even a bike is coming. It works very smoothly." Belgium, Germany and Scandinavia already apply the rule.

"It makes cycle traffic more fluid and avoids bunching up cyclists when the traffic lights go green for motorists," said municipal authorities.

Unlike many traffic rules aimed at reinforcing common sense among all-too-easily unengaged drivers, France's new biker-friendly ordinance isn't merely a sensible move in terms of public safety -- it's a long-overdo nod to cyclists' greatest asset: the instinct of self-preservation, powered by 'self'.

Tags: Bike-Friendly World | Bikes | Bike Sharing | France

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