It makes an impressive headline on the BBC: Paris to let cyclists skip red lights. It's also a bit of an exaggeration.
It's all part of a campaign by Paris to get more people on bikes and to "help smooth the flow of traffic." Unlike much of North America, in France, drivers cannot turn right on a red light unless there is a special amber arrow. Cyclists are supposed to follow the same rule. But sometimes there is little logic in that, such as when making a right turn or at a T intersection.
What they appear to have done in Paris is allow cyclists to keep going at T intersections, and to turn right on a red, both actions that every cyclist on the planet has been doing since the French Revolution. They are putting up a new yield sign ( the cyclist is responsible for allowing pedestrians and other traffic have right of way) to show where it is now legal, which is a nice thing to do, when in so many cities the police lie in wait to hand out tickets to cyclists for infractions for rules that make sense for cars but not much for bikes. For example, in New York City, bike advocate and lawyer Steve Vaccaro is quoted:
Vaccaro, whose firm represents cyclists involved in accidents or who have received a summons, said that the NYPD will set up checkpoints at T intersections because “it’s the easiest tickets for police officers to write. I think for red lights they should be exercising discretion,” he said. “A T-crossing scenario in a bike lane is a waste of resources.”
It's about time that authorities realized that rules designed for cars shouldn't automatically apply to bikes. Being able to turn right on a red while cycling (when a car or truck cannot) could actually reduce accidents like right hooks. Going through a T intersection on a bike really just logical, since cyclists are not usually competing for the lane. This is all a welcome recognition that bikes are different from cars and should be regulated accordingly. Bravo Paris.
Now if we could only have a grown up conversation about stop signs.