Comment: Policing at traffic lights another step forward

Transport for London today announced that it’s stepping up enforcement of advance bike boxes at traffic lights to help improve cyclist safety in the capital.

Bike boxes give riders space to be seen and to cycle off safely from the lights ahead of other traffic – especially important while we share our roads with HGVs, whose view of the road is often limited.

The move means drivers caught crossing the first or second bike box line when the light is red will be liable for a £60 fine and three points on their driving licence.

Although it is a small step – 20mph speed limits are not being enforced, and we still see derisory penalties for drivers who kill cyclists it is a step in the right direction and should be congratulated.

It starts to draw a line in the road to protect vulnerable road users, including cyclists, who in central London are 24% of rush hour traffic, and it gives that line the force of law.

Too many motorists currently impinge on bike boxes with impunity, often filling them completely, so when lights go green cyclists are left riding in the gutter where they can’t be seen.

It’s perfectly plausible that some drivers don’t realise they aren’t allowed there, but if we are to get more people on bikes, people need to understand and respect the lines on the road.

This, of course, includes people on bikes.

On Sunday I stopped at a red light in the advanced stop box with two other cyclists. When the pedestrian lights went green, the two set off through the red lights. At that point the vehicle behind me overtook. It was a police car.

As part of the new move to protect bike boxes police are also targeting cyclists who run red lights, who are then liable for a £30 fine.

I can’t say I felt much sympathy for the offending cyclists.

We need a culture of mutual respect on the roads and as we expect our cycle boxes to stay clear, so pedestrians should expect safe crossings.

I congratulate Andrew Gilligan for recognising this, and the Mayor for increasing the Cycle Taskforce by a quarter to this end.

With the protection of the law we are less the marginalised minority who have sometimes to fight for space on the roads, and with rights come responsibilities.

The more we respect that, the more respect we will have ourselves.

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