I try not to let it bother me, but it does irritate me when fellow cyclists RLJ (Red Light Jump) at junctions.
In Dublin RLJing seems to be the norm, particularly on my new commuter route to work. I pretty-much always stop and wait at red lights, but often find that I’m in the minority of one. All the other cyclists seem to sail straight through the lights, into busy junctions.
Quite apart from the act being disrespectful to other road uses and illegal, it seems really dangerous. You’re heading straight into a junction where other traffic assumes they have right of way, and won’t be checking for people appearing from the side.
And the craziest part is that loads of the people RLJing are kitted out with PPE (personal protective equipment) like helmets and high-vis jackets, because they’re worried about their safety on the roads – and then deliberately act in dangerous ways!
Anyone with a even a basic understanding of Health and Safety principles knows that PPE should be used as a last resort. For the best management of risk, there is a clearly defined hierarchy of steps to take to avoid hazards:
- Eliminate – get rid of the risk altogether, which would mean clearing the roads of all cyclists or of all motorised traffic, neither of which seems likely.
- Substitute – swap the hazardous activity for a less hazardous one. On a per-kilometre basis, walking is actually more dangerous than cycling, so avoid that. Flying is the safest form of travel, but doesn’t seem practical for most commutes – and so maybe use the second safest, which is travelling by bus.
- Isolate – restricting access to the risk by isolating it somewhere else. Off-road cycle paths along canals and through parks would be lovely, but in a built-up city there’s not a lot of space for them.
- Engineering Controls – redesign the environment to place a barrier between the person and the hazard. In cycling terms that would be separate cycle lanes (not just a painted line at the side of a road).
- Administrative Controls – adopting procedures of safe practice – such as following the rules of the road – and not jumping red lights!
- Personal Protective Equipment – the last line of defence when all other measures have been exhausted – particularly as PPE can only offer a very limited protection against the hazard.
In the case of cycling, it seems unlikely that we can Eliminate or Substitute the risks – and I don’t think we’d want to. The health benefits of cycling far outweigh the small additional risk – and have been shown to add years to your life expectancy.
The Irish government doesn’t seem keen to invest in Isolation or Engineering Controls and give us decent physically separated cycle lanes. In Copenhagen, the place held up as the shining example of cycle usage with 40% of journeys by bike, they have wonderful separated cycle lanes – and in winter they get cleared of snow ahead of the roads!
And so we’re left with only Administrative Controls and PPE. That’s all we have! Following the rules of the road, and a bit of safety clothing. And yet so many people ignore the rules, and end up placing themselves at risk.