Last April Auckland Transport received a report they had commissioned on Why do Cyclists run red lights?”
A decommissioning the report was an excellent move by Auckland Transport.
Sadly the report is only available as a powerpoint presentation, but what we can see is excellent. They observed over 22,000 vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist movements across five key Auckland intersections and also interviewed cyclists.
What they found is that cyclists run red lights largely due to safety reasons, and most infractions are during the pedestrian phase of the lights (they call this the Barnes dance).
The yellow part of the charts below are cyclists crossing with pedestrians – an activity which I classify as safe if done with consideration and at the speed of the pedestrians. I, like it seems the cyclists surveyed, see this as often a lot safer than crossing with the cars, and it also helps motorists as it gets the people on bicycles out of the way.
Unfortunately this is not legal under current NZ law, and nor is it legal to ride on the footpath. The only legal thing to do is to walk the bike across.
The cyclists’ comments shown in the report are all about safety.
The report concluded that road conditions were such that cyclists have to choose between safety and being legal, and often (and correctly) chose safety. They authors suggested that we must fix this, and came up with four simple, cheap and effective recommendations.
So how have we done with those recommendations in the 9 months since the report was received? Sadly from what I can see – very little or nothing has changed. I stand to be corrected on this, and would welcome any evidence to the contrary. Let’s not be too hasty in pointing the finger at Auckland Transport either, as they have done some great work here, but most likely need more political clout and resolve to make this happen quickly.
Number 1: Sadly I don’t know of any cyclist-first intersections in downtown Auckland.
Number 2: The law still prevents safely turning left on a red light for cyclists.
Number 3: The law still prevents cyclists from legally crossing with pedestrians.
Number 4: I know of no changes to sensor locations or sensitivity. This is the hardest to evaluate and may well have happened, to be fair. It’s under Auckland Transport’s direct control and is the most likely to have changed. But I’m not seeing it so:
Two of the four, lights to clear cyclists and improve cyclist detection, are under the control of Auckland Transport (as far as I can tell).
The other two will likely require changes to national road rules, to allow cyclists to turn left, and to allow cyclists to cross with pedestrians at lights. That’s up to the Ministry of Transport and NZTA and the national Government.
The proposed solutions are clear, cheap and high impact. Let’s do what we can to help Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and the government to prioritise these.