Friday, 20 May 2011

Traffic Lights and why people stop.

A rather curious thought has been working its way across my consciousness over the past few weeks and it all revolves around the contentious point of stopping at Red Lights. Now there is no point in boring you and  especially me with working through the argument of to stop or not at red lights, some do and some don’t. A majority of people that either stop at lights or don’t have their genuine reasons. The careful cyclist (and let’s be honest that means usually a female) will stop at all lights and progress at a steady and elegant rate (this I also think is the general continental way of riding a bike, but more on that another day). Then there is the bike nutter who considers it an insult to his human rights to make him stop unless he personally wants to, this type of person will take all manner of risks and for the purposes of this post I shall take this as so.

I personally think I tend to fall in-between both of the above groups. I stop for red lights at junctions / crossroads or where traffic ahead will come onto my road from the left. I will not stop though if it is a pedestrian crossing and no one is on it or if the lights are for traffic coming in from a lane on the right and the left hand side of the road I am on just continues straight with no roads coming on to it; I still proceed with care, as I know vehicles joining my  road from the right will not be expecting me there and although I am not in their way, I still am aware I am doing a manoeuvre outside normal practice. To summarise I only go through red lights when I know it is safe or where the risks are within my control.

So to the crux of my post – there is a group of people who I whole heartedly sit in my group of riders (and I think I sit in the majority when it comes to red light jumping) yet they often stop at every set of lights. So who are they and why do they do  it?

Who they are – well they are easy to spot – they virtually all ride road bikes and in-between traffic lights they cycle along at high speed. But now to answer the tricky point of why. Put simply I think these are the ultimate boy racers, they want to race along at high speed rushing past you unless you are doing anything over 24mph then as sure as God made little apples they stop at the slightest opportunity (say a pedestrian crossing was activated by a bored school kid 2 minutes earlier). But what really annoys me is – they have shot past you – you then carry on over the lights (taking no risks) they then tut as you go past them. What they want you to think is they are super fast pro riders and they follow the rules of the road to the letter because not only are they pro riders but they are also socially conscious. Like hell they are, the truth of the matter is they are tuckered out from overtaking you and now need a breather.

How do I know this ruse to be true – well just ask this simple question – when the lights are red, are you more likely to stop if you are tired and want a breather? Yes of course you are, I know I do. In itself there is nothing wrong with this, after all we all need a break, but to then race to the next set of traffic lights with the deliberate hope that they will be red so you can take a breather so you can race off again, is well – just a little sad. But worse crime of all is to then tut-tut at the rest of us who are just trying to maintain a good steady speed and only stopping when it is sensible to do – is just plain pathetic.

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