At a standard road crossing, the lights have turned red, but the man has gone green for pedestrians to cross. What do you do?

Honestly in the situation I coast through as long as there is room. (i.e not a sea of people crossing) Now my question is, is this bad cycling? I believe not, but I am interested in the views of other cyclists.

Question inspired by this thread on lfgss and this video... kinda

  • See Also: bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/1579/…
    – freiheit
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 18:26
  • We're assuming from the "london" in that link that you're in the UK, but it's not really clear from the question itself.
    – freiheit
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 18:29
  • 4
    The question reads, "What do you do?" and "Is this bad cycling?" This is a poll and unanswerable. Vote to close. Commented Jan 21, 2012 at 19:08

11 Answers 11


If you are in the UK this is an offence. You are traffic, therefore must obey the red.

Consequences could be a pull by the police and a fine!

I am not sure about other jurisdictions.

  • 10
    I'm from the UK too. I'd say more importantly it gives cyclists a bad name. Follow the highway code unless it puts you in danger. Self preservation first!
    – pkt1975
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 12:40
  • The problem is that research is London showed that cyclists that “jumped” red lights got knock of their bike less often than cyclists that kept to the law.
    – Ian
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 11:17
  • 3
    @Ian: [citation-needed] Commented Jan 25, 2012 at 8:05
  • 3
    @Piskvor, see thisislondon.co.uk/news/… and thisislondon.co.uk/standard/… It is all about getting across the junction before someone turning knocks you of your bike, so I think it is moving off before you get the green, rather than not stopping when the light is red.
    – Ian
    Commented Jan 25, 2012 at 9:39
  • 5
    You can always perfectly legally dismount, push the bike across the pedestrian crossing, then mount on the other side. Pushing the bike makes you a pedestrian with large luggage.
    – SF.
    Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 14:54

I think most US cyclists, in reasonably good conscience, "stretch" the laws a hair in such circumstances. Starting a bike from standstill is expensive from an energy standpoint, and it can block traffic behind, so it's good to go ahead and clear the intersection if you can do so safely and without stretching things too far. But of course none of this would be a defense in court.

  • 4
    While the law disagrees, I personally see this as no greater an offense than a pedestrian jaywalking. If there's no cross-traffic, I don't see the problem. Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 14:51
  • 1
    Count me in. +1 Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 15:39
  • And this guy. I do it regularly. And where I live, I'd never get across a road if I didn't +1.
    – zenbike
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 9:36
  • 2
    a) From an energy standpoint, take it as a fitness exercise. b) From an energy standpoint, watch out early, and adapt your speed, so you needn't stop. Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 23:52

The Official Highway Code for the United Kingdom states that cyclists are only permited to cross on their bike when a green cycle symbol showing. If the light shows only a green man, you must dismount and push the bike to cross.

If you are part of the traffic (not crossing from path to path) you must obey the red traffic light and stop.


The only answer really is, in the UK, what you're doing is illegal. Full stop.

There are various factions who will try to mitigate the behaviour on grounds of safety, but, fundamentally, by going through a red light, even if in your opinion there is room, you are putting yourself into a position where other users of that facility do not reasonable expect you to be. What if someone is running for their green man and hits you from the side? Not so much room now!

I'm sure that there are many situations where coasting through a red is safe and where you can see the junction is empty. Indeed, there are situations where the red light is only serving to hold people up and I'd happily see all queued users, whether self-powered or motorised, go through the red; but you'd be in the wrong and need to accept whatever punishment is meted out.


Pedestrians can move quite quickly as well!

I sometimes commute to work by running (having left kit at work) rather than cycling (also in central London, UK). There have been numerous times when I've been crossing a road with a green man and I've nearly been taken out by a cyclist doing exactly what you propose. Their erroneous judgement was obviously that no-one would be crossing the road at the speed I was going, and mine that the cyclist would stop!

There may be other times when you don't judge correctly who will cross, and at what speed, so quite apart from it being illegal, it's bad cycling because you are putting people at risk.


I'm in Brazil, and as a friend of mine says, we need a "tropical vehicular cycling".

Most drivers don't obbey the law (neither do pedestrians, to be honest), so I follow the "bold-but-conscious-biker golden rule":

"I cannot be a harm to the safety or comfort of other people. No one should be 'punished' by the way I choose to ride my bike."

That means, on pedestrians crossing, I ALWAYS yeld to pedestrians, sometimes even when I have green light for me. But when there are no pedestrians to cross and no cars coming from the crossing street, then I slowly do a "rolling stop" and go.

Also, I do that because if I stay, cars accumulate behind and it is no good for them neither for me when green finally comes (I have to hurry, they have to wait, no patience, no respect, bad. If I'm already gone, no conflict, good).

Of course, this is my opinion, my traffic reality, and I don't advise anyone in doubt to follow the same methods. But I'll always consider interpersonal relations and politeness to have precedence over the cold letter of the law, specially if it is "only" traffic law (which means, made to benefit cars).

So, I invite anyone to consider this adapted golden rule I've mentioned.


Assumptions being made: you are asking about cycling in the UK.

Like someone above mentioned you're question seems to have two parts:

"What do you do?, and..."is this bad cycling?"

Going through a red light for your traffic direction is an offence. There is no other way to look at it, even if I/you/others don't agree.

"What do you do?" Well, that's kinda asking people to admit to breaking the law :) There have been times where I have had to change my cycling habits due to concern for my personal safety.

"Is this bad cycling" This question is more opinion - and my opinion would be as long as you are cycling responsibly and giving full way to the traffic direction that has right of way, and not putting any other road user in danger, then you are not cycling badly.

If a police man/women stopped you and asked why you broke the red light, and you were able to explain a reasonable excuse, "its because the traffic was very heavy and there were cars illegally in the "cyclists advanced stop area" taking away my headstart over them. And that articulated truck parked in the cycling lane ahead was going to cause me to veer out into traffic behind me", then I would assume you had explained your actions for committing the offence. But of course, IANAL (I am not a lawyer).

Short answer is, legally it is "bad cycling", and if you don't want to risk committing "an offence" don't do it.


The first time you do it, it's an exception. No other bike close to you, no car to see, no pedestrian too.

The second time there are few pedestrians, but you take care, and you expect the other traffic to act correct.

The third time you're in a rush, and do, what you're used to do: wild cross, ignoring the rules. You don't have a reserve. It only works, if the others stay to the rules, and you're the only anarchist. These cyclists are unpredictable. Just yesterday I had again a nearby accident.

It is a selfish habit to expect others to take care on you, to obey the rules, so that you can go faster or more comfortable.

In Germany, only the children are allowed to use pedestrian ways with bikes. But we have a lot of children in the age of 20, 40 and 60.


I will always stop at a red-light unless it would cause me injury or risk of death to do otherwise (idiot in car tailgating for eg)


Never ever run a red light even if it is safe to go. It is also an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988 section 36 (In the UK).

  • Welcome to Bicycles SE. Please use proper sentence structure when composing your posts. And also note that we have a global audience. Without any reference to what country you're talking about, the law you cite is meaningless. Furthermore, in many locations it actually is legal for a cyclist to treat a stop light as a stop sign and treat a stop sign as a yield sign. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idaho_stop
    – jimchristie
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 21:14

I have the very same issue on my commute path.

Actually, the green man light tells pedestrians that they are allowed to cross the street where it applies, whereas the green bike light allows cyclists to cross that street together with another one parallel to the former. The traffic lights of these two streets are not synchronous.

So it is safer for me to conform to the color of the bike and not to the color of the man.

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