Damned if you do – cyclists and red lights

Yesterday afternoon, whilst riding my bike through central London, I was rammed by a bus. I say rammed, but the collision was little more than a tap that had me jolt forward by a few centimetres. Still, context is everything, so let me explain what happened.

Riding west along Oxford Street, insanely busy as it was with nose-to-tail buses, commercial vans, cars and pedestrians, I stopped at the junction with Regent Street for a traffic light that had turned amber. I would not have cleared the line before the light turned red, and I do not rush these things, especially when there are so many dozy bipeds crossing the road where and when they shouldn’t.

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Aware of my surroundings, and with pedestrians already crossing the road in front of me, I came to a gentle stop behind the line, and was promptly rammed by a double-decker bus whose driver seemed to think it perfectly acceptable to jump a red light. It most certainly isn’t.

On realising what had happened, I turned around and gave voice to my feelings about the matter. The driver then responded by remonstrating with me for obeying the law and using good judgement. Needless to say I wasn’t impressed with the driver’s attitude, and so took a mental note of the bus registration number (SN60 BYT, or possibly SY60 BNT), and collision time (17:50 BST). The area is awash with CCTV cameras.

To cap it all, when the light turned green the bus undertook me as I positioned myself in the road for a southward turn into Regent Street. In doing this the driver blocked the turn for traffic moving eastward along Oxford Street and looking to turn north into Regent Street. When my exit was clear, for my own safety I was forced to accelerate sharply and clear the junction before the bus. The behaviour of the bus driver was reckless and irresponsible.

Cyclists are always getting stick for red-light jumping, but often it’s a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. On numerous occasions I’ve had near misses with drivers who expect if not demand that I ignore red lights. They do not want cyclists occupying the space in front of them at junctions, as it delays by a few hundred milliseconds their exit when the light turns green.

What should cyclists do in such situations? Respect the rules of the road, naturally, and act with due care and consideration for other road users, with priority given to the most vulnerable. They should also report incidents such as this to the police.