French newspaper Le Monde reported on April 27 that Paris has introduced a special traffic signal that allows cyclists to turn right on red. Turning right on red is not normally permitted in France, but a number of French cities have piloted this rule change as part of a general move to make road design and traffic rules more appropriate for cyclists and pedestrians.
Much like the Idaho stop, which allows cyclists to treat stop signs like yield signs, this change recognizes that the current rule was designed for motorized vehicles.
The Le Monde article notes that some will say this just legalizes the bad behaviour of cyclists and will endanger pedestrians or lead to more accidents. However, the Ministry of Transport is used to these sorts of objections and has responded to them point by point.
The French highway code was originally adopted back in 1921 to regulate motor vehicle traffic and is not adapted to other road users.
As in Canada, traffic lights and regulations are designed for motor vehicles and not for bicycles, which are light, manoeuvrable and have better visibility.
In fact, Paris is following Bordeaux, Nantes and Strasbourg, all of which have piloted right-turn-on-red for bicycles for several years. Their experience has shown that separate rules for bicycles do not pose any danger.
Alain Jund (the Mayor's assistant for urban design in Strasbourg) points out, "waiting for a red light is riskier for a cyclist than turning on red, particularly if a truck is also turning right".
There have been no accidents due to this rule change in the cities that have adopted it, and it typically saves about 6 or 7 minutes for a cyclist on a 5 km journey.
It is interesting that in France it is the Ministry of Transport that is educating the general public about the importance of adapting the traffic rules for cyclists and pedestrians.
Here in Canada, governments of all levels are still in the mindset of the 1920s: the rules should be designed for motor vehicles, and other road users are accommodated only in as much as they don't interfere with the real 'traffic'.
When are we going to see our Ministry of Transport taking the lead, rather than defending the status quo?
You must be logged in to comment.