UK cycle advocacy body CTC has strongly criticized Home Office spokesman Lord Bassam for suggesting that vigilante action against cyclists is acceptable.
In a House of Lords debate on 10 January, Baroness Sharples said she had struck a cyclist with her bag when the cyclist crossed against the red light. She asked Lord Bassam whether or not she was “within [her] rights” and he replied that, “she probably did the right thing.”
That’s just not on, says the CTC. “A Government Minister advocating vigilante action is extremely disturbing and can only increase the levels of violence on our roads,” says Roger Geffen, CTC campaigns manager.
“[Lord Bassam] would doubtless be quick to condemn cyclists who showed the slightest display of aggression towards drivers who cut them up, use mobile phones or break the speed limit. Yet these are the sorts of threats which cyclists’ face every day.”
Cyclists’ behaviour at red lights is probably the most contentious issue in bike commuting forums. The CTC points out that there are two sides to what many see as simple law-breaking.
“Anti-social behaviour is unacceptable whoever it comes from, and jumping red lights is against the law whether you do it on a bike or in a car,” says Roger Geffen. “However, given that most cyclists’ injuries are due to drivers crashing into them at junctions, is it any wonder that some cyclists would rather have a brush with the law than put their own safety at risk?”