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The rules of red lights, part 2 – advanced stop zones

30 November 2010

The light goes red. The first car sits on the advanced stop box, guiltily smothering the painted-on cycle symbol. A couple of shark-eyed motorbikers drift around the edges and sit in front.

You filter through to get ahead of the motorbikes, and maybe subtly-but-deliberately block one or two of them in to make a point. You end up naughtily stopping halfway across the pedestrian crossing.

This is not how it’s supposed to happen.

Advanced stop zones

Advanced stop zones look like this. Most people seem to know vaguely what they’re about. See for example this Guardian article, which eventually gets it about right.

I posted a while ago that it’s an offence to cross a stop line when the light is red. Things are a little more complex with ASZs.

ASZ rules

At an ASZ, when the light is red, cyclists proceeding in the cycle lane are allowed to go beyond the first stop line. They have to stop at the second stop line (and will commit an offence if they don’t). (RTA s. 36(1); TSRGD rr. 10(1)(g), 33, 36(1)(a), 43(2))

Everyone else has to stop at the first line when the light is red, except a vehicle which has already proceeded beyond the first line (when the light wasn’t red), which has to stop at the second stop line. (TSRGD r. 43(2))

This means two things:

  • Technically, when the light is red you’re not allowed to cross the first line on your bike – you have to enter into the ASZ via the cycle lane (generally in the left corner of the box). So technically you’ll commit an offence if you come into the box on red from anywhere else. But it seems unlikely that the police would bother to enforce this.
  • As before, what’s prohibited is crossing the line on red. If a car driver or motorbiker has already crossed the first line by the time the light goes red, they won’t commit an offence so long as they stop at the second line. This is why cars and motorbikes can, in some circumstances, stop lawfully in the boxes. It’s also why keeping cars and motorbikes out of the boxes is difficult for the police, who need to see when they enter the box in order to judge whether an offence has been committed.

Of course ASZs would work much better with better enforcement (perhaps by camera) to keep cars and motorbikes out. It might also help if the rule requiring cyclists to enter via the cycle lane was changed to reflect the reality of how the boxes are used.


Breaking the rules on ASZs is a fixed penalty offence – so a constable in uniform can give you a fixed penalty notice. The maximum fixed penalty for a cyclist is £30. (RTA s. 36; RTOA Sch. 3; FPO Sch. 1)

If the police choose to prosecute you rather than issue a FPN, the maximum possible fine is £1000. This will be more hassle for them, though, so it’s presumably quite unlikely, unless someone is hurt. (RTOA Sch. 2)


Photo by Danny McL from

  1. 1 December 2010 10:20

    Although having said all this; It’s not unusual to see police cars ignoring the ASL, so the whole thing seems moot.

    • 1 December 2010 11:09

      hi chris

      i’ve seen motorbikes and taxis ignore them, but never the police! it’s odd, because levels of compliance with red lights generally by cars and motorbikes seem fairly high.

      i’ve heard that there are camera systems which can help enforce rules about box junctions. i wonder whether something similar could be done with ASLs – a system which detects movement in the ASL once the light goes red, and gets a photo of any car or motorbike which crosses the first line illegaly?

      • 1 December 2010 16:40

        I’ve seen plenty of drivers go through lights that have just changed to red, even so there is plenty of time to stop. It’s even more of a problem for yellow box junctions. No right turns except for cyclists is another one that motorists are happy to ignore.

        It would probably be argued that there are more important things for the police to do, and that they are waging a war on motorists, hence why it’d be unlikely to be done.

      • 1 December 2010 16:58

        hi shaun – good points

  2. 1 December 2010 15:53

    A lot of drivers seem to unaware of the law and think that the first line is just discretionary, a nice gesture to cyclist by the council. If the police were to run the occasional high profile campaign, handing out fixed penitential fines, the way they do with yellow box junctions, the message would soon get through.

  3. Alun permalink
    6 February 2011 10:24

    Great article! While I have found ASZ’s are usually reognised, many drivers will use the second line as their stop line and when challenged tell you to ‘F off’!! I did read with a sense of irony about the ASZ having a cycle lane filtering into them 🙂 on my commute every ASZ has a solid primary line and if I make use of the ASZ I am therefore breaking the law!!! Another issue I have found is that as the lights change their phase themotorist behind starts to creep into the box anticipating the green and taking away your advantage of moving off safely!! I now no longer make use of these features and take up a primary position between cars knowing that I am going to be moving off from the lights as quickly as a vehicle!!

    • 6 February 2011 15:42

      thanks alun

      sorry to hear that your experience of ASZs hasn’t been great! it really is an area that would benefit from better enforcement…

  4. 19 February 2011 07:25

    ASls…. one of my pet hates. They encourage some dangerous situations. Just take the lane!


    • 19 February 2011 18:48

      hi londonneur

      i think we’ll probably just have to disagree about this one…

      but congrats on a v cool name for your blog!

      • Londonneur permalink
        19 February 2011 19:35

        Like your site a lot.. Valuable resource.

        Re ASLs … it’s the left hand feeder that I dislike. A legal requirement but one that encourages undertaking. Cyclists have been putting themselvs into “unofficia”l ASL’s ever since there has been traffic. You feel differently? Or was it the suggestion to pedestrianise the West End that you dissagree with? 😉

        – L

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