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The rules of red lights, part 3 – lights for cycle lanes

7 December 2010

I’ve been writing a lot about red lights recently. There’s a risk that this will make me seem a bit of a killjoy, whereas I like to see myself as more of a Lovejoy (not really).

So in keeping with the festive season, this blog post offers you a present.

It’s something every cyclist wants. You will have wished for it many times. You can use it as often as you like. It’s all wrapped up in a post about traffic lights for cycle lanes – read on to find out what it is.

Traffic lights for cycle lanes

On those lovely rare occasions that you find proper segregated cycling facilities in the UK, you might also find dedicated traffic lights for cycle lanes.

These are the kind of lights that don’t apply to other vehicles. You’ll often find them where your lovely segregated cycle lane crosses an all-traffic road.

There are two different types of traffic lights which are used for this purpose.

Cyclist-only lights

The first type are traffic lights which govern cyclists only (so governing a separate cycle lane, but not governing pedestrians). Here the red light is a full circle, but the green light is the shape of a bicycle – see the picture on the bottom right of this page.  

These lights apply to cyclists in the same way that other traffic lights apply. So when these cyclist-only lights are red, you’ll commit an offence if you don’t stop at the stop line. Cue lots more killing of joy. (RTA s.36(1); TSRGD rr. 10(1)(g), 33(2)(a), 36(1)(a))

Cyclist-and-pedestrian lights

The second type are traffic lights which apply to pedestrians and cyclists. Here the stop light is a red man (and possibly also a red bicycle), and the green light is a green man and a green bicycle – like this or this.

At one of these crossings it’s not an offence to cross on a bike when the red light is showing. In other words, it’s not an offence to ‘jayride’ across a road when the red man is against you. (TSRGD r. 49(4); cf r. 10 and RTA s. 36(1))

As far as I can see, there’s not even a Highway Code recommendation that you don’t cross while the red man is showing. Rule 21 recommends waiting for the green man, but seems to apply only to pedestrians. Rule 80 (for cyclists) simply says you may ride across and doesn’t mention the colour of the lights.

So this is my gift to you: a red light that you don’t have to stop at. Instead, you can do what you’ve always wanted: slow down a bit, look both ways, and continue if the road is clear.

Just remember that your priorities are to keep safe, and to avoid injuring pedestrians. If you cross at one of these lights at speed and crash into a pedestrian, there’s probably a risk of prosecution for causing injury by wanton or furious cycling, which carries some stiff penalties.


Jumping a cyclist-only light is a fixed penalty offence. The maximum fixed penalty for a cyclist is £30 (it can be higher for motor vehicles). (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. (RTOA Sch. 2)

But, as I’ve posted before, the chance of prosecution is higher if someone gets hurt, and the penalties for causing injury can be serious.


Photo by Donna Rutherford from

One Comment
  1. 21 December 2010 17:21

    Oh thanks for this. I always assumed at a toucan crossing I had to wait if I was on my bike or get off and push it across. Merry Christmas!

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