While the vast majority of cyclists must adhere the same traffic laws as all other vehicles, and in some cases absurd bike-specific laws, bicycle activists in France have successfully campaigned for the right to run red lights. The new laws, presently in a trial phase at 15 intersections in Eastern Paris, will permit cyclists to continue straight through or turn right on red lights when the road is clear of pedestrians and oncoming traffic.
The common-sense measure is introduced with the intent to make the French bicycle commute not only faster, but safer. The newly relaxed laws note that experience has shown that traffic lights for cyclists can create confusion for motorists, with cyclists clustered alongside vehicles when lights change to green.
The laws rely on cyclists to have an appropriate sense of self preservation and leave them liable for any accidents that may happen as a result of crossing the intersection. One local councillor noted that without mutual respect among all road users, the practices could cause the streets to become more, not less dangerous.
The change in the traffic laws comes in the wake of local government efforts to make the city a green bike-friendly urban center on a par with other European capitals. 2007 saw the launch of the Velib bike sharing program, which encouraged thousands of Parisians to ditch their car for a bike. By 2014 government officials hope to have more than 430 miles of bike lanes traversing the city.
So far no accidents have been reported as a result of the trial. If it proves successful, the bike-friendly law will be implemented at 1,700 intersections throughout the French Capital.
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