Police have defended fining four cyclists for running a red light following a social media backlash after footage of the incident went viral.
Officers from the Vanguard Road Safety Team were in an unmarked police car on Copsem Lane travelling towards Esher Town in Surrey on 13 January when they followed the four cyclists as they went through a red light in the left hand lane. The cyclists then moved in front of the traffic and turned right.
The 11-second video, which has had more than 900K views, was posted on X (formerly known as Twitter) and promptly widely shared, with social media users criticising the police force over the fine because the initial footage showed the cyclists already beyond the traffic light at the junction - and therefore not showing any offence being committed.
The social media post wasn’t received well with people vehemently defending the cyclists.
Responding to the initial post, one user said, “Show the footage 10 seconds before that - I dare you.” another person in the replies said: “Your video doesn’t show that offence; it doesn’t show any offence!”.
Another wrote: "I'm very disappointed in this tweet. The video that you have posted does not show any offence being committed. If I were to submit this to the @metpoliceuk of a motor vehicle doing the same they would not proceed with a prosecution."
In a response to the backlash, the road safety group published a longer clip to social media that makes it clear the cyclist had, in fact, ridden their cycles beyond the stop line.
In a statement to Yahoo News, a spokesperson for Surrey Police said they followed them after they observed the cyclists failing to stop at the stop line and moving in front of waiting traffic.
"The cyclists were warned of their vulnerability and that they put themselves in danger of a collision and injury. All were issued with a £50 fixed penalty ticket for "contravention of a red traffic light" and given suitable safety advice for the future.”
In the UK, the highway code, along with the Road Traffic Act 1988, has rules cyclists need to follow, and in the case of driving through a red traffic light, rule 71 would apply.
The rule says: "At traffic light junctions and at cycle-only crossings with traffic lights, you must not cross the stop line when the traffic lights are red."
In February 2023, a poll showed two-thirds (65%) of drivers believe aggressive cyclists were a threat to their safety. The survey of 2,010 UK motorists, commissioned by road safety charity IAM RoadSmart, also indicated that 60% believe aggressive cyclists are a bigger problem compared with three years ago.
A similar proportion of respondents (61%) said they would not support a law assuming drivers are always responsible for collisions with cyclists or pedestrians in urban areas. Department for Transport (DfT) figures show four car occupants were killed in crashes involving a bicycle and a car on Britain’s roads between 2012 and 2021. That is compared with 494 fatalities of cyclists in such incidents over the same period.
IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research Neil Greig said: “The Government has introduced a range of laws in recent years in an effort to fix the daily conflicts we see between motorists and cyclists.
“However, if our research is anything to go by, this has largely been to no avail, with the majority of respondents still reporting aggression and conflict among road users.