Advanced stop zones – how well are they enforced?
I’ve written before about advanced stop zones – the painted-on boxes at traffic lights which are supposed to be reserved for cyclists.
As I said then, it’s an offence for a motorist to cross the first stop line (at the entrance to the ASZ) when the traffic light is red. But it’s not an offence for a motorist to stop inside the ASZ if they had already crossed the first line when the light went red.
So ASZs can be difficult to enforce – the police need to see the motorist enter the box in order to know whether an offence has been committed.
Recently I’ve been looking into the enforcement of advanced stop zones, for an article for the Guardian’s bike blog. I’ve asked a selection of police forces for statistics showing the number of fixed penalties they have handed out to motorists for advanced stop zone infringements – for crossing the first line on red. I thought I’d post the results, in case you’re interested.
I asked the Metropolitan Police and City of London Police a series of relevant questions. I also put a more limited set of questions to TfL, thinking they might hold statistics for the Cycle Task Force which they fund – but the answers came from the Metropolitan Police again.
I also asked Avon and Somerset Police – the force responsible for Bristol – and West Midlands Police (responsible for Birmingham). For these forces I had to make formal requests under the Freedom of Information Act before they would answer.
I’ve set out below the information I received from each force. So far I haven’t had a full response from West Midlands Police – they have written back, but their records don’t seem to match up well with the questions I’ve asked, so they’ve requested clarification. I’ll post their answers below when I get them.
I have now had a response from Avon and Somerset Police (although it came in after the statutory deadline, and too late to be included in the Guardian article).
The Met Police confirmed that they don’t keep separate statistics showing the number of fixed penalties issued to motorists for advanced stop box infringements (i.e. crossing the first stop line on red). Instead, the Met treat this offence as the same as a normal offence of jumping a red light at a junction without an advanced stop box. When I asked why they don’t keep separate ASZ statistics, I was told that “there is no current operational requirement for it. If the need arose, we could collect it”.
The Met did however give me statistics for the number of FPNs they had issued at the roadside for red light offences generally, so not limited to lights where there is an ASZ (and excluding lights at roadworks).
For motorists, the numbers of FPNs were as follows:
As a result of the questions I posed to TfL, the Met also gave me statistics for the period between July 2010 and July 2011. In that period, 3679 FPNs were given to motorists for red light offences.
In the same period, the number of FPNs given to cyclists for red light offences was as follows:
The figure for July 2010 to July 2011, which I obtained through questions to TfL, was 3430.
So the number of FPNs which the Met Police gave to cyclists for red light offences nearly doubled in 2010, and appears to be increasing further. When it comes to red light jumping, they now seem to direct as much roadside enforcement activity at cyclists as they do at motorists.
I asked why. The Met explained that the increase in cyclist FPNs was “a result of police attempting to make cycling safer in London. We take the safety of cyclists on the road very seriously and have a whole range of measures designed to help with this – particularly educational alternatives to prosecution”.
The “educational alternatives to prosecution” is a reference to the Met’s “scheme which allows cyclists who have been given a fixed penalty notice the opportunity to take part in an online cycle safety course instead of paying the fine. Although there is a charge for the course it is less than paying the fixed penalty”. I did ask how many cyclists are offered this possibility, and how many take it up, but received no answer.
I also asked questions about the use of ‘safety cameras’ (i.e. red light cameras) to detect red light infringements. These cameras can catch motorists (but not cyclists) jumping red lights. The Met gave me statistics for the numbers of FPNs issued to motorists as a result of camera detection:
So the number of motorists caught jumping red lights by safety cameras is falling quite sharply. The Met explained that “the year on year decline” in these figures “can be explained by the reduction of funding from central government for this which is a national trend”. However the figure for July 2010 to July 2011 appears to be up again: I was told (as a result of questions I posed to TfL) that “in the FY 2010/11 we proceeded in some 14,000 cases where motor vehicles contravened [a red light signal]”.
Finally, I asked whether it was possible that safety cameras could be used to detect ASZ infringements by motorists. My question was as follows:
I understand that the MPS’s red light cameras function by using triggers positioned at the stop line, which activate the camera when a vehicle is detected as passing the stop line while the light is red. It should therefore be possible to position the triggers at the first stop line at a junction where there is an advanced stop box, and thus use the red light camera to detect vehicles committing an advanced stop box infringement (i.e. crossing the first stop line on red). Would you be able to confirm whether this is correct?
The Met responded: Yes this is correct.
City of London Police
City of London police do separately record ASZ infringements by motorists (i.e. the offence of crossing the first line on red). The statistics they gave me for FPNs issued for this offence were as follows:
2008 – 1 notice was issued
2009 – 3 notices were issued
2010 – 8 notices were issued
I asked whether they had given any FPNs in the same period to cyclists for ASZ infringements – i.e. for crossing the first white line on red, when cyclists are (strictly speaking) required to enter the box from the ‘feeder lane’. City Police confirmed that “there were no notices recorded for cyclist offences relating to advanced stop boxes in the time period specified”.
I also asked how many fixed penalties City Police gave to cyclists for jumping red lights in the same period. The answers were as follows:
2008 – 1,281 notices were issued
2009 – 2,365 notices were issued
2010 – 2,387 notices were issued
So City Police’s roadside officers are focussing far more on cyclists jumping red lights than they are on motorists stopping in ASZs. In fact the numbers of FPNs issued by City Police to cyclists for jumping red lights are close to the numbers for the Met Police. And the City Police are responsible for the Square Mile, whereas the Met Police cover an area of 620 square miles.
Finally, I asked City Police about possible detection of ASZ infringements using safety cameras, and was told that “current camera technology in use in the City of London Police area does not facilitate the detection of advanced stop box offences”.
Avon and Somerset Police
Avon and Somerset Police confirmed that, like the Metropolitan Police, they don’t keep separate statistics for ASZ infringements.
The only relevant information I obtained from Avon and Somerset Police was the numbers of FPNs issued to non-motor vehicles for failing to comply with red traffic lights. They pointed out that non-motor vehicles could include things like pony-and-traps, but “it is more than likely that all the tickets were issued to cyclists”.
Their numbers were as follows:
- 2008 – 1 FPN
- 2009 – 13 FPNs
- 2010 – 18 FPNs
That perhaps gives an indication of the likelihood of getting a fixed penalty notice for jumping a red light in Bristol.
Generally, though, you can draw your own conclusions. I’ll post other responses as I get them.
Photo by andymatthewsphotography.com from here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ginja_andy/4539768645/