Motorists claim that cyclists riding through red lights are a common sight in Brighton and Hove, but only a small number of cyclists are fined every year.
Just 31 cyclists were handed a penalty notice in 2012, yet The Argus spotted 17 cyclists jumping the light in less than one hour when we went out to catch them red-handed.
Neil Vowles reports on the police response to cyclists and motorists ignoring traffic signals and endangering lives.
Fewer than one cyclist a week is punished for riding through red lights in Brighton and Hove.
New figures obtained by The Argus show just 31 cyclists were fined last year for ignoring red lights – a drop of more than 60 per cent in just two years.
Motoring groups claim dozens of cyclists are getting away with breaking the law and that more needs to be done to make bike users more accountable.
Road police claim that manned patrols remained constant in the city, but monitoring of junctions was prioritised against other policing commitments to more serious offences.
'I cycle and I always stop at the lights, but I see people flying by and I just think they are crazy'
Cyclist Lorna Axon
Figures released show that 31 cyclists were handed a £60 penalty notice for passing through a red light in Brighton and Hove in 2012, compared to 86 in 2010.
An investigation by The Argus this week counted 17 cyclists passing through red lights at the junction of Western Road and Montpelier Road, Brighton in less than an hour.
Of the 42 cyclists seen by our reporter pulling up to a red light at the busy four-way junction, almost half decided to chance oncoming traffic and possible injury.
Figures also show the number of motorists caught out in the city for running red lights has also plummeted, with 319 penalised in 2012 compared to 815 in 2010.
The junction between the A23 Preston Road and Preston Drove is the hot spot for red light jumpers, with almost four in five of all motoring offences in Brighton and Hove recorded there.
Sussex Safer Roads Partnership said that Brighton and Hove City Council roadworks had meant that red light enforcement had not been carried out at several junctions.
Caught on camera
Drivers caught running through lights one second after they turn red captured by a red light camera and checked by a video operator face a £60 fine and three penalty points.
Cyclists seen committing red traffic light offences are dealt with at the time by police officers.
Brighton Neighbourhood Police Team announced yesterday that a crackdown on cyclists was being launched next week in the area around St James’s Street.
WESTERN ROAD: Checking for oncoming traffic after running a red light
Cyclist Jean Blaison, of Phoenix Rise in Brighton, was hit with a total fine and costs of £1,000 at Hove Crown Court last month after a judge dismissed the 59-year-old’s third appeal against a £30 fine for travelling the wrong direction down St James’s Street and hitting a pedestrian in July 2011.
PC Elaine Welsh said cyclists travelling the wrong way in St James’s Street is the biggest complaint from local residents and business owners, and officers will be actively looking for those caught ignoring the one-way signs and issuing them with on-the-spot fines.
People’s Parking Protest campaigner Steve Percy said more needed to be done to ensure that cyclists were held to account over the use of the road.
He said: “Motorists see cyclists go through red lights every day.
“Cyclists need to be made more accountable when using the road.
“It would have to be introduced nationally, but cyclists should be charged to use the road and made to carry a personal licence.
“I think this lack of accountability certainly doesn’t discourage cyclists from misbehaving, people do it and they know they will get away with it nine times out of ten.”
Mr Percy said that cyclists’ unaccountability “enraged” motorists.
He said: “If we go through red lights we are fined and get penalty points which could have an impact on my business, but there’s no penalty points for cyclists, even if they are caught.”
Lorna Axon, 29, works at the corner of Montpelier Road and Western Road at the Mad Hatter Café.
She said: “When we walk across from our café to our restaurant, you see them going through all the time.
“I cycle and I always stop at the lights, but I see people flying by and I just think they are crazy.
“There was a girl who came off her bike at this junction recently.
'Tarred with the same brush'
“I don’t go through lights because I don’t want to die, but it does mean that all cyclists get tarred with the same brush.”
Adam Pride from Bricycles said: “There has been quite a lot of negative publicity about cyclists going through red lights, and so maybe cyclist are more wary of that now.
“There are no excuses for jumping a red light.
“Along Old Shoreham Road, we have got advance green lights for cyclists so they can get safely away from cars and we would like to see more of these at certain junctions.”
A Sussex Police spokeswoman said: “Where possible, police officers who witness a cyclist committing a road traffic offence will stop the cyclist and deal with the incident as appropriate.
“However, on many occasions officers will be on foot when an offence is committed and it may not be possible for the officer to stop the cyclist.
“In cases where there is particular concern about the behaviour of a cyclist, a description of the cyclist may be circulated to officers and staff who will then check the area for anyone matching the description.
“The work of Sussex Police is about balancing different priorities within our communities, but also ensuring that operational needs are met and resources are targeted accordingly.”
Neil Hopkins, spokesman for the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership, said: “There have been a wide range of roadworks throughout Brighton and Hove in the last few years, and many of these have significantly affected enforcement.
“A small number of other sites have been affected because the red lights have been changed to energy saving LEDs, as opposed to traditional bulbs.
“Patrols conducted by Police and Police Community Support Officers remain constant throughout the city, but monitoring of these junctions is balanced against other policing priorities.
“Vehicles running red lights have the potential to cause catastrophic collisions with pedestrians and other road users, including cyclists.”