Ulrich Leth, Harald Frey, Tadej Brezina

Last modified: 2017-02-28


As the number of cyclists on Viennese streets grows, they are increasingly seen as a danger to pedestrians and even car drivers, especially by the media. Statements like “these scofflaws don’t obey the rules” or “they run red lights and don’t stop at stop signs” are common. Public perception is that also pedestrians tend to re-interpret traffic laws in their sense – they simply cross intersections against red lights when they feel safe about it (physically, not only in terms of getting caught). The most common reaction to this behaviour is the claim for more enforcement and even license plates for bikes. We propose a more innovative approach, which takes into account the reasons for this legally non-conformant behaviour of non-motorized traffic: bikers and pedestrians should be allowed to run red lights when not obstructing or endangering themselves or others. Under the same circumstances, cyclists should be allowed to treat stop signs as yield signs. But why? “The purpose of all the traffic lights, signs, and lines – is to prevent cars from running into everything else” [1]. Current laws are ensuring the ease and flow of motorized traffic often at the expense of the ease, flow and even safety of non-motorized traffic. Motorists must obey these laws due to the fact that they are impaired in their visual and acoustic perceptions by the drivers’ perspective. Cyclists and pedestrians on the other hand can run red lights and stop signs without safety concerns – they have a better, unobstructed view on cross sections, they can accelerate and brake within fractions of a second, they can hear even quiet safety hazards, have little inertia and a low potential for damage. In this paper we analyse which built and legal structures would be necessary to make a city work without car-oriented regulations and what it would look like.


red lights; jaywalking; scofflaw; self responsibility

Full Text: PDF