CityCaucus Redux: "Red Light Robertson" triggered debate about cyclist safety

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


Whoa! Mind those stop signs!'s exclusive video of a UBC intersection

We first posted this YouTube video on our site in July 2010. Since then it's had over 2000 page views! Coincidentally our video went to air around the same time Mayor Gregor Robertson made front page headlines (see below) for an encounter he had with a TransLink bus. If you want to read more about that story, you can click here to see this previous post. Hope you enjoy!


The media headlines this morning are blaring out about "Red Light Robertson" and yet another situation whereby Mayor Gregor refuses to take responsibility for his own actions. Remember the fare evasion, folks? Today's The Province newspaper cover story is reporting that Vancouver's Mayor ran a red light on his bicycle and almost caused an accident with a Translink bus.

However, as our exclusive video from a UBC intersection shows, Mayor Robertson is by no means the only cyclist who feels they are above the law when it comes to riding their bikes on our streets.

A few weeks ago I was crossing the street near my work site. In the blink of an eye, I was almost sideswiped by a speeding cyclist who was flagrantly ignoring the rules of the road by not stopping at a 4 way stop. This wasn't the first time I had a near miss at that corner with non-helmet wearing cyclists who often treat pedestrians like we're just second class peasants.

red-light-robertson-cover Armed with a video camera, I thought it might be interesting to use a portion of my break to film the aforementioned intersection from a safe distance. What I was able to capture on film at two separate times of the day was simply astounding. Take for example the one cyclist who is seen riding on the sidewalk without a helmet with a coffee in his right hand as he zips onto the road. Cyclist after cyclist can be seen ignoring the basic rules of the road and putting both pedestrians and motor vehicles at risk of injury or accident. If you don't believe me, click on the exclusive video I've just posted to get a sense of what I'm talking about.

The cycling lobby in Vancouver has become the most powerful force on this city council. Unlike other community groups, when the cyclists speak, this council listens. Council has already closed off portions of Burrard Bridge and Dunsmuir Street to vehicular traffic and handed it over to the cycling community...with more lanes to come on Hornby Street. Meanwhile, little effort has been made to ensure that cyclists (big supporters of Vision Vancouver and Mayor Gregor "critical mass" Robertson") are actually adhering to basic traffic laws.

It's not like I'm asking for much. I simply think wearing a helmet (provincial law) and stopping at clearly marked stop signs (another provincial law) should be a no-brainer. However, based on the video I shot over the course of about an hour, these basics are being ignored at not only this intersection, but hundreds of similar ones across Metro Vancouver.

Can you blame the cyclists? After all, the Mayor is a huge cycling advocate and few others on council (of all political stripes) would dare attempt any type of crackdown on law breaking cyclists. That's because any such attempt would be met with howls of protest and threats of a political calamity.

As for the cover story in today's Province newspaper, they state:

When the mayor and the bus driver pulled up alongside each other at Georgia Street, MacDonald told him, “Thanks for giving me a heart attack. You of all people should look left before you make a right turn on a right,” she says. “He said, ‘I’m really sorry about that.’”

The last she saw of the man she now calls “red-light Robertston” was his two-wheeled figure — clad in dress pants and a white dress shirt with a colourful tie flapping over his left shoulder — turning left onto Nelson Street, heading in the direction of City Hall.

She gives the mayor a full 10 on a one-to-10 scale of dumb things cyclists do, but she’s hoping that he’s been “scared straight,” as he appeared shaken by the near miss. “He looked like he was going to come out of his skin,” she says.

Mayor Robertson seemed repentant regarding the fact he almost caused an accident and scared the living daylights out of a veteran transit driver. Province columnist Ethan Baron seems a tad skeptical of Robertson's version of events:

Robertson on Monday appeared reluctant to admit wrongdoing. He acknowledged that the bike-specific stoplight on Dunsmuir at Richards was red, but said, “I wasn’t going against a red light. There was a red light to go straight on Dunsmuir. I turned right in the crosswalk.”

It was when he left the crosswalk and tried to get across the curbside bus lane and into the bike lane on Richards that the conflict with the bus occurred, Robertson says.

This “I-was-turning-into-the-crosswalk-not-the-roadway” excuse sounded a little weak to me, so I took a walk over to the intersection. When the light is red for bikes on Dunsmuir, traffic on Richards is coming from the left. It is quite clear that when the light is red, bikes must stop at the white stop line painted in the bike lane, whether they’re going straight or turning right, just as at any red light.

You could classify me as a fair weather cyclists as I only ride my bike during the drier summer months. However, I would never consider leaving the yard without my helmet. Nor would I consider knowingly breaking traffic laws by running stop signs and riding erratically. By posting this video I'm fully prepared to take the wrath of the Mayor's cycling lobby who will no doubt come back at me with the following justification for what you've just seen:

  • I'm only showing one side of the story and should film cars at a busy intersection to demonstrate how bad the average driver is.
  • Cyclists are saving the environment by leaving their cars at home. Cut us some slack, dude.
  • These are just isolated incidents at one intersection and don't reflect the wider cycling population whom for the most part are law abiding citizens.
  • Blah, blah, blah

No matter how you slice it, was you see on this video is a clear indication to me that the Vancouver police need to better enforce the laws when cyclists choose to ignore them. However, when the Chair of the Vancouver Police Board just happens to ride his bike in support of Critical Mass and is caught cycling through red lights, well...

What do you think? Should more be done to crack down on reckless cyclists – like this guy riding down Dunsmuir Street – who call Vancouver home? Good luck if you think it's going to happen under the reign of Red Light Robertson.

- This post was first published in July 2010 by Daniel.


"Robertson on Monday appeared reluctant to admit wrongdoing."

It's a pattern!

I wonder how many times Suzanne Anton has not come to a full stop at a four way? Or ran an orange light? Or was distracted while driving thus being a danger on the road? Or drove over the speed limit?

Indeed many cyclists don't obey traffic laws but then again most drivers don't either.

Dragging up a year old article just for mud slinging purposes? Weak.

Lets focus on current, relevant issues, as Lord knows we have enough of them right now.

(And as for the bikes not following rules, we can criticize them without being hypocritical because we never exceed the speed limit by even a few clicks, ever. Every stop sign gets a complete stop, even when nobody is around. Ah, the moral high ground.)

What? No mention of the fact that only one car out of the dozens in your video obeyed the law and came to a complete stop? Or the several vehicles encroaching on sidewalk when pedestrians were present?

These cars are breaking the traffic laws just as much as the cyclists you are indicting. Yet you give then a free pass, just as the cops do; despite the fact that study after study show that automobiles are responsible for the majority of accidents with bikes or pedestrians.

When the cops start cracking down on these illegal and dangerous driving habits (not to mention the incessant speeding), they can also ensure that cyclists follow the letter of the law. Until then, what you are proposing is a double standard that treats cyclists as second class citizens.

Isn't now the time to talk about the track record of our civic politicians? We are in the middle of an election after all. I too can see a pattern developing with this mayor.

He wouldn't acknowledge his wrongdoing when it was revealed he hadn't paid a transit fine. He wouldn't say he went through a red light. He can't bring himself to say he screwed up by inviting 150000 people downtown for Stanley cup riot. Now with occupy Vancouver the pattern continues.

Time for him to go me thinks.

I know it's just a small point, but if you want people to think you know what you are talking about, there is no such thing as an orange light in a traffic controll system. In fact,there is no such thing as a yellow light. It is called "AMBER".

Yes because I'm sure everyone who reads my comment would think I don't know what I'm talking about because I call an amber light orange. 8-)

On the general theme, a cyclist cruising through a stop sign or an red light at an empty intersection is about as serious as a motorist going 10 kph over the speed limit. Blowing through a red light downtown is more like going 30 kph over the limit. The difference of course is that it the cyclist is more likely to kill himself while speeding cars cause a lot more deaths.

Anyway, we do need changes to cycling culture in Vancouver. There is still too much of an use against them vibe (I get it, I have been spat on by drivers, threatened, nudged by cars, etc.) but we all need to tone it down. I have started to mention this to really errant cyclists I encounter.

I ride my bike pretty much everyday rain or shine irrespective of the temperature, but a heavy snow will force me to walk. Anything over about 10 cm is too dangerous to cycle in when there are cars on the road.

"On the general theme, a cyclist cruising through a stop sign or an red light at an empty intersection is about as serious as a motorist going 10 kph over the speed limit. "

Utterly ridiculous statement. A cyclist going through a red light can cause an accident by virtue of causing a car to veer off into other cars, cyclists or pedestrians. Also, more than once, I have personally almost been wiped out by a cyclist speeding through a red light as I cross an intersection LEGALLY.

It's this kind of cyclist hubris that the rest of us Vancouverites hate about cyclists who refuse to abide by the law.

The old argument of cyclists and red lights. Did you know Jhenifer at the buzzer said that 'it's okay to go through a stop sign if no cars are around'. Many Cars going 50 km/h slow down to 5 km/h and bikes going 15km/ hour slow to 8km/h when no cars are around. Can I also argue that technically, bikes are going 8km/h over the speed limit when the run a stop sign, but cars go 10 km/h over the limit when they run on a highway?
And the likeliness of a traffic fatality or injury when no cars are around is 0 (zip). While the chance of roadkill of a car going 55km/h is >30%. And of course helmets do little to help the safety. You wouldn't want to stop at every stop sign on 10 avenue every block.

To sum up, yes, almost all cyclists disobey the law, it is already accepted in society. But the magnitude of that violation is very small even compared to a car going 5 km/h over the limit. The only time where running stop signs is a serious violation is when cars are around, more specifically the car is waiting already at the intersection. This issue is not about robertson, it's about the society.


Your statement that cyclists disobeying the laws is 'accepted by society' is false. It may be accepted by the cycling community but not by the rest of society as a whole.

If cyclists want to be treated equally and be given respect, then heads up - they need to toe the line just like pedestrians and vehicle owners. You know, the rest of us.

Your statement makes it sound that 'cyclists' are above the law and the rest of us need to suck it up.

Sorry, no. I have zip sympathy for cyclists that get tagged for breaking the laws.

Cycling accidents were up in 2010 and I would love to see the breakdown as to why. Who is at fault. Are they cyclists/pedestrian accidents; cyclists/ car accidents or cyclist/cyclist accidents.

For you and other cycling advocates to state that cyclists are not responsible for their own fate is misleading and dangerous to promote.

I think people's patience is wearing thin when it comes to excuses as to why cyclists can't or won't abide by the laws that govern us all.

Yet, they hold a different standard to vehicle owners.

Get off your horse max and everyone else.

Everyone breaks the law. Every person on this blog has broken the law, probably several times a day whether you're walking, cycling or driving. So what makes cyclist breaking the law so special? Is it this notion that cyclists think themselves abovr the law? Is it that we're so accustomed to drivers speeding/rolling stops at reds etc... that we don't even notice?

I don't know. The difference for me is peds/cyclists can do little damage other than to themselves. Drivers can, and do kill thousands of people a year. That's a big difference.

Every weekend these jerks come out in hoards taking over Pacific Street in the West End carrying on through into Stanley Park. They ride in groups blocking traffic, run red lights and stop signs 99% of the time and if you say something to them you are told to Fuck off among other things. Vision park chair Aaron Jasper and city hall spent all summer harassing west end dog owners, stopping every one they saw with leashed dogs also, demanding to see liscenses and dog enforcement is not even the jurisidciton of the parks board. There are only 2 off leash areas in the west end created way back in 1997/1998 and about 2000 dogs- the board denied another off leash area in 2009 yet they just spent more of taxpayers money to hire a consultant for their new stanley park cycling plan. The goal is to make cycling more enjoyable for these assholes in stanley park. Vision Vancouver truly is the most disgusting, deceitful political party this city has ever seen

"I don't know. The difference for me is peds/cyclists can do little damage other than to themselves. Drivers can, and do kill thousands of people a year. That's a big difference."

We seem to be veering off into “Two wrongs make a right as along as my wrong isn’t as bad as yours”. You are correct a car will do more damage – the laws of physics dictate that. However, as people have pointed out, cars veering to miss a cyclist will do more damage but is that the driver’s fault? Also, having been hit a few time by a cyclists in a cross walk I would disagree they don’t do much damage. For me it was a few cuts but had it been my 70 year old Mom, the results would have been far more devastating.

Before you ask, I am an avid cyclist but I spend most of the time in the trails so my road riding is really commuting back and forth to the trial network.

Why do you save numerous times that this is from "today's" Province. It's from over a year ago! Also, you need to read the caption on the photo. He was TURNING on a red light. That is, I believe, quite legal.

Also, what a pissy little article this is. Even if you are small-minded enough to give a shit whether or not people wear a helmet, it has nothing to do with Gregor Robertson.


You are 100% correct. It is legal, unless there is a sign that says you can't. However, you can turn after you have made sure it is safe to do so. And that is AFTER you have come to a full and compleate STOP.

It's already been mentioned that most vehicles also break the law in some way, including most of the vehicles in the video above.
But it should also be highlighted that the video is taken at UBC. Road culture on campus is incredibly different to city streets and almost incomparable. Pedestrians rule the road on campus.

This article is definitely whiny and redundant.


It's all relative. Could your grandma be hurt if hit by a cyclist? Sure. She could also slip in the bathtub and die but we don't regulate bathtub entry. Why not? Because relative to other things, it's insignificant.

Relative to the THOUSANDS of injuries every year and the HUNDREDS of deaths caused by automobiles, the danger posed by cyclists is negligable. Should they therefore have a free pass? Of course not, but come on, perspective please.

Here I went to the Sun (you could do this on almost any day) and found an article about a crash.

One dead, two injured, 6 hour delay on the highway, additional sailings on BC Ferries. Add it all up and you have lifelong scars for those families and god knows how much money lost.

pedestrians should rule the roads every day!

Check out!

Paid Advertisement

Paid Advertisement