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The Globe and Mail

When did the red light stop meaning ‘stop’ in Vancouver?

It's a trend I spotted during the holiday rush and one that is apparently going to carry on well into the new year: Vancouver drivers running red lights at an alarming rate.

And drivers, before you get all, "Yeah, but what about the …" don't worry, I'll get to them as well.

I know, turning left is hard sometimes, and who wants to see just one driver make it through the intersection when the light finally changes. But four cars? Really?

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And look, I know that no one is perfect. A while back I had one of those moments where the light turned amber as I was approaching and I had reached the point of no return and was committed to making it through the intersection. The light turned red just as I was clear, but when I looked in my rear-view mirror I was surprised to see that two more cars had followed me through on what had to be a dead-red light for the second car. The feeling that I may have cut it too close evaporated.

Now, having been trained as a Young Driver of Canada (a distinction that I carry with pride and one that remains resume-worthy to this day), I was taught that when the light turns green one should make sure the intersection is clear before proceeding by looking left, then right, then left again. It's a brief pause that won't be confused with a person asleep at the wheel or texting, and one that may have saved my life more than once, especially on the days when I drive a motorcycle.

But it's not just a lack of attention or distraction or racing the light that has people running the reds.

Twice in the past few weeks I've witnessed this: A motor scooter stops for the red light at a pedestrian-controlled crossing in a school zone, then when the crosswalk is clear drives on through the red light.

These were gas-powered scooters that are licensed motor vehicles.

. In both cases I had just walked my youngest to school through the same intersection. In both cases I yelled, "What are you doing? It's a red light!" at the riders. And in both cases I was dismissed with a single extended digit.

Car drivers have done exactly the same thing, causing me to question whether a red light actually means what I think it means. Maybe there's a new rule that I don't know about.

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And then there are the cyclists. For some of them, dodging children in the school zone crosswalk while running the red light is a daily challenge. If they speed past I'll yell, "Red light!" at them. To be fair, some of them also stop for the red, but based on my informal counts they would be the minority at this particular intersection.

There is also a certain brand of pedestrian, head down, face in their phone, earbuds cancelling all noise and paying no attention whatsoever to the colour of the light as they step out into the street. To them, I say good luck.

The point is that if we don't all agree that red means stop then things have pretty much fallen apart. We're no better than, say, Montreal.

This isn't just a local problem. In the U.S. the National Coalition for Safer Roads organizes an annual "National Stop on Red Week," which includes a pledge to do so as well as a list of "Top 10 Reasons to Stop on Red." . Among them is if you're habitually running red lights you'll probably end up killing someone.

Red means stop. Green means go.

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