Traffic in Stockholm

Stockholm cyclists may be allowed to turn on red

4:13 min

Stockholm is growing and commuters are feeling the pain. Cars sit longer than ever before during rush hours on the highways and roads that lead in and out of the city. Subways are jam packed, and cyclists ride elbow to elbow, usually with pedestrians rushing by on their right and cars on their left. Some politicians are now considering allowing cyclists and maybe even cars to turn right on red.

Every day, over 150,000 people ride their bikes on city streets and bicycle paths in Stockholm. Now politicians want to build more bicycle paths, fix up old ones, and are even talking about allowing bicyclists to turn on red.

Infrastructure minister Catharina Elmsäter-Svärd says allowing bicycles and even cars to turn on red would help ease congestion. She told newspaper Dagens Nyheter that she was open to the possibility of allowing both bicyclists and even cars make right turns at red lights. And she has the support of several politicians.

In most European countries, turning right on a red is illegal, unless a special sign tells you otherwise. In North America, it's the other way around. Most places allow you to turn on red unless a sign tells you not to.

In Sweden, turning on red has always been illegal.

And some people want to keep it that way. Both the National Society for Road Safety and traffic police in Stockholm are against the proposal.

Rickard Kosini is the communications manager for the National Society for Road Safety in Sweden.

"We want to make sure this is implemented in a way that enhances traffic safety not just as a means to not build a safe environment," he says. "The rules when used in the wrong context can endanger the road safety for all."

The Swedish Transport Agency began working on a new bicycle plan for the city last fall. Among other things, they plan to build better bicycle paths in the city. Now they are also studying the right turn on red option for bicyclists.

Then comes the even thornier question of what to do about cars.