How much time do you waste waiting at a traffic light?

Waiting at red lightI’m lying in bed feeling lazy. Suddenly a scary thought pops into my mind. Damn, I scheduled that meeting today. I look down at my watch. I have just 15 minutes to get from Swiss Cottage to Hyde Park. I throw on my clothes, grab my bike, tap the lift button continuously until it arrives as if that will make it go faster and then shoot off down Finchley Road arriving at my meeting on time. Except that’s not what happens. I don’t shoot off down Finchley Road. Because, I’m stuck at a traffic light. The clock is ticking and no cars are passing. I’ve made a resolution with myself to not jump red lights so I wait.

Green light, pedal down, I start powering my way in the direction of Hyde Park. Draft a bus (I can’t make resolutions to end all my bad cycling habits) and then get caught up at another dreaded red light. 10 seconds pass, 20 seconds. I’m getting nervous. We’re off again only to get caught by another red light 0.1 of a mile away. Now I’m really sure I’m going to be late.

Can you relate to this experience? It got me thinking about how much of our time we, as cyclists, waste waiting at red lights. So I ran a little experiment using the Edge 705 I’m borrowing off the nice people at Garmin for a couple of months. Every time I would arrive at a red light I would tap the lap button and then as I set off again I would tap the lap button again.

So here is what I found..

Total journey time Time spent at traffic light % of time at traffic light
16:38s 3:08s 19%
10:20s 54s 9%
16:00s 3:47s 22%
13:02s 2:08s 16%

The shocking result of my unscientific experiment…

17% of my time was spent at a traffic light. A total of 9 minutes 57 seconds out of 56 minutes of cycling.

I must admit it feels like a lot more. But maybe I’m just the impatient sort of person that wants everything now. The sort of person that could benefit from a more Zen Habits approach to life.

So what can you do while spending 17% of your journey waiting at a red light?

  1. Practise your track standing.
  2. Give evils (official term: establish eye contact) with all the drivers behind you so they realise your position on the road.
  3. Or you could think about how long you could survive chained to a bed with a Velociraptor?
  4. Or perhaps you could dream up a world where traffic lights were never invented?
  5. Spark up a conversation with the cyclist next to you?

I’ll see you at the red lights. I’m the one who swears each time the light turns red…

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

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