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Cyclists far less likely to break traffic laws than motorists finds study

Common perception that cyclists are rule-breakers persists

You don’t need to spend long hours reading the comments sections of local newspaper websites to know that cyclists are widely perceived as incorrigible rule-breakers. Yet a new study from the Danish Road Directorate found that less than 5 per cent of cyclists break traffic laws compared to 66 per cent of motorists.

Forbes reports that the study was carried out by consulting firm Rambøll using video cameras at major junctions in several Danish cities, including Copenhagen.

Strikingly, while just 4.9 per cent of cyclists broke road rules when riding on cycleways, 14 per cent did so when there was no cycling infrastructure present. The most common transgression was pavement cycling.

While it doesn't serve as a direct comparison, the Danish Road Directorate has previously found that two-thirds of motorists routinely flout the law, with breaking local speed limits the most common offence.

Earlier this week, we reported on a fairly typical anti-cyclist comment that on this occasion was posted to Mumsnet. A contributor who was somewhat inexplicably unhappy at, "having to be careful not to knock cyclists over," said: “Of course, they don't have to be careful not to knock anyone over when they go through red traffic lights, do they?”

This is a fairly typical example of the persistent perception that cyclists are inherently rule-breakers. But where does this view come from? The Danish Cycling Embassy, a privately-funded NGO, believes it is in large part down to visibility, suggesting that while the more common examples of law-breaking by cyclists are “easy to notice for everyone,” transgressions by motorists, such as speeding, can be harder to spot.

There are other aspects to the issue too. In a recent Guardian video asking whether cyclists feel they are above the law, Dame Sarah Storey explains that when a cyclist breaks the rules of the road, it is often done for safety reasons – pavement cycling in particular.

In the same podcast, West Midlands traffic officer PC Mark Hodson makes a further point, which is that the kind of cyclist behaviour that people like to moan about generally has a negligible impact. “If you look at the statistics, if you look at the actual threat of harm, you think ‘cyclists aren’t posing a risk to anybody,’” he says.

The media also has a huge role to play, according to Storey. “If we hear of an incident where it’s the fault of the cyclist, which is a very, very, very rare occurrence, it’s a massive headline. It’s all over the newspaper, it’s all over the news, it’s on the radio and everyone knows that a cyclist has done something wrong.

“And it’s a tragedy when that happens, but unfortunately every single day on our roads, multiple people die because of the actions and lack of care of a person behind the wheel of a vehicle – and those just don’t get reported on, there are so many of them.”

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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13 comments

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Helmut D. Bate | 4 years ago
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Someone on this thread was brought up in a state that taught Ben Hur and 1,000,000 years BC as 'history' and 'science', and they probably don't realise these words are about them.

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froze | 4 years ago
0 likes

I'm a cyclist and a motorists and here in the USA where have I lived in several cities in the US over my 50 years of being a cyclist and a motorist; my observations are that cyclists break more laws than motorists, sorry fellow cyclists but that's been my observations.  One poster mentioned that traffic lights were invented for cars not bicycles...except in the US the cyclist must obey the rules of the road just as a motorist, and if there is a stop sign or light or whatever traffic control device or sign the cyclist must obey that law UNLESS the sign excludes cyclist or that city or state has allowed exceptions.  The same is true with horse riders!   Even speed limits can be enforced especially in school zones if a cyclist is exceeding the limit and the cop deems it as unsafe for children being out and about, but typically a cyclist is not going to exceed the speed limit because they can't!  There are laws that pretain to cyclists only like you must ride to the far right as possible, you must be in bike lane if there is one, etc, etc. With that kind of logic about traffic lights were made for cars then you also that roads were made for cars, so cyclists need to stay off the roads!

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cdean replied to froze | 4 years ago
6 likes
froze wrote:

my observations are that cyclists break more laws than motorists, sorry fellow cyclists but that's been my observations.  

 

That may be your observation where you've lived, but the research referred to in the article shows the opposite.

 

froze wrote:

With that kind of logic about traffic lights were made for cars then you also that roads were made for cars, so cyclists need to stay off the roads!

 

http://roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com/

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arowland replied to froze | 4 years ago
5 likes
froze wrote:

I'm a cyclist and a motorists and here in the USA ... my observations are that cyclists break more laws than motorists, sorry fellow cyclists but that's been my observations.  One poster mentioned that traffic lights were invented for cars not bicycles... except in the US the cyclist must obey the rules of the road just as a motorist...  With that kind of logic about traffic lights were made for cars then you also that roads were made for cars, so cyclists need to stay off the roads!

Yup, cyclists have to obey the rules of the road in the UK too, and occasionally they don't. I don't condone that at all, but the article makes some useful points.
1) Rule breaking by cyclists may be more visible than rule breaking by motorists (e.g. a car exceeding the speed limit may not be so obvious as a cyclist jumping a red light), so be aware that subjective observations may get a bit distorted.
2) In the Danish study, when cyclists disobeyed rules it was often for safety reasons, e.g. riding on the pavement (sidewalk) when the road is intimidating. To quote: "while just 4.9 per cent of cyclists broke road rules when riding on cycleways, 14 per cent did so when there was no cycling infrastructure present. The most common transgression was pavement cycling." So the absence of proper infrastructure for cyclists actually causes the behaviour you complain about.
3) Transgressions by cyclists are generally far less dangerous to others than those by motorists.

 

And finally -- roads were built for cars? Oh dear! Your history needs a refresher! Please see http://roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com/ or https://www.vox.com/2015/3/19/8253035/roads-cyclists-cars-history
Perhaps you meant that roads are designed for cars rather than cycles these days -- well, that is just what we're complaining about!

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froze replied to arowland | 4 years ago
0 likes
arowland wrote:
froze wrote:

I'm a cyclist and a motorists and here in the USA ... my observations are that cyclists break more laws than motorists, sorry fellow cyclists but that's been my observations.  One poster mentioned that traffic lights were invented for cars not bicycles... except in the US the cyclist must obey the rules of the road just as a motorist...  With that kind of logic about traffic lights were made for cars then you also that roads were made for cars, so cyclists need to stay off the roads!

Yup, cyclists have to obey the rules of the road in the UK too, and occasionally they don't. I don't condone that at all, but the article makes some useful points.
1) Rule breaking by cyclists may be more visible than rule breaking by motorists (e.g. a car exceeding the speed limit may not be so obvious as a cyclist jumping a red light), so be aware that subjective observations may get a bit distorted.
2) In the Danish study, when cyclists disobeyed rules it was often for safety reasons, e.g. riding on the pavement (sidewalk) when the road is intimidating. To quote: "while just 4.9 per cent of cyclists broke road rules when riding on cycleways, 14 per cent did so when there was no cycling infrastructure present. The most common transgression was pavement cycling." So the absence of proper infrastructure for cyclists actually causes the behaviour you complain about.
3) Transgressions by cyclists are generally far less dangerous to others than those by motorists.

 

And finally -- roads were built for cars? Oh dear! Your history needs a refresher! Please see http://roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com/ or https://www.vox.com/2015/3/19/8253035/roads-cyclists-cars-history
Perhaps you meant that roads are designed for cars rather than cycles these days -- well, that is just what we're complaining about!

No, you found some obscure website and ran with it.  Roads were invented a long time ago for horses and oxen, later Romans made roads for their horses and chariots, then came horse and carriage, and those carriages were the same design that cars originally took which is why the first cars were called horseless carriages.  So no, roads were not designed for bikes, bikes came along later and the riders simply rode them on whatever surface was available that was conducive for cycling on.  So no, it's you that needs the history refresher.

 

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to froze | 4 years ago
1 like
froze wrote:
arowland wrote:
froze wrote:

I'm a cyclist and a motorists and here in the USA ... my observations are that cyclists break more laws than motorists, sorry fellow cyclists but that's been my observations.  One poster mentioned that traffic lights were invented for cars not bicycles... except in the US the cyclist must obey the rules of the road just as a motorist...  With that kind of logic about traffic lights were made for cars then you also that roads were made for cars, so cyclists need to stay off the roads!

Yup, cyclists have to obey the rules of the road in the UK too, and occasionally they don't. I don't condone that at all, but the article makes some useful points.
1) Rule breaking by cyclists may be more visible than rule breaking by motorists (e.g. a car exceeding the speed limit may not be so obvious as a cyclist jumping a red light), so be aware that subjective observations may get a bit distorted.
2) In the Danish study, when cyclists disobeyed rules it was often for safety reasons, e.g. riding on the pavement (sidewalk) when the road is intimidating. To quote: "while just 4.9 per cent of cyclists broke road rules when riding on cycleways, 14 per cent did so when there was no cycling infrastructure present. The most common transgression was pavement cycling." So the absence of proper infrastructure for cyclists actually causes the behaviour you complain about.
3) Transgressions by cyclists are generally far less dangerous to others than those by motorists.

 

And finally -- roads were built for cars? Oh dear! Your history needs a refresher! Please see http://roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com/ or https://www.vox.com/2015/3/19/8253035/roads-cyclists-cars-history
Perhaps you meant that roads are designed for cars rather than cycles these days -- well, that is just what we're complaining about!

No, you found some obscure website and ran with it.  Roads were invented a long time ago for horses and oxen, later Romans made roads for their horses and chariots, then came horse and carriage, and those carriages were the same design that cars originally took which is why the first cars were called horseless carriages.  So no, roads were not designed for bikes, bikes came along later and the riders simply rode them on whatever surface was available that was conducive for cycling on.  So no, it's you that needs the history refresher.

 

I think you've got that a bit wrong: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2011/aug/15/cyclists-paved-way-for-roads

Quote:

The hard, flat road surfaces we take for granted are relatively new. Asphalt surfaces weren't widespread until the 1930s. So, are motorists to thank for this smoothness?

No. The improvement of roads was first lobbied for – and paid for – by cycling organisations.

In the UK and the US, cyclists lobbied for better road surfaces for a full 30 years before motoring organisations did the same. Cyclists were ahead of their time.

You should read http://roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com/ - Carlton Reid made an excellent job of research and it's a good read (I helped KickStarter it). He recently emailed about it  being used as a textbook:

Carlton Reid wrote:

PhD scholar Megan Sharkey reminded me of this the other day when she tweeted:

"Currently using your book to understand a bit more missed policy turns during the pre WW2 period and help with archives research."

Avatar
billymansell replied to hawkinspeter | 4 years ago
0 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:
froze wrote:
arowland wrote:
froze wrote:

I'm a cyclist and a motorists and here in the USA ... my observations are that cyclists break more laws than motorists, sorry fellow cyclists but that's been my observations.  One poster mentioned that traffic lights were invented for cars not bicycles... except in the US the cyclist must obey the rules of the road just as a motorist...  With that kind of logic about traffic lights were made for cars then you also that roads were made for cars, so cyclists need to stay off the roads!

Yup, cyclists have to obey the rules of the road in the UK too, and occasionally they don't. I don't condone that at all, but the article makes some useful points.
1) Rule breaking by cyclists may be more visible than rule breaking by motorists (e.g. a car exceeding the speed limit may not be so obvious as a cyclist jumping a red light), so be aware that subjective observations may get a bit distorted.
2) In the Danish study, when cyclists disobeyed rules it was often for safety reasons, e.g. riding on the pavement (sidewalk) when the road is intimidating. To quote: "while just 4.9 per cent of cyclists broke road rules when riding on cycleways, 14 per cent did so when there was no cycling infrastructure present. The most common transgression was pavement cycling." So the absence of proper infrastructure for cyclists actually causes the behaviour you complain about.
3) Transgressions by cyclists are generally far less dangerous to others than those by motorists.

 

And finally -- roads were built for cars? Oh dear! Your history needs a refresher! Please see http://roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com/ or https://www.vox.com/2015/3/19/8253035/roads-cyclists-cars-history
Perhaps you meant that roads are designed for cars rather than cycles these days -- well, that is just what we're complaining about!

No, you found some obscure website and ran with it.  Roads were invented a long time ago for horses and oxen, later Romans made roads for their horses and chariots, then came horse and carriage, and those carriages were the same design that cars originally took which is why the first cars were called horseless carriages.  So no, roads were not designed for bikes, bikes came along later and the riders simply rode them on whatever surface was available that was conducive for cycling on.  So no, it's you that needs the history refresher.

 

I think you've got that a bit wrong

To be fair most of their points so far have been wrong, firstly using anecdote and confirmation bias as counterpoints to actual evidence-based research and then misquoting and misrepresenting another poster's comment about traffic light-based cameras as the basis for their roads-built-for-cars argument.

Avatar
Simon E replied to froze | 4 years ago
4 likes
froze wrote:

I'm a cyclist and a motorists and here in the USA ... my observations are that cyclists break more laws than motorists, sorry fellow cyclists but that's been my observations.

Cycling discussion rule no. 1: Anecdote is not evidence. Your observations will be very much determined by circumstances, prejudices, confirmation bias and more.

froze wrote:

No, you found some obscure website and ran with it.

It's not obscure, Carlton knows far, far more about roads and transport than you realise.

Whether roads were invented for horses is not the point, the vast majority of the ones we use today were NOT built for cars so it is you that was wrong. We all get things wrong, it will be better for everyone involved if instead of arguing you simply grow up and admit it. You then would be able to digest other contributions properly and may learn something.

Avatar
FluffyKittenofT... replied to froze | 4 years ago
2 likes
froze wrote:
arowland wrote:
froze wrote:

I'm a cyclist and a motorists and here in the USA ... my observations are that cyclists break more laws than motorists, sorry fellow cyclists but that's been my observations.  One poster mentioned that traffic lights were invented for cars not bicycles... except in the US the cyclist must obey the rules of the road just as a motorist...  With that kind of logic about traffic lights were made for cars then you also that roads were made for cars, so cyclists need to stay off the roads!

Yup, cyclists have to obey the rules of the road in the UK too, and occasionally they don't. I don't condone that at all, but the article makes some useful points.
1) Rule breaking by cyclists may be more visible than rule breaking by motorists (e.g. a car exceeding the speed limit may not be so obvious as a cyclist jumping a red light), so be aware that subjective observations may get a bit distorted.
2) In the Danish study, when cyclists disobeyed rules it was often for safety reasons, e.g. riding on the pavement (sidewalk) when the road is intimidating. To quote: "while just 4.9 per cent of cyclists broke road rules when riding on cycleways, 14 per cent did so when there was no cycling infrastructure present. The most common transgression was pavement cycling." So the absence of proper infrastructure for cyclists actually causes the behaviour you complain about.
3) Transgressions by cyclists are generally far less dangerous to others than those by motorists.

 

And finally -- roads were built for cars? Oh dear! Your history needs a refresher! Please see http://roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com/ or https://www.vox.com/2015/3/19/8253035/roads-cyclists-cars-history
Perhaps you meant that roads are designed for cars rather than cycles these days -- well, that is just what we're complaining about!

No, you found some obscure website and ran with it.  Roads were invented a long time ago for horses and oxen, later Romans made roads for their horses and chariots, then came horse and carriage, and those carriages were the same design that cars originally took which is why the first cars were called horseless carriages.  So no, roads were not designed for bikes, bikes came along later and the riders simply rode them on whatever surface was available that was conducive for cycling on.  So no, it's you that needs the history refresher.

 

 

Most of what you confidentaly assert above is factually wrong.  Dunning-Kruger strikes again.

Avatar
FluffyKittenofT... replied to froze | 4 years ago
2 likes
froze wrote:

I'm a cyclist and a motorists and here in the USA where have I lived in several cities in the US over my 50 years of being a cyclist and a motorist; my observations are that cyclists break more laws than motorists, sorry fellow cyclists but that's been my observations.  One poster mentioned that traffic lights were invented for cars not bicycles...except in the US the cyclist must obey the rules of the road just as a motorist, and if there is a stop sign or light or whatever traffic control device or sign the cyclist must obey that law UNLESS the sign excludes cyclist or that city or state has allowed exceptions.  The same is true with horse riders!   Even speed limits can be enforced especially in school zones if a cyclist is exceeding the limit and the cop deems it as unsafe for children being out and about, but typically a cyclist is not going to exceed the speed limit because they can't!  There are laws that pretain to cyclists only like you must ride to the far right as possible, you must be in bike lane if there is one, etc, etc. With that kind of logic about traffic lights were made for cars then you also that roads were made for cars, so cyclists need to stay off the roads!

 

I can't be bothered going through the multiple ways you get this wrong.  You don't seem to have grasped the point.  What you say is a mixture of not true, anecdotal, and completely irrelevant to the topic.

  But it's interesting that you sound like a stereotypical US-style motor-centric Franklinist elitist 'cyclist'.

Anyway, your entire country is disastrously dependent on motor vehicles and planes (and air-conditioning), it's a lost cause, so I don't really care what you do. 

 

  Get back to me when your country has attained some sort of reasonable population density so can have some sort of normal politics and environmentally-sane transport policy.  At the moment the US is, to a first approximation, empty - nobody lives there.  The average population density rounds down to zero (if you use the right units). 

Ergo you don't exist, so I don't have to listen to you.  Even if you do, you are liable to disappear at any moment in a freak mathematical rounding-error.

Avatar
AlsoSomniloquism | 4 years ago
4 likes

Yep, car drivers are more likely to break the law as shown at the Velo Brum today.  (have to sit through about 20 secs of adverts for the video. )

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/impatient-driver-inv...

 

Edit:  And another one without Video. 

http://b31.org.uk/2019/05/man-72-arrested-after-steward-injured-velo-roa...

Avatar
hawkinspeter | 4 years ago
1 like

Here in Bristol we got a third place in the RLJing results - just by Cabot Circus: https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/thousands-been-caught-running-red-2837905

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bigbiker101 | 4 years ago
7 likes

Traffic light cameras were not invented for Cyclists, neither were average speed cameras, we have a whole police department who's sole job is to manage and police drivers (OK cyclists in theory fall under their scope as well, but it was still created to manage drivers), we spend millions managing and policing drivers yet hardly anything for cyclists, of course car drivers break the law more often, but of course they don't see that do they.

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