10, 2019, 06:59am
A new study from the Danish Road Directorate shows that less than 5% of cyclists break traffic laws while riding yet 66% of motorists do so when driving. The Danish Cycling Embassy, a privately-funded NGO, puts this down to visibility: law breaking by cyclists is “easy to notice for everyone” but transgressions by motorists, such as speeding, are harder to spot.
The study was carried out for the Danish government by consulting firm Rambøll using video cameras sited at major junctions in Danish cities, including Copenhagen. It was found that just 4.9% of cyclists broke road rules when they were riding on cycleways. This rose to 14% of cyclists when there was no cycling infrastructure present. ( Want fewer scofflaw cyclists in your city? Install cycleways. )
The video cameras counted 28,579 cyclists crossing at intersections. The most frequently recorded transgression was bicycling on the sidewalk. Rule breaking by cyclists was twice as numerous in smaller cities which, in Denmark, have fewer cycleways. The new study had almost identical results to an earlier one carried out by the consulting firm Copenhagenize. This was also a video study and analyzed the behaviour of 80,000 cyclists: it found that 5% broke traffic laws.
Separate studies by the Danish Road Directorate found that two-thirds of motorists routinely flout the law, with breaking local speed limits being the most common offense.
Studies elsewhere in Europe have previously found that the image of the law-breaking “Lycra lout” is wrong. A Transport for London study investigated the “hypothesis that the majority of cyclists ride through red lights” and discovered that 84% of cyclists stopped on reds. The study concluded that the “majority of cyclists obey red traffic lights” and that “violation is not endemic.”
Earlier this week, political journalist Peter Walker of The Guardian fronted a video asking whether law breaking by cyclists was the menace that many in the mainstream media say it is. He concluded that, statistically, it wasn’t.
This was backed up by traffic officer PC Mark Hodson of West Midlands police who said that the “effects of behavior that people are moaning about is negligible. If you look at the statistics, if you look at the actual threat of harm, cyclists aren’t posing a risk to anybody.”