CRA Cyclists & Motoring Safety Explored – USA
By Carlton Reid
Researchers have found that almost all road users break the law, but the reasons for the infractions differ between modes. Motorists break road rules to save time while cyclists do so to save their necks.
Reported on JSTOR Daily on August 28, a study initially carried in the Journal of Transport and Land Use stated that “nearly everyone has … rolled through a stop sign or driven a few miles per hour over the speed limit” but that these infractions are considered “normal and even rational.”
However, bicyclists breaking the law attracts a “higher level of scorn and scrutiny,” says the U.S study by university researchers Wesley E. Marshall, Daniel Piatkowski, and Aaron Johnson.
“The popular press portrays bicyclists as reckless and a pervasive problem with potentially dire consequences,” said the trio, noting that other studies have shown that the “red-light running bicyclist angers drivers more than any other road user behavior.”
(A Transport For London camera study of 7,500 cyclists at five junctions found in 2007 that, contrary to popular perception, most cyclists do not run reds: 84% of the cyclists stopped at red traffic lights.)
Marshall, Piatkowski, and Johnson set out to discover whether cyclists (who also tend to have driving licenses) are naturally reckless and dangerous or whether they could be making rational, albeit illegal, choices when they cycle.
The researchers, who work at three different universities, asked bicyclists, drivers, and pedestrians to analyze hypothetical lawbreaking and to explain why they broke the road rules in question. Eighteen thousand people took part in the study, initially published in 2017.
Every single study participant admitted to one or other form of lawbreaking—“when it comes to transportation, everybody is a criminal,” asserted the study—but it was found that drivers and pedestrians mostly break the rules of the road to save time while, for cyclists, the most common reason was personal safety. Getting out of the way of larger, faster, often lethal motor vehicles was the main factor influencing bicyclists’ rule-breaking.
“The overwhelming majority of bicyclists are not reckless,” reported the daily newsletter for JSTOR, a digital library of academic journals, “they mostly break laws in situations where little harm would come to themselves or others.”
Cyclists, added the researchers, “feel like an afterthought in a transportation system dominated by cars.”
“[Law breaking] bicyclists tend to be rational individuals trying to function safely and efficiently, even if it means they are doing so illegally, given the social norms of where they live and the transportation system put in front of them,” concluded the researchers.
Cyclists who also drive are better able to recognize road risk, found earlier Australian research, published in Accident Analysis & Prevention. This 2017 study found that motorists who self-identified as cyclists were better able to spot potential road hazards.
Study author Vanessa Beanland of Australian National University noted that the “demands of cycling” appears to hone awareness skills. Beanland and her associates found that, in a lab setting, cyclist-drivers responded to new information more quickly than motorists who did not cycle.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the cyclist-drivers were significantly faster at detecting the appearance of fellow cyclists.
Beanland’s study concluded that “cycling experience is associated with more efficient attentional processing for road scenes.” She suggested that road safety would be improved for all if more motorists also cycled.
Article Credit To Forbes.com.