Cycle campaigners see red over IAM red light jumping survey

Media reports as fact misleading headline that more than half of cyclists jump red lights

by Simon_MacMichael   May 15, 2012  

London cyclist approaching junction.jpg

Much of the national media is this morning reporting the ‘fact’ that more than half of cyclists jump red lights, based on a misleading headline in a press release from the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) that misinterprets the results of a online survey conducted by the road safety charity. The sensationalist nature of the press release’s headline and failure to properly analyse the data from what is itself a questionable piece of research before putting it into the public domain has provoked an angry reaction and fears that the ‘statistic’ will further reinforce the widely held perception that cyclists are a law unto themselves.

The research was conducted via a self-selected survey on the IAM website, conducted using Survey Monkey, that asked several questions of cyclists regarding their behaviour . It’s the claim that 57 per cent of cyclists jump red lights, as well as one that 73 per cent ride on pavements, that today is receiving attention from media outlets such as the Daily Mail, which has the story on the front page of its website, and BBC Breakfast.

Breaking down the multiple choice responses to the question in the survey according to figures supplied by IAM to road.cc presents a rather different picture, however.

IAM poll question: The slight difference between figures in pic and IAM's quoted figures is because the poll was left open after it was supposedly closed and Carlton Reid of Bikebiz answered the questions

Asked, “As a cyclist, do you ever jump red lights,” 1.9 per cent chose, “Yes, frequently.” Some 11.8 per cent replied “Yes, sometimes,” but 24.6 per cent replied “rarely,” 19.1 per cent “once or twice” and a full 42.7 per cent said “Never.”

In other words, 13.3 per cent of respondents to the survey claimed to jump red lights either frequently or sometimes; the remaining 86.7 per cent at most do so rarely and fully half of them state they have never jumped a red light, which puts the findings of the survey in a rather different light.

The press release, embargoed until 0001 today, was sent out yesterday morning under the attention-grabbing heading “More than half of cyclists jump red lights” and was immediately queried with IAM by road.cc, Carlton Reid, executive editor of trade journal BikeBiz, and others.

By lunchtime, BikeBiz had decided to break embargo and publish a story on the press release, saying it was doing so “in order to prepare cyclists for the hate they'll receive from the mainstream media tomorrow.” With a pre-emptive damage limitation exercise in full swing, Peter Walker in the Guardian Bike Blog and Kaya Burgess in The Times had also challenged the survey’s findings.

Besides the misrepresentation of the responses - as well as the discovery by Reid that the survey had also found that 32 per cent of motorists admitted jumping red lights, not contained in the press release - the nature of the survey itself, conducted via Survey Monkey, was also queried, with self-selected online samples notoriously less robust as a form of research than random surveys conducted by professional market research organisations.

That point was highlighted by the website Full Fact, which said: “If this is indeed the case, that means that not only could any visitor to the website – cyclist or otherwise – have influenced the headline result, but also there would have been no weighting to account for participant attributes such as age, gender or location.”

We at road.cc queried the findings of the poll, and the way in which they had been reported, with IAM, including pointing out that the consequences of a motorists running a red light were potentially much more serious than those of a cyclist riding through one, questioning why red light jumping by other road users were not discussed, and also highlighting that a sent according to a report in to cycling casualties carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory for the Department of Transport, only 2 per cent of cycling casualties were the result of red light jumping cyclists.

We also asked the IAM, which among its activities provides cycle training and has a class of membership specifically aimed at cyclists, whether it had any concerns “that the figures quoted in the press release about this poll may well stoke anti-cycling comment from some sections of the media and reinforce the negative stereotypes of cyclists that are held by some media commentators and by a section of the nation's road users?”

The reply we received provided a regional breakdown of survey results, which we had requested, as well as the breakdown given earlier with of how that 57 per cent headline figure had been arrived at. The reply was signed off with the words, “These should hopefully answer your points.” Needless to say, it didn’t.

Reacting to the survey, national cyclists’ organisation CTC said:  “All road users, including drivers and motorcyclists, break the law. In a similar self-reported survey drivers admitted to routine lawbreaking as half of respondents admitted to using mobile phones while driving (mostly illegal hand-held). Another found that 82% ‘sometimes or frequently’ exceed the speed limit.

Roger Geffen, CTC’s campaigns director, said: “As road users we would like to see road traffic laws be enforced for the safety of everyone, but let’s not forget that the risk imposed by cyclists is minimal when compared to red light jumping drivers.”

He added: “Of pedestrians injured in London in a collision caused by red light jumping only 4% involve cyclists, whereas 71% occur when a car driver jumps a red light and 13% when a motorcyclist does. As an organisation representing those two road user groups, CTC suggests IAM ought to call for more road traffic policing to enforce traffic laws, rather than highlighting red light jumping by cyclists.”

In its response to the survey, British Cycling did not directly address the shortcomings of the survey or the misrepresentation of the results, but instead highlighted reasons why some cyclists felt the need to jump red lights in the first place.

Its Director of Policy and Legal Affairs, Martin Gibbs, said: “All road users must adhere to the Highway Code and traffic enforcement laws and of course that includes waiting at red lights and not cycling on pavements. But this survey clearly shows that instances where people bend the rules tends to be on stretches of road where they don’t feel safe on their bikes.

“Some junctions are so badly designed that people on bikes feel they have to choose between riding legally and riding safely, and this urgently needs addressing. Cycle provision and cycle safety must be designed into roads and junctions before they are built, and existing problem junctions re-engineered, so we create an environment in which people can cycle safely and no-one feels excused from obeying the law.”

At a time when cycling has become an issue discussed at national level, thanks to the efforts of cycle campaigners and the high-profile Cities fit for Cycling initiative from The Times newspaper, the IAM poll, and the way its findings were communicated to the media and in some cases reported without question, is likely to reinforce anti-cyclist views held by many.

That is perhaps epitomised by one comment to the Daily Mail story and its reporting that 57 per cent of cyclists jump red lights, which simply says: “And the other 43 per cent are lying.”
 

35 user comments

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Lies, damned lies and statistics...

posted by alex.hondsmerk [2 posts]
15th May 2012 - 8:53

1 Like

I really don't know why you encourage people to visit the Mail or even quote it in articles like this. We all know it's a cesspit of boggle eyed reactionary trolls, why bother giving it the attention?

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [903 posts]
15th May 2012 - 8:57

1 Like

Interestingly, very few motorist know that crossing the advance stop line into the cyclist reserved area (while the traffic light is red) counts as RLJ - I'm guessing many see it as 'optional' - i.e. OK to do so if a cyclist isn't using it.

And if you haven't been fed enough borrocks by the Daily Mail already

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2144328/How-cycling-reduce-wom...

andylul's picture

posted by andylul [414 posts]
15th May 2012 - 9:06

2 Likes

To be honest I'd say the numbers are understated. I ride to work in London every day, pass maybe 15-20 sets of lights and would say I see anywhere between 2-10 light jumpers every single morning and evening. I've also had the misfortune of going to court twice as a witness to RTA's caused by light jumpers (one a car jumping the light, and 1 a bike jumping the light).

Whilst the tone of the article is indeed inflammatory, cyclists are not blameless

posted by bikewithnoname [33 posts]
15th May 2012 - 9:11

2 Likes

The comments section on the Daily Wail's reporting of these "statistics" is really really depressing. I wonder how people that stupid are actually allowed to breed.

posted by crazy-legs [566 posts]
15th May 2012 - 9:12

2 Likes

The BBC pissed me off this morning with their piece on it. They asked the lady from BC if she jumped lights. When she said no they then badgered her trying to get her to say yes, totally belittled her and basically accussed her of lying.

The fact the at cars encroachment into the ASL is technically RLJ was quickly ignored.

It's good to see the BBC taking such a neutral stance!

posted by fungus the muff... [32 posts]
15th May 2012 - 9:27

2 Likes

I broke the embargo for good reason. I could see the hate to come.

Evening Standard even manages to get "Lycra louts" in the first sentence of its piece.

This stat of 57% is now set in stone and will be wheeled out by the haters - and bona fide sources - for ever.

I told the IAM's PR person this would happen and respectfully asked for the release to be withdrawn and amended with the angle that all road users run red lights. She refused to do this. And The Guardian asked, too.

I was told a release on motorists running reds - a stat pulled from the same dodgy survey - would be produced at a future date. In fact, IAM buried it in the cyclist-bashing release on its website but didn't submit the revised release to the mainstream media.

This is clear bias, and was obviously done to get column inches for IAM. As an organisation that previously did a few good things for cyclists, trying to dispel the 'them and us' myth, this was an awful stunt to pull.

Carlton Reid's picture

posted by Carlton Reid [110 posts]
15th May 2012 - 10:02

1 Like

I stopped on a red at a Canary Wharf pedestrian crossing yesterday and a security guard in a golf kart pulled up alongside me and applauded me for stopping. He said I was the first cyclist he'd seen stop all day.

I suspect if you conducted the survey in Canary Wharf then the results might not look favourable Nerd

posted by Old Cranky [276 posts]
15th May 2012 - 10:50

2 Likes

I've lost a lot of respect for the IAM over this. Angry

A much better survey (by observation of road junctions) conducted by TfL in London found that only 16% of cyclist jumped the red lights.
http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/businessandpartners/traffic-note-...

posted by thereverent [317 posts]
15th May 2012 - 11:15

2 Likes

Institute of A-hole Motorists and the Biased Broadcasting Corporation strike again! I was wondering why it was worse than usual on the roads this morning!

posted by a.jumper [723 posts]
15th May 2012 - 11:44

1 Like

Statistics? It's an online self-selected survey, as Peter Walker has mentioned (link above).

This is a classic case of so-called 'statistics' being misleading and ignoring the elephant in the room.

Even if the numbers were remotely near describing the reality, I don't see how releasing this information help anybody. It just provides another opportunity for cretinous knee-jerk reactions amongst drivers, AND SOLVES NOTHING.

I won't condone RLJing, red lights exist for a reason and I think cyclists who consider it's OK to do this routinely should be apprehended. However, if I was trying to cross the road I'd prefer to be hit by a bicycle than 2 tonnes of poorly driven taxi (which in my experience is more likely).

Edit: rant sent to head of research via the media team contact form:

Dear Mr Greig,

I wondered if there was likely to be a vacancy coming up in the policy/research team soon as I am sure heads will roll when the effects of the ridiculous press release on your website are made apparent.

Any respect I had for the IAM and its aims has evaporated. What a shower! I have been driving for nearly 30 years and cycling since before that but idiotic, useless "statistics" like your organisation has presented today do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to help make our roads safer.

I cycle to work nowadays and I am regularly cut up and sometimes abused by ignorant car/van/taxi drivers. My safety is of no concern to them, in their view I don't belong on the road. Every piece of misinformation that feeds the prejudice just makes it worse and allows them to justify putting my life at risk. Your organisation has surely helped make my daily journey even more hazardous than before. Thanks a million!

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2051 posts]
15th May 2012 - 12:14

3 Likes

Carlton Reid wrote:

This stat of 57% is now set in stone and will be wheeled out by the haters - and bona fide sources - for ever.

Is it that easy to establish a falsehood as accepted fact simply by
a) making it sound like it comes from a respectable organisation
b) being the first to say it
?

If anyone would like to give some feedback to IAM then you can do so via their twitter account
https://twitter.com/#!/iamgroup

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [903 posts]
15th May 2012 - 12:22

2 Likes

joemmo wrote:
Carlton Reid wrote:

This stat of 57% is now set in stone and will be wheeled out by the haters - and bona fide sources - for ever.

Is it that easy to establish a falsehood as accepted fact simply by
a) making it sound like it comes from a respectable organisation
b) being the first to say it
?


Yep. It really is that easy.

Tell people what they want to believe and they will swallow it without question. It's how leaders persuade a country to go to war, among other things.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2051 posts]
15th May 2012 - 12:50

3 Likes

The self-selecting nature of this poll means it wasn't even a survey of "cyclists" as such, it was a survey of motorists and motorcyclists *who use bicycles* AND visit the IAM website on a regular enough basis to see the poll.

In other words, even if the stats were true, they'd simply be insulting their own members!?

posted by ribena [147 posts]
15th May 2012 - 13:14

1 Like

Yep. It is.

"A bicycle is stolen every 30 seconds" is a dodgy stat from an insurance company and is now the base stat used in lots and lots of media stories about bike thefts.

Original was picked up by BBC and since then I've seen it quoted as "According to the BBC..."

Carlton Reid's picture

posted by Carlton Reid [110 posts]
15th May 2012 - 13:58

2 Likes

in that case I've just inaugurated the Foundation Of Allied Tax Paying Expert Human Road Users and after polling my member have established that 100% of the Mini driver who nearly clipped me with their wing mirror this morning was examining their hairdo in the mirror rather than paying attention to traffic. I hope to get this message out through the main media outlets by the 6pm news after I've written my manifesto.

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [903 posts]
15th May 2012 - 14:31

1 Like

Carlton Reid wrote:
Yep. It is.

"A bicycle is stolen every 30 seconds" is a dodgy stat from an insurance company and is now the base stat used in lots and lots of media stories about bike thefts.

Original was picked up by BBC and since then I've seen it quoted as "According to the BBC..."

Any journalist who prints that without thinking that 1,051,200 bikes being stolen in the UK every year might be a bit deserves ridicule.

posted by thereverent [317 posts]
15th May 2012 - 15:35

2 Likes

Only quick thinking stopped my 11 year old son from being flattened by a black BMW driven by a woman who rather than slow down at a red light, decided to speed up. The green man was showing and my son said he thought the woman was about to stop so he put his foot on the crossing. She then accelerated and he stepped back out of the way rather quickly. That was on the A23 last Friday, not some sidestreet, and just across the road from his school. But this sort of incident happens so often, it is never reported.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2308 posts]
15th May 2012 - 16:17

1 Like

Use this website to report such behaviour: http://www.met.police.uk/roadsafelondon/

posted by northstar [1110 posts]
15th May 2012 - 16:27

1 Like

Simon_MacMichael wrote:
cowspassage wrote:
Road.cc adding to the misreporting by referring to "AIM" in their headline?!?

Haste/speed and cooks/broth are word pairs that spring to mind - but thanks for pointing it out so quickly so we could fix it.

Still "AIM" in the carousel.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1380 posts]
15th May 2012 - 17:11

2 Likes

Curious as to how many cyclists frequent IAM's website. I know for me it isn't that high up on my list of things to do when on the internet. The media hasn't even highlighted that this is NOT an official survey or that it was carried out on a motoring website and that the respondents would primarily be motorists. I wonder if IAM would be as quick to publish the results of mobile phone use to the media. On a 30 minute. Commute this morning I observed at least a dozen phone users. I also had a van nudge my back wheel while waiting at aa set of red lights.

Maybe road.cc should run aa poll on RLJing and release the results to IAM as a comparison on how weak their own 'survey' was.

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1068 posts]
15th May 2012 - 17:15

2 Likes

Can someone explain to me, as a regular commuter in a city that is not London, how jumping a red light is safer than waiting. I have never been able to get my head around this, and am ignorant as to the safety advantageous. Can anyone explain this? I am curious.

andrew streit

posted by andrew streit1 [26 posts]
15th May 2012 - 22:33

1 Like

The Breakfast presenters are idiots, particularly Chrlie Stayt. Instread of simply asking questions of the guests, he spends 5 minutes giving the answer he wants to them. Moron...

posted by jameshaworth21 [11 posts]
16th May 2012 - 8:26

3 Likes

jameshaworth21 wrote:
The Breakfast presenters are idiots, particularly Chrlie Stayt. Instread of simply asking questions of the guests, he spends 5 minutes giving the answer he wants to them. Moron...

No-one forces you to watch it. Every television has an 'OFF' button.

Most telly output is shit, particularly what passes for entertainment and the navel-gazing, indulgent fluff on breakfast/daytime TV. The less TV I watch the better my quality of life.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2051 posts]
16th May 2012 - 8:53

1 Like

andrew streit1 wrote:
Can someone explain to me, as a regular commuter in a city that is not London, how jumping a red light is safer than waiting. I have never been able to get my head around this, and am ignorant as to the safety advantageous. Can anyone explain this? I am curious.

Personally I don't do it, but I have observed others doing it. They basically use a. the period when there isn't anything coming through the green light, to jump the gap, or b. the 'dead zone' - that few seconds when all lights are red between stages of the light sequence. The idea is that this makes them one of the only moving road users at that point (clearly relies on good observational skills/anticipation of others' actions etc) and, bereft of surrounding motor traffic with intentions to overtake/turn/accelerate etc, therefore safer than moving off amongst said surrounding traffic.

I have seen people doing this really stupidly, but I have also seen it done rather better. Just this morning a chap in full Team GB kit (including Team-Sky coloured Pinarello and the regulation weighted backpack, so presume he wasn't a wannabe) in Manchester doing this rather well; the biggest danger he presented was to the perception of other motorists that we all RLJ.

If anyone RLJs in our club kit, they're in for some words from the club secretary, for just this reason.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3466 posts]
16th May 2012 - 9:23

2 Likes

Ladies and gents of road.cc, please don't post links to the Daily Heil. It increases both their ad revenue and our blood pressure.

On the story itself, meh, it'll come and go. Just keep on riding safe - and don't jump red lights (whether on two wheels or four)! I have to be honest and say that on my commute to work, a significant proportion do. And it gets on my nerves (not least because I have to reel them in and overtake them again...)

Ghedebrav's picture

posted by Ghedebrav [1101 posts]
16th May 2012 - 10:49

1 Like

andrew streit1 wrote:
Can someone explain to me, as a regular commuter in a city that is not London, how jumping a red light is safer than waiting. I have never been able to get my head around this, and am ignorant as to the safety advantageous. Can anyone explain this? I am curious.

I would say much the same as notfastenough. I've seen both the bumbler weaving in and out of cars and pedestrians as they rlj and I've seen it done really well as a rider makes use of the dead phase Both inexcusable BUT I can understand why some cyclists will use this tactic. Until the authorities include a 'cyclist' green of 5 seconds or so to get clear of the junction and establish their road position the better. Even with that we will always be stuck with the bumblers.

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1068 posts]
16th May 2012 - 14:08

1 Like

I was one of the ones who thought it a good idea to promote this poll, hoping it would do some good. I must have tweeted about 10-15 times, even attempting to highlight the fact that not many women seemed to be taking part. I even used facebook to get friends and family involved.

TBH had the IAM used the poll in a different way, a positive reflection on why some riders feel it necessary and so we could delve into the psyche of these riders, it could have taught us much. However from reading on the CTC forum it became clear that there were issues with the ability to submit multiple answers.

All you need after that is a "facebook campaign" or some conniving on various forums known to spread the hatred of riders and you've got over a hundred potential false answers.

downfader's picture

posted by downfader [204 posts]
16th May 2012 - 20:15

1 Like

I have to say that this, "us and them attitude" really is indicitive of the sickness of/in British society. I work as a cycle courier in Cardiff and also enjoy road cycling as my hobby, I have a drivers license and regard myself as a road user. When at the wheel of my car I drive within the speed limit being aware of both my wing mirrors, other road users regardless of vehicle and try to get home without incident. Something that rallies through my mind is the driving students mental note of mirror, signal manoeuvre. As a cyclist whether on the clock or just out turning the pedals for pleasure I have to quite literally fight for my rightful road position, the road is an extremely hostile environment and it seems the more vehicle you have to protect yourself the more of wanker people think they have right to just treat others like shit! I am ashamed of what I see on the road daily, then I read these comment pages and it's more of the same! I find it hard to understand why there is such a lack of understanding, personal/political will to just provide a safe road travel experience where loved ones can get home alive rather than the police delivering the worst news in the world. In an age of physical deterioration, with a growing number of obese and sick population. Where the cost of living and driving rises seemingly everyday you think there'd be some serious consideration towards alternative methods of transportation especially the bicycle? The answer is no, people are lazy, angry and don't care about themselves so how can we expect them to care about the safety of others? Cycling had been one of the most incredible and influential experiences of my life to date and nothing shall stop me riding on our roads well other than concrete truck! p.s the news reporting media did and do an awful job! Keep up the good work road.cc!

posted by Sparkly77 [1 posts]
17th May 2012 - 6:40

2 Likes

and how many London bus drivers jump red lights would be an interesting one. Weight the consequences of that versus the consequences of a cyclist doing the same and I still think we'd end up with the worse press!

posted by Carvers [41 posts]
17th May 2012 - 8:07

1 Like