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

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.”
 

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

35 comments

Avatar
cowspassage [43 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

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

Avatar
nowasps [426 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

I have just completed my own survey, and discovered that 100% of all motorists have deliberately driven on the pavement in order to murder hard working families and especially babies in prams.

FACT.

Avatar
Simon_MacMichael [2450 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes
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.

Avatar
Tony Farrelly [2868 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Oops, that's my fault I put AIM in Simon's head

Avatar
londonplayer [620 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

how many motorists use their mobile whilst driving?

how many break the speed limit?

100% I reckon - or near as damn it.

when they drive perfectly, I'll start accepting some criticism.

Avatar
alex.hondsmerk [2 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Lies, damned lies and statistics...

Avatar
joemmo [1164 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

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?

Avatar
andylul [410 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

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...

Avatar
bikewithnoname [86 posts] 4 years ago
0 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

Avatar
crazy-legs [767 posts] 4 years ago
0 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.

Avatar
fungus the muff... [32 posts] 4 years ago
0 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!

Avatar
Carlton Reid [132 posts] 4 years ago
0 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.

Avatar
Old Cranky [257 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

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  26

Avatar
thereverent [406 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

I've lost a lot of respect for the IAM over this.  14

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-...

Avatar
a.jumper [846 posts] 4 years ago
0 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!

Avatar
Simon E [2722 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

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!

Avatar
joemmo [1164 posts] 4 years ago
0 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

Avatar
Simon E [2722 posts] 4 years ago
0 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.

Avatar
ribena [179 posts] 4 years ago
0 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!?

Avatar
Carlton Reid [132 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

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..."

Avatar
joemmo [1164 posts] 4 years ago
0 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.

Avatar
thereverent [406 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes
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.

Avatar
OldRidgeback [2620 posts] 4 years ago
0 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.

Avatar
northstar [1108 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

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

Avatar
cat1commuter [1421 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes
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.

Avatar
giff77 [1251 posts] 4 years ago
0 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.

Avatar
andrew streit1 [26 posts] 4 years ago
0 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.

Avatar
jameshaworth21 [11 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

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...

Avatar
Simon E [2722 posts] 4 years ago
0 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.

Avatar
notfastenough [3684 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes
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.

Pages