Why do cyclists run red lights?

Jul 31, 2012

Almost 40 per cent of cyclists have reported committing red light infringements, but fines should only be part of the strategy to improve safety, according to new research.

Published in , a study by Monash University researchers Drs Marilyn Johnson, Judith Charlton, Stuart Newstead and Jennie Oxley, examined why Australian cyclists run red lights and the characteristics of those who do.

The researchers, from the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) surveyed more than 2000 cyclists and found that the most common reasons cited for riding through red lights could be at least partially mitigated by more inclusive , amendments to road rules and targeted education programs. 

Almost one third of respondents who had run a red light did so during a left hand turn. The next most common reason, cited by 24.2 per cent of infringers, was that they were unable to activate the sensors in the road, known as inductive detector loops, to trigger a traffic light change. Just over 16 per cent of cyclists reported a red light infringement when no other traffic - vehicular or pedestrian - was present.

Dr. Johnson said the study results implied that many cyclists felt it was safe to turn left against a red light.

"The most obvious safety benefit for cyclists if they turn left during the red light phase is that they then don’t have to negotiate the corner with the vehicles," Dr. Johnson said.

"A well-planned trial with adequate signage would be a good first step to see if permitting cyclists to turn left on red at some intersections would improve cyclists’ safety."

Dr. Johnson said infrastructure adjustments could help resolve the problem of detector loops not being triggered by bikes and leaving cyclists stranded during low-traffic periods. 

"Cyclists across Australia were frustrated by their inability to change traffic lights," Dr. Johnson said.

"At some sites, cyclists can activate the signal change if they ride over the right spot. Painting that spot with a bike symbol may be an easy and very cheap solution. At other sites, we need to reconsider how these detector loops are calibrated to ensure all roads users can activate the signal change."

Results showed that overall, men were more likely to infringe than women, as were people aged 18 to 29, compared to those in older age brackets. Cyclists who had been fined for a infringement while driving were 50 per cent more likely to have infringed while riding a bike. 

"Fines continue to have a place in enforcing road rules for cyclists, but these will be more effective when combined with measures to make the roads a more inclusive place for ," Dr. Johnson said.

Explore further: Self-made billionaires more likely to give than inheritors

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New Irish study on how safe cyclists feel

Jul 31, 2012

The findings of the largest survey to date on the perception of safety among cyclists in Dublin have been published by engineering researchers at Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork and University of Hong Kong.

Study prompts safety precautions for cyclists

Jul 27, 2012

Interviews with cyclists hospitalised following road crashes have reinforced the importance of measures such as wearing helmets and bike lights, and better interaction between all road users.

Australian cycling boom a myth

Jun 28, 2012

(Phys.org) -- There has been a decline in the per capita level of cycling in Australia, with population growth three times that of recent increases in cycling trips, according to research by University of Sydney Professor ...

Recommended for you

Self-made billionaires more likely to give than inheritors

38 minutes ago

A study by economists at the University of Southampton suggests that billionaires who have built their own fortunes are more likely to pledge to donate a large portion of their wealth to charities, than those who are heirs ...

Recessions result in lower birth rates in the long run

15 hours ago

While it is largely understood that birth rates plummet when unemployment rates soar, the long-term effects have never been clear. Now, new research from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public ...

Human trafficking, an invisible problem

20 hours ago

Human trafficking is a problem about which little is known in Spain, due to both the lack of reliable figures as well as the poor coordination among international police forces and the social permissiveness with regard to ...

The scarring effects of primary-grade retention?

Sep 26, 2014

An article released by Social Forces titled, "The Scarring Effects of Primary-Grade Retention? A Study of Cumulative Advantage in the Educational Career" by Megan Andrew explores the effect of scarring in the educational career ...

User comments : 7

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jnjnjnjn
1.8 / 5 (5) Jul 31, 2012
A cyclist risks his own life when he runs a red light not that of others.
So thats why it cannot be compared to running a red light with a car.
It can be very difficult to fine a cyclist because cycling is the best way to navigate a city.
The simple truth is that cyclist don't like to wait and they don't have to.

J.
rockwolf1000
1.7 / 5 (6) Jul 31, 2012
The whole concept of cyclists and automobiles sharing the same lanes and rules is ridiculous. I never stop at red lights or stop signs unless there is traffic coming when cycling. it's not needed. A cyclist has a full 360° unimpeded view and usually approaches an intersection at a slower speed than a car that allows time to check to see if the road is clear without making a full stop. Driving a car and riding a bike are not the same things.
Deathclock
1 / 5 (3) Jul 31, 2012
I had no idea that traffic lights ever applied to bicycles... how stupid.
Shelgeyr
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 31, 2012
Why do cyclists run red lights?

To get to the other side.
(Rimshot!)

Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week, and please be sure to tip your waitresses.
alfie_null
not rated yet Aug 01, 2012
The goal of all research like this should be to improve overall safety, to reduce accidents. To that end, I don't see any figures cited in the article (i.e. how bicycle operator infractions affect safety on the road). I'm left wondering if the resources focused on this intermediate goal are being best used?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Aug 01, 2012
Why do cyclists run red lights?

Anyone who has to ask that question has obviously nevr ridden a bike (at speed).

Braking takes effort. Accelerating takes a LOT of off effort. Coasting through takes no effort.

Compare this to sitting in a car where the effort is minimal and you get why cyclists are more prone to keeping on going when they see the coast is clear. (At the, compared to cars, low speeds you also have a lot more time to check out the traffic situation before you reach an intersection)
88HUX88
not rated yet Aug 01, 2012
why do car drivers run red lights? I see far more every day but then mostly I am the only cyclist around at the time (I cross the same set of lights 4 times each day, on average 3 out of 4 times a car will run a red light - reference the my light is already green before they start off) I stop for lights but car drivers ignore fellow drivers' infractions and remember those of the cyclists.