Azara Blog: Cycling lobbies become hysterical over cycling survey

Blog home page | Blog archive

Date published: 2012/05/16

The Cambridge News says:

Survey results that showed 57 per cent of cyclists admitted to jumping red lights have been criticised by campaigners.

The survey of 1,600 people by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) also found 73 per cent of cyclists rode on the pavement, but the methodology and the way the results were presented were questioned last night.

Cambridge Cycling Campaign said it had asked the IAM for clarification on the questionnaire, which was carried out online.

In the survey 1.9 per cent of cyclists said they jumped red lights "frequently", 11.8 per cent "sometimes", and 24.6 per cent "rarely".

A further 19.1 per cent said they had jumped red lights "once or twice", while 42.7 per cent said they had never jumped a red light.

The main reason for jumping red lights, given by 38 per cent of cyclists, was that it was safer to get ahead of other traffic and 43 per cent said they would be less likely to jump lights if vehicle stop lines which left space for cyclists were more strongly enforced.

Ninety-four per cent of cyclists said they had seen drivers cross an advance stop line.

However, the survey also found 31.8 per cent of motorists who do not cycle admitted to jumping red lights, as did 21.3 per cent of drivers who do cycle.

Cyclists who rode on pavements said they did so because of poor cycle paths and busy junctions.

Nobody would have paid this non-story any attention except that the UK cycling lobbies went into a hysterical frenzy at the report. Indeed, one Guardian journalist even broke the embargo on reporting the story because he deemed it to be of such importance, which says rather more about the warped world view of the journalist than it does of anything else. (There are plenty of real stories in the world that need reporting.)

All online surveys are bogus, in particular they do not take random samples. This is just one of zillions of such surveys pumped out every day. They are done simply to give some free publicity to the organisation that carried it out, and/or to promote its lobbying efforts. The media, desperate for stories, regularly comply and give free publicity, especially if the alleged outcome of the survey happens to support the prejudices of the media organisation. The problem here is that the outcome did not support the prejudices of the Guardian, where cyclists are treated as saints (and the Evening News is just jumping on the bandwagon). If an online (and therefore bogus) survey had shown that some Guardian pet prejudice was allegedly validated, you can bet that no story would have pointed out that it was bogus.

There was even some claim that drivers might have responded and so biased the survey to make cyclists look bad. Well, cycling lobbies might regularly bias surveys (and plenty of surveys done in Cambridge are biased by cyclists because cyclists are middle class and the surveys are biased towards the middle class because mainly they respond). So perhaps they are reflecting their own behaviour on the people they regard as their enemies (drivers). But the evidence here is rather thin, since only 1.9 percent of the respondents claimed they jumped red lights "frequently", and significant responses from drivers would have made that figure much higher.

No, the real point is that cyclists are not saints. And there are plenty of reasons to jump red lights. For example, many lights are vehicle activated and in the middle of the night you would be rather stupid to wait for some car to show up rather than just cycle on through. The question is not whether there is jumping of red lights, but whether it is dangerous to have done so in a particular circumstance. Unfortunately this is way beyond the thinking capability of the average sanctimonious middle class journalist.

All material not included from other sources is copyright For further information or questions email: info [at] cambridge2000 [dot] com (replace "[at]" with "@" and "[dot]" with ".").