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Thread: Academic Article on Scofflaw Cyclists

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    Default Academic Article on Scofflaw Cyclists

    There's nothing here that any regular cyclist doesn't already know. The piece has some design issues but it's interesting nonetheless.
    The full article is here. The abstract is:

    Nearly everyone has jaywalked, rolled through a stop sign,
    or driven a few miles per hour over the speed limit, but most such
    offenses face no legal consequences. Society also tends to see these
    relatively minor infractions that almost all people make—though they
    are unmistakably illegal—as normal and even rational. Bicyclists who
    break the law, however, seem to attract a higher level of scorn and scrutiny.
    While the academic literature has exhaustively covered unlawful
    driving behaviors, there remains little research on bicyclists who break
    the rules of the road. This paper examines rule-breaking bicyclists and
    the factors associated with such behaviors. We also explore the question:
    are bicyclists making rational, albeit illegal, choices—similar to
    most drivers and pedestrians—or are bicyclists reckless and dangerous?
    Because it’s proven effective for reaching hard-to-reach populations,
    we employed a snowball-sampling framework and an online,
    scenario-based survey completed by nearly 18,000 respondents. Via
    multi-level statistical analyses, our results suggest that younger people
    and males tend to exhibit higher levels of illegal bicycling behavior,
    but even when combining high-risk factors, the overwhelming majority
    of bicyclists are not reckless. Controlling for the context and social
    norms of the city where one lives tends to outweigh individual bicyclist
    characteristics such as race/ethnicity and income. Unlawful drivers and
    pedestrians tend to rationalize their behaviors as time saving; bicyclists
    similarly rationalize their illegal behaviors but were more inclined to
    cite increasing their own personal safety and/or saving energy. Most
    bicyclists can generally be described as rational individuals trying to
    function safely and efficiently given the context and norms of where
    they live and the transportation system put in front of them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by thucydides View Post
    .... bicyclists similarly rationalize their illegal behaviors but were more inclined to cite increasing their own personal safety and/or saving energy. Most bicyclists can generally be described as rational individuals trying to function safely and efficiently given the context and norms of where they live and the transportation system put in front of them.
    This

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    Not that. Cyclists (including myself) are scofflaws to save energy/save time. Citing personal safety is just moral preening.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DismalScientist View Post
    Not that. Cyclists (including myself) are scofflaws to save energy/save time. Citing personal safety is just moral preening.

    I dunno about everyone else. I personally do NOT Idaho reds as a general rule. The few times I have been tempted, it was really all about getting away from traffic. For example at Maine and 9th SW, which is currently a three way intersection (due to contruction) I will sometimes Idaho the red (after stopping) because that way I can make the lane change (for my left onto 7th) without dodging cars. Its a good bit scarier if I have to make the left hand lane change with all the motor vehicle traffic. Similar things in some other places. There was one place I was riding recently (the location escapes me, senior moment) where I Idahoed a left turn because it looked almost impossible to do it otherwise (and I was already placed where it would have been awkward to move over to make a Copenhagen left).


    That is different from Idahoing a stop sign in Fairlington when there is no other traffic - of course with no other traffic around there is no safety gain to Idahoing, I am doing that for momentum (though I usually do slow down for a potential stop, and often downshift) .

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    Quote Originally Posted by DismalScientist View Post
    Not that. Cyclists (including myself) are scofflaws to save energy/save time. Citing personal safety is just moral preening.
    Eastbound Washington Circle in DC is a perfect example of where I'll Idaho a red after stopping and yielding to get ahead of traffic so I can get through the circle without getting crushed. That said, I understand your point. It can be an excuse for just breaking the law for convenience or out of laziness.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DismalScientist View Post
    Not that. Cyclists (including myself) are scofflaws to save energy/save time. Citing personal safety is just moral preening.
    I think you're mostly right, although there are lights that I'll jump to get ahead of cars for what I'd say is best described as "safety." For example, on a road with two lanes in the direction I'm going, I might jump the light so I can more safely move into the left lane for a turn before the cars catch up. Yes, there's a convenience aspect to this, but my priority in making such a move is avoiding merging into the left lane while cars are buzzing around me. This is where the roads and rules-of-the-road are not really designed with a cyclist in mind, so you have to adapt.

    But yes, most of my Idaho stops are more like "I feel safe making this move and am able to execute it without compromising others' safety, so I'm gonna do it to make my life easier and/or expend the least amount of energy possible."

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    Quote Originally Posted by DismalScientist View Post
    Not that. Cyclists (including myself) are scofflaws to save energy/save time. Citing personal safety is just moral preening.
    You do not speak for me. Safety is my number one concern and I'm very rarely in a hurry to go anywhere on a bike and if I was, I'd just use another, faster mode.

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    I've only read the abstract above, not the full article, but the researchers seem to be assuming that there are two separate populations (cyclists and drivers) which really isn't the case.

    Since most cyclists are drivers wouldn't it stand to reason that if they are reckless biking they would be just as reckless driving (especially since the risks are much lower in the latter)? It's not like people suddenly change personality when they get on a bike. I'm slow and careful on my bike and I'm a slow, cautious driver too though I admit I'm less cautious driving because I've got tons of safety goodies protecting me.

    But I agree that driving and walking infractions have been internalized as the norm while people go ballistic over a perceived cycling infraction. I can only presume that is because cyclists are viewed as the "other".

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    Quote Originally Posted by KLizotte View Post
    Since most cyclists are drivers wouldn't it stand to reason that if they are reckless biking they would be just as reckless driving (especially since the risks are much lower in the latter)? It's not like people suddenly change personality when they get on a bike. I'm slow and careful on my bike and I'm a slow, cautious driver too though I admit I'm less cautious driving because I've got tons of safety goodies protecting me.

    But I agree that driving and walking infractions have been internalized as the norm while people go ballistic over a perceived cycling infraction. I can only presume that is because cyclists are viewed as the "other".
    Ooh, a new study idea. Are reckless drivers also reckless cyclists? At some level you're of course correct since we know that the absolute worst group for reckless behaviors (in all sorts of areas) are young males (~16-24). Comparing cycling and driving behaviors would be hard to study since it likely requires self-reporting and people lie or self-justify, which is one of the problems with the study I posted to start this thread. I can't think of a way to reliably observe an individual's cycling and driving behaviors (let alone a large N of people). Nonetheless I do think there's plenty to the idea that infrastructure affects behavior. Ample studies show that it does with drivers and there's loads of anecdotal evidence that cyclist's break the law not just for convenience. I can easily describe a half-dozen spots in my daily commute where I'm breaking the law, but not for reasons of convenience (aside from the inconvenience of injury or death).

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