Earlier today the press officer for IAM, the Institute of Advanced Motorists, issued a press release headlined 'More than half of cyclists jump red lights'. This is based on an online survey completed by mostly non-IAM members, none of whom had to supply any verification of their identity.
The IAM's press release is embargoed for tomorrow but BikeBiz.com is releasing it today in order to prepare cyclists for the hate they'll receive from the mainstream media tomorrow.
BikeBiz.com asked IAM to supply the stat for the number of motorists who run reds. IAM said 32 percent admitted to doing so but the charity will not be including this 'statistic' in the same press release (which has already been recalled and resubmitted once, because poll numbers weren't included in original release).
Caroline Holmes, senior communications officer at the IAM, said:
"We will of course balance this with a release on car drivers jumping red lights…in the near future."
Why not make the press release about red light running by road users in general? To not do so, when stats are available, suggests bias against one group of road users.
The survey is still available online. Some of the results can be found here. You don't have to be a statistician or a market research specialist to spot the flaws in the survey or in IAM's press release.
Holmes' email signature says she was the Public Relations Consultants Association's "Young communicator of the year" in 2011.
In 2007, a report for Transport for London - based on actual measurement at notorious 'red light running' locations - found that 16 percent of cyclists ran reds and that "Violation is not endemic."
This is for London, thought to be the UK's capital of red light running by cyclists. The IAM's press release uses an online survey of dubious statistical accuracy to state that 57 percent of cyclists in every part of the UK run red lights.
When asked why they don't provide more infrastructure for cyclists, politicians have been known to say things such as if only cyclists would clean up their act, there would be more chance of such provision. Red light running, as well as "cycling on pavements", is a stick to hit cyclists with. Ministers never say they'll only build more roads if motorists stopped speeding.
Cycle organisations have roundly criticised IAM's poll methodology and the conclusions in the press release.
Eleanor Besley, Sustrans' policy advisor, said: “While not all cyclists are saints, this dodgy survey only tells half a story and misses the biggest issues facing everyone on our roads.
“With more and more people waking up to the benefits of cycling, we need roads that bikes, cars and pedestrians can share - pointing the finger at cyclists and stirring up bad feeling is frankly dangerous.
“Everyone sharing our roads needs to stick to the rules, but we need big changes to our streets to make them safer for everyone starting with lower speed limits where we live, work and play.”
British Cycling issued a statement saying: "we understand that the validity of the ‘57% of cyclists jump red lights’ figure has been questioned. A breakdown of the figures has shown that only 1.9% confessed to regularly doing so. Another 11.8% did so "sometimes" while 24.6% did "rarely", and 19.1% had done so once or twice. There is also a statistic in the poll where 32% of motorists have admitted to running red lights."
Martin Gibbs, British Cycling’s Director of Policy and Legal Affairs, 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.
“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."
A statement from the CTC said "the figures, which came from a self-reported internet poll, reveal that only 2% of respondents said they jump lights ‘frequently’, while 42% say that they jump lights ‘once or twice’ or ‘rarely’ and another 44% say they never have.
"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."
CTC’s campaign director Roger Geffen 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 continues: “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.”
[UPDATE: stung by criticism, IAM has now issued a new opening para to the press release below and has told local media they can release the info straight away because of the broken embargo:
"Fifty-seven per cent of cyclists say they have jumped a red light at least once, with 14 per cent saying they do so regularly or sometimes, according to the IAM's latest online poll of 1600 people.
The embargoed press release can be seen below:
More than half of cyclists jump red lights
Fifty-seven per cent of cyclists admit to jumping red lights according to the IAM’s latest poll of 1600 people.
The main reason given for jumping lights is because it is safer to get ahead of other traffic (38 per cent do this). At the same time over half (54 per cent) of cyclists think that cyclists should improve their behaviour by sticking to the Highway Code at junctions – poor road layout and junctions were a top concern for half (48 per cent) of the cyclists polled.
Other findings are:
Seventy three per cent of cyclists ride on the pavement, with the top reasons being: because the cycle path doesn’t join up completely (59 per cent), to avoid a busy section of road, which doesn’t have a cycle path (55 per cent) and to avoid a busy junction (47 per cent)Ninety-four per cent of cyclists have seen a driver cross an advanced stop line*
And 43 per cent said they would be less likely to jump red lights if advanced stop lines were more strongly enforced.IAM chief executive Simon Best said: “Cyclists are right to feel that roads are not cycle friendly enough, and this is reflected in their behaviour. But while poor junction design, inconsistent cycle paths and inconsiderate drivers put cyclists at risk, cyclists also have to help themselves.
“Changes to road layouts and junctions can improve safety for cyclists, but no junction will ever be safe for those who continue to jump red lights. It’s dangerous and illegal.
“The police need to enforce the law as strongly when cyclists put themselves and others at risk by jumping the lights, as they do for drivers. They also need to ensure that drivers are pulled up for crossing advanced stop lines that protect cyclists.”