Survey: Bikers and Drivers Break the Law At Similar Rates

But there's one key difference in a cyclist's motivation to do so.

I admit it: I’m biker in Philadelphia and I’ve broken the law. I’ve ridden through red lights (after stopping first, mind you). I’ve even done the South Philly slide through a stop sign.

If you’re a motorist frothing at the mouth right now over my lawlessness (hi, Stu Bykofsky!), be honest with yourself: Have you ever flouted traffic laws? Maybe you’ve gone above the speed limit? Or not come to a full stop at a stop sign? Probably so, right? Well, as it turns out, a new survey of 18,000 people by the University of Colorado’s Wesley Marshall found that cyclists and drivers break the law at roughly the same rate.

“The study gathered similar rates of infraction — 8 percent to 9 percent for drivers, and 7 to 8 percent for cyclists,” reported “And when Marshall researched the reasons a cyclist might break a traffic law, it turns out they are doing it for nearly the same reasons that a driver would, but with one difference.”

The one difference? Oh lord, this is going to sound self-righteous, but hear Marshall out: Drivers and pedestrians will stroll through a red light in hopes of saving time, he said, while bikers are “doing it for their own personal safety or perceived safety.”

It’s not as crazy it sounds. If a biker stops at a red light, checks to make sure no cars are coming, and then goes through it, they’ll be ahead of traffic and can stake out a spot on the road. “They felt like they’re more visible,” said Marshall, an associate professor of civil engineering.

I’ve totally done this, and for this exact reason. It’s a particularly smart move if a street is busy and lacks bike lanes.

In fact, in some places such as Idaho, bikers are allowed by law to treat red lights like stop signs, and stop signs like yield signs.

Another thing to think about is that cyclists are currently breaking the law at roughly the same rate as drivers (slightly less, if I’m going to smart about it) in a world that is made for drivers. If more streets were designed with bikers in mind, my guess is that we’d flout the law less.

But let’s not get too smug. The bottom line is this: Though we all seem more willing to accept the fact that drivers speed than that bikers run red lights, the truth is, “we’re all criminals,” said Marshall.

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