Cyclists break fewer rules of the road than motorists, Danish study finds – Science Story


Less than five per cent of cyclists break traffic laws compared to 66 per cent of motorists, according to a report.

The study, by the Danish Road Directorate, was conducted by installing video cameras at major junctions in Danish cities, including Copenhagen.

The researchers analysed the behaviour of 28,579 cyclists crossing intersections in various large and small cities across the country.

They found that just 4.9 per cent broke the rules while on bicycle paths, while that number increased to 14 per cent when there were no designated paths present. 

The findings, published by the Danish government yesterday, directly contradict the popular perception held by many that cyclists frequently break road safety laws.

The study’s researchers found that the vast majority of offences were committed by cyclists turning to the right, but at little risk of  colliding with other road users. 

Cycling on the foot path was the second most frequently observed transgression by cyclists. 

In smaller cities with less cycle paths, cyclists breaking the rules were twice as numerous, suggesting that installing this infrastructure is a good way to encourage law-abiding behaviour.  

They found that the smaller the town, the more the cyclists broke the rules.

This is because ‘there is less traffic and more manageable traffic conditions in the provincial towns’. 

In contrast, 66 per cent of drivers were found to be breaking the rules of the road.

Two-thirds of people at the wheel of a car break the rules of the road. Speeding was the most common offence among motorists. 

The Danish Cycling Embassy says the reason cyclists are perceived to break the law more often is because of visibility.

Cyclists who break the law are easier to spot because people easily notice it whereas transgressions by motorists, such as speeding, are harder to spot.  

This data from this latest video study confirms a previous study by consulting firm Copenhagenize that found only 5 per cent of cyclists break the rules.  

A recent Transport for London study investigated the ‘hypothesis that the majority of cyclists ride through red lights’ and discovered that 84 per cent  of cyclists did stop. 

The study concluded that the ‘majority of cyclists obey red traffic lights’ and that ‘violation is not endemic.’ 

The Danish Cyclist’s Federation, a group which promotes cycling and bike safety tweeted: ‘Cyclists are NOT lawless bandits. Less than 5% violate the Road Traffic Act. Fewer people break the law in kbh + other big cities. Thanks to the @vejdirektoratet for important facts in the often disperse debate on cycling behaviour.’ 


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