Survey: Cyclists no better — or worse — than drivers

The ongoing feud between drivers and bicyclists (which exists almost as if one is never the other) often ends up as little more than the ceremonial hurling of allegations that the “other” is pretty bad at their mode of transportation.

Are drivers worse than bicyclists or are bicyclists worse than drivers when it comes to obeying the laws of the road?


“We’re all criminals,” says Wesley Marshall, an associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Colorado.

Marshall surveyed 18,000 people to find out why bicyclists violate traffic laws.

He found that the rates of infractions are about the same for both drivers and bicyclists and that they are motivated by the same thing.

“They’re not trying to be reckless or rude,” Marshall said. “Cyclists, they’re doing it for their own personal safety or perceived safety. They felt like they’re more visible.”

On a transportation grid designed with cars in mind, Marshall says cyclists are acting on what they perceive is better for their safety. It is a rational choice in a cyclist’s decision-making, he said. At a red light with no other cars crossing, a cyclist can get a head start on the next block.

“It’s interesting that you would break the law to feel safer,” Marshall says.

A city with a great deal of mass transit is expected to be a lot safer than a typical driving city, Marshall says. But cities with lots of bicyclists, which you might think would be more dangerous, are in reality much safer.