What part does infrastructure play in lawbreaking? Let’s ask the Institute of Advanced Motorists.
Cycling and the law
When responding to a survey (conducted online by themselves and presented with atrociously unclear statements) in which 14% of cycling respondents said they jumped red lights “regularly or sometimes”, Simon Best, chief executive of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, had this to say:
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. Its dangerous and illegal. The police need to enforce the law…when cyclists put themselves and others at risk…
The sentiment is clear: the law is the law, and people’s views on their own safety when on a bicycle are not sufficient to justify contravening that in any way.
Driving and the law
When responding to casualty figures in 20mph limits (whilst crucially overlooking the significant rise in the coverage of those limits), Simon Best, chief executive of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, had this to say:
The government and councils need to take stock on the effectiveness of 20mph signs…simply putting a sign on a road that still looks like a 30mph zone does not change driver behaviour. Authorities need to spend more on changing the character of our roads so that 20mph is obvious [and] self-enforcing.
The sentiment is clear: the law is the law, and people’s views on their own convenience when in a car are not sufficient to justify contravening that in any way.
Oh—no, wait a minute…
Where was the bit about how “the police need to enforce the law”? Or the bit about “putting others at risk”? Or “dangerous and illegal”?
None of that? None?
The sentiment is clear, though:
You can’t expect drivers to obey signs. That’s a signal that your infrastructure is poor: it’s your fault. It’s not worth mentioning enforcement of the law in this case, even though violating this law is—in every conceivable case—detrimental to safety.
But you should expect cyclists to obey signs. It doesn’t matter that your infrastructure is poor: it’s their fault. It’s important to mention enforcement of the law in this case, even though violating this law is—as shown in the IAM’s own survey—frequently born of a desire for increased safety.
The only means of logically reconciling these statements is that my convenience whilst in my car is of great importance, whilst my physical safety whilst on my bicycle is not.
This is, thus, the IAM’s stance.
Indeed, this tacit acceptance of lawbreaking behind the wheel but condemnation of it behind the handlebar is rife far beyond the IAM.
The former—despite the greater danger it poses to third parties—has been socially normalised, and that’s that.
(Oh, and a footnote: the IAM’s light-jumping survey also found that around 30% of drivers jump red lights, but—although they daringly lobbed it into the article before unilaterally sticking the boot in on cyclists—for some reason there was no comment on that. It’s also interesting to note that their figures show that drivers who don’t cycle are about 50% more likely to jump red lights in car than those who do.)