Safety in Scofflaws: More Research Needed on the Dirty Secret of Biking

An article on Washington Post's Wonkblog says what some bikers were thinking: sometimes it feels safer to break the law.

1 minute read

January 10, 2015, 9:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Emily Badger begins an article about bikers who flout traffic laws by admitting that she occasionally breaks the law while on her bike—not because of some reckless impulse but because sometimes on a bike safer conditions are achieved by bending the rules.

The problem, according to the article is that "we don't really understand — and we definitely don't talk about — the behavioral psychology of cycling all that well." It's much easier, according to Badger, for drivers to "picture all scofflaws as that caricature of a New York City bike messenger, a professional risk-taker who laughs at traffic laws and the suckers who obey them."

These questions lead Badger to examine the work of Wesley Marshall, an assistant professor of civil engineering at the University of Colorado who is also co-director of the Active Communities Transportation Research Group, and a team of researchers examining "scofflaw behavior, why people say they do it (drivers and cyclists alike), and when they don't."

Why might this work be valuable? "More data on the scofflaws inside all of us could potentially help create safer streets, even…more productive public debate about how cars and cyclists coexist," writes Badger.

Friday, January 9, 2015 in The Washington Post - Wonkblog

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