The problems with the red-light running stats from Auckland Transport

Jan 13, 2014
The problems with the red-light running stats from Auckland Transport

Bike Auckland

Traffic Light RedYou may have heard from this Herald article that AT has just released some stats about red-light running by drivers and cyclists. And yep, at first glance the stats look bad.

Cyclists red-light running clearly outnumber motorists and cyclists are clearly over-represented due to them being less numerous, as AT correctly states (and we don’t want EITHER cyclists or motorists to run the red light!).

But a lot of context is also missing:

  • Three of the four locations were on Quay Street and Tamaki Drive. Why is this important? Because according to Auckland Transport’s own statistics, we have 1,346 cyclists there daily (March 2013 AT survey, Tamaki Drive / The Strand) making this one of the busiest cycle routes in NZ! Therefore, you are likely going to get higher red-light running totals too.
  • In fact, the surveys were undertaken over TWO days (6 peak hours each day). So we really need to double the daily cyclist counts for a fair comparison. As an example, at Solent Street – just east of the The Strand counting location – within 2 days AT counted 48 cyclists red-light running. 48 cyclists breaking the law compared to probably well over 2,000 cyclists using the route (due to different count times, we can’t make an exact comparison). This changes the context considerably.
  • Out of the four locations, three had very high cyclist red-light running counts. However, one location (Newton Road / Ponsonby Road) had 39 cars run the red light within two days while only 14 cyclists did so. And that intersection still has a very busy daily cyclist count of 858 (March 2013 AT survey). Why is this important? Because it shows that the problem is not automatically the same everywhere and that the study may have chosen locations that were unrepresentative of the overall picture.
  • Lastly, the survey seems slanted towards intersections KNOWN to have significant cyclist red-light running, likely because AT commissioned the study while preparing a related education campaign. That is fine with us – you need to study what you want to improve. However, releasing it without such qualification, in the context of this latest tragic accident… It is a bit like publishing a study into the the “Top 10” worst speeding spots in Auckland under the headline of “Auckland Speed Survey” – with many people on the outside given the implication that all car drivers speed like that…
A safe cycling intersection - how many lives would be saved each year?
A safe cycling intersection – how many lives would be saved each year?

As has been mentioned in past posts, a paper and related presentation by AT’s own Daniel Newcombe shows cyclists red light running as about the same as that of pedestrians (~4%), while a Melbourne study showed it at 7%. A very different picture from that implied by AT in this narrower survey.

As CAA has said before – we acknowledge red light running by cyclists as both an actual safety issue, and a perception / public image issue. But a bit more context would have been appreciated for an informed discussion.

Let’s have a debate based on facts, not half understood myths and anecdotal “evidence”.

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