The red-light running behavior of electric bike riders and cyclists at urban intersections in China: An observational study


Cyclists and red lights

The topic of red light jumping (RLJ) comes up a lot in cycling forums and amongst cyclists were of course various views taken on its appropriateness. Having an understanding of the behaviour is important as part of the process of determining the best response. This paper by Wu, Yao and Zhang (2012) published in Accident Analysis and Prevention in November 2012 adds to our understanding of the type of rider that chooses to run red lights, well at least in the context of China. It is also interesting in that adds a new variable, the type of bicycle (electric versus non-electric). For the record the authors observed 451 cyclists at the controlled intersections and 56% of the riders jumped the red light.

The abstract of the paper by Wu, Yao and Zhang (2012) is summarised below and a copy of the paper can be downloaded from my Dropbox.

Electric bikes and regular bicycles play an important role in the urban transportation system of China. Red-light running is a type of highly dangerous behavior of two-wheeled riders.

The main purpose of this study was to investigate the rate, associated factors, and behavior characteristics of two-wheelers’ red-light running in China. A field observational study was conducted using two synchronized video cameras at three signalized intersections in Beijing. A total of 451 two-wheelers facing a red light (222 e-bike riders and 229 cyclists) were observed and analyzed. The results showed that 56% of the two-wheelers crossed the intersection against a red light. Age was found to be a significant variable for predicting red-light runners, with the young and middle-aged riders being more likely than the old ones to run against a red light. The logistic regression analysis also indicated that the probability of a rider running a red light was higher when she or he was alone, when there were fewer riders waiting, and when there were riders already crossing on red.

Further analysis of crossing behavior revealed that the majority of red-light running occurred in the early and late stages of a red-light cycle. Two-wheelers’ crossing behavior was categorized into three distinct types: law-obeying (44%), risk-taking (31%) and opportunistic (25%). Males were more likely to act in a risk-taking manner than females, and so were the young and middle-aged riders than the old ones. These findings provide valuable insights in understanding two-wheelers’ red-light running behaviors, and their implications in improving road safety were discussed.

Your Turn To Talk

I hope you liked this post! Please do stop by the comment section below and share your thoughts on this paper on red light jumping with the rest of us.  I am always interested in feedback on research papers and on topics such as red light jumping so please do share your thoughts by leaving a comment below 🙂

2 Responses to The red-light running behavior of electric bike riders and cyclists at urban intersections in China: An observational study

  1. Lance Deegan 19 November 2013 at 7:50 PM #

    Having visited China regularly since 2002 and having lived there all of 2011 including regularly riding a bicycle, I thought I should put my 2 bobs worth in on this topic. I lived in the city of Zhengzhou in Henan province, home to a mere 7 million people. If interested, you can check out an article I wrote at the time at
    Firstly, I have to say that crossing against the red light is NOT common in China. Many other errant behaviours are but crossing on the red is not one of them. Road safety is very poorly managed in China but not crossing on the red is one very simplistic action which has been drummed into them and which most of them obey with the exception being some ebike riders. In my view, there are two reasons for this:
    1. ebike riders think of themselves as small, minor, almost invisible, no-one will notice me scooting across etc. As the article said, they are opportunistic.
    2. All Chinese people drive the same way as a pedestrian walks. They watch out for what is in front of them and avoid it. They ignore what is behind or to the side of them as being that other persons problem. The ebike rider thinks of himself as a pedestrian – small, nimble (they do have good acceleration) and not really beholden to rules they think are really for cars.
    In my view, therefore, the research reported on in this article is pretty much irrelevant because running red lights is not an issue in China. On the other hand, let me give you a few real issues – cars stopping in the middle of the freeway whilst the driver takes a phone call from his girlfriend or his stockbroker, going the wrong way up a freeway slip road (police are particularly prone to this), parking on the footpath (I’m rich, I can do what I like), constantly changing lanes, no lights (why ? I’ve never figured this one out), pulling out into a traffic stream without looking, pedestrians walking diagonally across busy intersections etc.
    As an example, each side of Zhengzhou Avenue has 4 traffic lanes plus 2 lanes for bicycles, a footpath then a bit of landscaping. What happens is that the cars spread out into and take over the bicycle lanes, motor bikes take over the footpath and the poor old pedestrians are forced into the bush. Size = power.

  2. Andrew Priest 20 November 2013 at 8:49 AM #

    Thanks Lance for your local insights.

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