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Effectiveness: 1 Star Cost: $$
Use: Unknown
Time: Varies

Overall Effectiveness Concerns: This countermeasure has not been systematically examined. There are insufficient evaluation data available to conclude that the countermeasure is effective.

The purpose of targeted enforcement is to increase compliance with appropriate traffic laws by both bicyclists and motorists. Enforcement of traffic laws for all operators, including speed, distracted, and impaired enforcement, may help to enhance behavioral compliance and reduce the severity and frequency of collisions as well as promote bicycle safety. (See Chapter 3 for more information on strategies to reduce speeding and aggressive driving.) Targeted enforcement directed at bicyclists is rare but does occur with their failure to obey traffic signs and signals. Some college towns such as Madison, Wisconsin, have enforcement periods at the beginning of each school year.

SHSOs can help ensure correct riding and driving around bicyclists through communications and outreach campaigns, and through training LEOs about laws that impact the safety of bicyclists, and applicable enforcement. Some violations may be especially pertinent to bicyclist safety. For example, a motorist may violate a bicyclist’s right-of-way following an overtaking maneuver by immediately turning right across the bicyclist’s path when making a right- or left-hand turn, or by passing too close to a bicyclist (see Section 3.4 below). Similarly, bicyclists riding the wrong-way put themselves at greater risk of head-on collisions or angle collisions with motorists pulling out at side streets or driveways who are looking to the left for oncoming traffic. By enforcing and educating bicyclists and drivers about relevant laws, the motoring and bicycling public may become better-informed about the risk of these types of violations and importance of obeying all traffic laws. Law enforcement can also reinforce active lighting and helmet use laws in effect by stopping and educating offending bicyclists as well as writing citations if appropriate. (Also see the Bicycle Safety chapter, Section 1.1, and BIKESAFE Law Enforcement countermeasure for more information:

LEOs typically receive little to no specialized training in bicycle or pedestrian safety, but such training can yield safety improvements. For instance, the Watch for Me NC program in North Carolina provided comprehensive officer training combined with public safety messages about pedestrian and bicycle safety (Sandt et al., 2015). After receiving the training, officer test scores increased from 77% to 90% correct, and they reported improvements in self-reported attitudes, knowledge, and perceived ability to enhance safety through their enforcement efforts. Importantly, driver yielding increased by an average of 15 to 16% after a year or more after the program began. Officers in Utah who received training in bicycle safety enforcement, including classroom and field training through a NHTSA cooperative agreement in 2012, stated they were more likely to watch and enforce high-risk motorists’ behavior after having received training.

NHTSA offers free self-paced interactive training for law enforcement to enhance the safety of bicyclists (and pedestrians). Training can be found from several sources including:

Enforcement strategies can take  formats to help satisfy the needs of departments regardless of how they choose to emphasize bicycle safety.

  • Training for prosecutors and judges. This helps build the case for enforcement of traffic laws and planned enforcement operations with appropriate follow-up for citations throughout the judicial system.
  • Alternative programs. An example includes educational diversion programs for adjudication of citations involving bicyclists. Diversion programs may be easier to implement in settings such as universities and college campuses. For example, UC Berkeley teamed with the East Bay Bicycle Coalition to provide free bicycle safety classes as an option to reduce the fine for a bicycle ticket from the UC police department. For more, visit: Trauma Nurses Talk Tough collaborated with local Portland organizations (including the Portland Department of Transportation) to create the Share the Road Safety Class program (Trauma Nurses Talk Tough, 2016). The class teaches right-of-way safety to bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists who have received citations for incorrect lane use, lack of safety equipment, or failure to yield. Pre- and post-class testing found a 20% increase in knowledge of laws and safety issues, and 97% of students who evaluated the course rated it as worthwhile. In Illinois, certain jurisdictions offer an online “Adult Bicyclist” quiz on key safety techniques and State laws as a bicyclist ticket diversion program (see, and­_Spring2014.pdf for more information). Other examples of programs can be found at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) and through Marin County (California) Bicycle Coalition.
  • Targeted enforcement. One example of a publicly available plan outlining policy and enforcement practices for bicyclist and pedestrian safety is provided by Glendale, California. See

A Massachusetts law included measures for enforcement of motorist violations affecting cyclist safety and enabled local jurisdictions to cite bicyclists for violating traffic laws under the same procedure for ticketing motorists. This legislation has led to increased enforcement for bicyclist laws in some jurisdictions. There was some initial confusion in implementing the law, but police in Boston are now citing bicyclists for traffic violations as well as looking out for motor vehicle violations that they may have overlooked before. Some jurisdictions see the measures as primarily an aid to outreach and education of cyclists to increase their safety.

Use: Unknown. Targeted enforcement of bicycle-related violations is likely a rarely used intervention.

Effectiveness: Gilchrist et al. (2000) described an enforcement program in Georgia that impounded bicycles of unhelmeted children and produced long-term increases in helmet wearing. This specific example seems unlikely to be broadly popular. Increasing community awareness and law enforcement through the training courses and approaches noted above could, however, yield benefits that go beyond bicycle safety, to include improved community relations and more positive interactions between law enforcement and members of the community. A Japanese study by Okinaka and Shimazaki (2011) evaluated the effects of vocal and written prompts delivered by security guards on a university campus to reinforce safe behaviors (such as dismounting and walking bicycles on a sidewalk). The intervention involved posting campus security guards at sidewalk locations. The guards wore sashes that read, “Let’s not drive on campus” and provided vocal prompts, “Please get off and push [bicycles] to [bike racks] for safety on campus,” and then thanked compliant riders for their cooperation. Results reported the intervention was effective at increasing safe behaviors exhibited by bicycle riders in this context. Riders walked their bicycles on the sidewalk 22% of the time at baseline, compared to 88% of the time during the intervention phases.

A Canadian study examined the effects of enforcement after a mandatory all-age bicyclist helmet law was passed in 1997 in Nova Scotia (Huybers et al., 2017). Non-compliance involved a total fine of between $129-136 CDN, which could be avoided by participation in a diversion program consisting of a 2-hour education course. The 16-year longitudinal study found that helmet use increased from around 37% before the law to 75% in the first year of implementation. Helmet use continued to rise to 94%, fourteen years after the law came into effect. Usage levels increased in years with greater enforcement; however, given the nature of this study, it is not possible to conclusively determine that the increases were attributable specifically to the enforcement efforts.

Costs: Training currently exists for LEOs. Roll-call videos can be implemented at essentially no cost to the departments. NHTSA’s nationally focused CD-ROM trainings (bicycle and pedestrian) can be taken by officers on their work or personal computers. They were designed to enable officers to earn eligibility for in-service training hours. (NHTSA expects to revamp these trainings to include new laws and a web-based format in the next few years). Longer in-person courses take officers away from their regular duties or require overtime commitment and may incur a financial cost, which may make online courses a more cost effective option. Some States or localities have developed their own training to reflect State and local laws, some are roll-call videos, other in-person. In-person courses may offer an added value if they include observations of bicycle-motorist interactions, on-bicycle experience, and/or training of a bicycle safety enforcement operation. SHSOs may be able to provide funding for departments to participate in longer training courses, especially for those States eligible through 405 (h) State Highway. Training for prosecutors and judges would likely need to be developed, as would a supporting communications and outreach program for the public, motorists and bicyclists.

Time to implement: For existing law enforcement training, with ongoing presentation schedules, implementation time can be quite short. For the full effort described above, a longer time frame would be needed.

Other issues:

  • Some public interest groups have expressed concerns about selective enforcement of bicycle-related minor violations, such as mandatory bicycle helmet laws, especially against low-income people and people of color (NACTO, 2016). Officers may use issuing bicycle-related citations as an excuse to stop, question, or search people (NACTO, 2016).