Here’s what happened when one city rejected vehicular cycling

In the 1970s, an American named John Forester came up with an idea for keeping cyclists safe while riding on busy roads. The idea was that bicycles should be piloted, and be treated, like motor vehicles  — riding alongside moving cars, using hand signals and crossing traffic for left-hand turns. The idea, which he called vehicular cycling, caught on, and it soon became the dominant theory of bicycle transportation in North America.

Today, that idea has been almost universally rejected. Cities everywhere are scrambling to do something Forester argued against for generations: building bike lanes separated from cars.

But here’s a thought experiment: What if Forester’s ideas had never caught on? What if, 40 years ago, the idea that all people on bikes should be strong and confident enough to mingle with cars was rejected, and today’s ideas of building safe, bike-specific infrastructure had been embraced back then? What would North American cities look like?

Here’s one idea: They’d look like Montreal.

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One of Montreal’s many segregated bicycle paths. Photo: Tom Babin.

Montreal is a fascinating bike city. For much of the past 30 years, the city was nearly alone in North America in building segregated bicycle infrastructure. Today it has grown into a bicycle haven in a continent of car-centricity, perhaps the most bike-friendly city on the continent (sorry, Minneapolis).

So what was different in Montreal that gave it a 30-year-head start? I recently put the question to Jean-François Pronovost, the VP of Public Affairs of Velo Quebec, a cycling advocacy organization that, next year, celebrates its 50th (!) anniversary. He has an interesting theory.

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Montreal pioneered the use of bike-sharing systems in North America. Photo: Tom Babin.

First, some background. Around the time Forester was developing his ideas for vehicular cycling, a different approach was developing in Europe. Fuelled by the oil crisis and grassroots protests from citizens horrified by the post-war takeover of their cities by cars and the carnage they had wrought, a few cities started building safe spaces for bikes on city streets. Amsterdam (and much of the Netherlands), and Copenhagen were chief among these cities.

The positives of cycling were also dawning on North American cities at the time (albeit on a vastly smaller scale), but the ideas being embraced were Forester’s. Blind to what was happening and Europe, North American cycling advocates rallied behind the idea of vehicular cycling, and its promise that education and training would be enough to fill the roads with cyclists.

In Montreal, however, things were a little different. A much more robust citizen movement in support of bikes was taking place, driven by several groups, including Velo Quebec, but also by an organization called La Monde a Bicyclette. This group quickly drew attention thanks to the advocacy of Claire Morissette, and the theatrical leanings of Robert (Bicycle Bob) Silverman, who had a knack for making it into the newspapers by doing things such as dressing as Moses while attempting to part the waters of the St. Lawrence River for cyclists because the bridges were too dangerous.

Pronovost was getting started in his bicycle advocacy at the tail end of this era, and he remembers the unique mood in Montreal at the time.

“There was more of a connection to Europe here (in Montreal),” Pronovost says. “The model was the Netherlands. The model was Denmark. We saw that it was a way to bring more people on bikes.”

To outsiders, Pronovost says this approach seemed bizarre. He remembers meeting with bicycle advocates in Vancouver in the early 1990s, who were openly hostile to the idea of infrastructure built specifically for bikes.

“They were very against bike paths,” he says. “We even invited John Forester here for a public debate in 1992. It was like a boxing match,” he says with a laugh.

Undaunted, the Montreal groups continued lobbying and eventually got their wish. The first segregated bicycle path was build on Montreal’s Berri Street in the 1980s, while the idea was being mocked by vehicular cyclists elsewhere.

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The first on-street separated bike lane in Montreal was built here, on Berri Street. This is what it looks like today. Photo: Tom Babin.

Montreal, and Quebec, has often embraced its independent status, and that proved true with cycling as well. For the next 40 years, the city quietly grew more bike friendly while the number of bicycle commuters in nearly every other city stayed stagnant, and minuscule.

Today, we know things are changing. Those European ideas of encouraging people to ride bikes by ensuring their safety with segregated infrastructure are being implemented everywhere. In Montreal, the idea is still growing. The difference is a 40-year head start.

This plays itself out in many ways. The province is adopting new laws to protect cyclists, and continues to build for cycling. On a recent visit to the city, I found myself among hundreds of commuters, including Pronovost heading home at rush hour along Laurier Street, where a bustling bike lane was recently installed, dappled with wide pedestrian plazas. While Pronovost  stopped at a bakery on the way home for dinner, I marveled at the volume and diversity of cyclists streaming past.

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The bike- and pedestrian-friendly spaces around Laurier Street. Photo: Tom Babin.

The result, according to a recent Velo Quebec study, is that, over the past 20 years, 600,000 people have started riding bikes in the province, and 2.7 million people now ride a bike weekly. The network of bikeways in Quebec has grown by 30 per cent since 2010 to reach 12,000 kilometres, while the number of serious injuries continues to drop.

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A new bike counter on Laurier Street. Photo: Tom Babin.

Much work remains to make Montreal more bike-friendly — Pronovost thinks more of a focus on completing small connections between existing bike routes would make a huge difference, and my ass can attest to the terrible state of the city’s pavement — but the work in Montreal shows what a difference a long-term commitment to cycling can make.

And as far as thought experiments go, with cities all over the continent just beginning to embark on bike-friendly building binges, just imagine what they will be like in 30 years.


Also published on Medium.

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49 Comments

  1. Tom

    The bike counter is not that new..its there since I moved to the area 2.5 years ago

  2. Josh

    While I’m not a Foresterite, your introduction contradicts his actual position. Forester would be the first to tell you bicycles should be treated like vehicles (not motor vehicles), which means *not* riding “alongside moving cars.”

    Forester would tell you bikes should be in the center of their travel lane, and motorists should change lanes to pass. No state in the US ever adopted Forester’s model, and his home state of California had some of the most restrictive laws against Forester’s “vehicular cycling.”

    The dominant model of cycling in the US for the past 50 years rejected *both* Forester’s vehicular cycling and separate infrastructure, and instead demanded that cyclists cower at the margins of the public right-of-way.

    By contrast, the Dutch adopted *both* Forester’s model and separate infrastructure. They built a huge, connected network of separate facilities, but they also developed a much *larger* network of shared streets where bicycles are vehicles and no driver would dare force a cyclist into the gutter to pass without safe clearance.

    In the US, vehicular cycling arguments were used to fight separated facilities, but not to change the rules of the road on shared facilities.

    In the Netherlands, vehicular cycling arguments were used to dramatically change the rules of the road, making cyclists equals (or more) of drivers on the street, while *also* still developing separated facilities.

    • Thanks, Josh, for the context. These are great points, and also remind me of the remaining importance of the tenants of vehicular cycling. Like most North Americans, I still use the ideas and training of vehicular cycling — taking the lane, asserting my right to the road — to stay alive on the roads every day. This will be required for a long time, perhaps forever, and shouldn’t be ignored.

    • Serge Issakov

      Indeed. The dominant bicycle transportation theory in North America has been that bicycles belong out of the way of cars.

      The idea that Bicyclists Belong in the Traffic Lane is just beginning to catch on. Finally.

    • Mark H. Hendricks

      Well stated!

    • Bert Jansen

      NO, being Dutch I can tell you we dit NOT adopt Forrester’s model.
      We do have a large network of “shared” streets, but this only functions in residential areas, where we take many measures to slow down car speeds and more importantly we try to remove cars and car use as much as possible.
      Forrester is all about the “competition ” between cars and bikes.
      Here its all about removing the competition.

      • Yes, that is what we’ve been trying to do in Montréal, though obviously we remain far behind the Netherlands and Denmark, and progress has been slow.

      • billdsd

        Competition? No. Not at all. If you think that Forester (one “r” in the middle) is about the “competition” between cars and bikes then you have absolutely no idea what he has said about the subject.

        It’s not a competition. Thinking that it is, is a big part of the problem.

  3. Martin Dubé

    Great post. Regarding “why/how” Montreal was so open-minded to segregated bicycle paths back in the 80’s, you kind of mist the elephant in the room; LE TOUR DE L’ÎLE DE MONTRÉAL.

    This event taht started back in 1985 helped citizens experience what it feels like riding in a city with NO cars around. From there, the media created such a buzz about Montreal hosting “the biggest cycling event in the world” that the event was integrated by popular culture as an identifier of Quebec pride.

    In my opinion, that explains why today, investing in infrastructure for cyclists is the only investment where our politicians is sure to get unanimous positive reaction from the population.

    • Another good point, and I think you’ve also shown another reason why Montreal has done so well: in very few cities in North America is cycling universally supported by politicians. I did Le Tour de L’ile last year at the same time as the mayor. That struck me as pretty amazing. Cycling is such still so controversial in other cities that I can’t imagine many mayors doing that.

    • What became le Tour de l’île was originally a much more political event called La journée mondiale de la bicyclette (along the lines of International Workers’ Day – May Day, and International Women’s Day – the 8th of March). And it was organised by us in Le Monde à bicyclette.

      The idea that smaller streets should have a very low speed limit and be safe places for pedestrians and cyclists as well as motorists is originally Dutch and has nothing to do with “vehicular cycling”, a macho, ablist take on cycling advocacy that excludes the very young and the very old, many women, and many people with minor or major handicaps who could cycle with adapted bicycle or adult tricycles – and do so in the Netherlands.

      It started out with the citizen movement “Stop the Child Murders!” as the increase in motor vehicle traffic in the postwar period had meant a spike in children being killed by cars and trucks. Hence it was always a movement for pedestrian as well as for cyclists.

      The Danish and Dutch models do NOT exclude cyclist education, on the contrary, these are very common at a very early age, in the school system. There are also cyclist educaiton programmes for adults from other countries. Here in Montréal, Cyclocaravane also specializes in cyclist training for all adults but especially focuses on immigrants from countries where cycling is uncommon or stigmatized as poor and rural, or unsuited to women’s “modesty”.

  4. billdsd

    1. Forester first learned these ideas in the 1940’s IIRC. He didn’t so much invent them as codify and refine them and back them up with research. Bike clubs were teaching people to drive their bicycles like they drive a vehicle long before anyone heard of Forester. Yes, his book was first published in the 1970’s. He was teaching this long before that.

    2. Forester didn’t teach riding along side cars. He taught using the full lane like he driver of a vehicle. Riding on the side/edge increases risks of right hooks, left crosses, pullouts, doorings and side swipes. Vehicular cycling has not been tried and found to be ineffective. It has been deemed ineffective and not tried. You should try taking a Cycling Savvy class and ride a few thousand miles the way that they teach. Until you’ve done that, you’re not going to really understand it.

    3. It never caught on. It has never been the dominant theory. Only a small minority of cyclists have studied and practiced it, because most people think that they don’t need training to know how to ride in traffic. They don’t know what they don’t know.

    4. Safety advocates did manage to get some of his ideas into the laws, but those laws are mostly ignored by drivers, law enforcement, judges and traffic engineers. California’s CVC 21202(a)(3) was created due to the efforts of Bob Shanteau in 1975/76. CVC 21202(a)(4) was created due to the efforts of Alan Wachtel in 1996. More recently, sharrows and BMUFL have been created. Even those are largely ignored by law enforcement and not understood by the majority of cyclists because the majority have not heard of vehicular cycling, much less understand how and why it works.

    5. I first learned it in 2008. It took me a while to really understand how well it works to prevent accidental collisions. I didn’t always adhere to the training for the first few years because I suffered from over 3 decades of prejudice and cyclist inferiority complex. As the years have gone by, I control the lane more and more. That is because I don’t have close calls with right hooks, left crosses, pullouts or doors when using the full lane. Close passes are far more rare than they used to be when I rode at the edge. I’ve had 3 pullout collisions and a left cross collision — all while riding at the edge and more close calls with all of those things I mentioned while riding on the edge than I can remember.

    • ;

      This type of cycling is impossible for the very young, the very old and people with major or minor disablities. It is macho and ablist. Try having arthritis and being unable to launch from the road.

      • billdsd

        That is absolutely not true. You don’t have to be fast or fearless to employ bicycle driving.

        You clearly don’t understand bicycle driving. That is typical of people who insist that it does not work.

        By all means, tell Diana Steele that she’s macho and ableist.

        http://cyclingsavvy.org/2011/05/i-am-no-road-warrior/

        • Cranky

          It doesn’t work; if your aim is to get 40 percent of short journeys on bikes.
          It works fine at keeping the small band of enthusiasts safer. Decades of trying this method and modal share is still in single figures everywhere except where hard infrastructure has been built.

          • billdsd

            I live in San Diego, which is very spread out and the terrain is all mesas and valleys. You’re never going to get 40% mode share here no matter what. We have cyclists that don’t mind hills or long distances but it’s never going to be 40%. It just isn’t.

            Amsterdam is flat as flat can be and much more dense. Owning a vehicle is far more expensive there. This helps make cycling much more practical and attractive there.

            You can’t take just one part of the Dutch system that has encouraged more cycling and expect it to work here. They did a lot of things to encourage cycling and discourage driving. You have to do it all (high taxes on vehicles/fuel, strict liability, better driver training as well as infrastructure) or there’s not much point in bothering.

            For fast cyclists, those cycle tracks get quite dangerous, especially with the inattentive drivers we have here.

        • Stop insinuating that I’m ignorant. I have taken cycling courses and advocate them. Cycling courses for children are very common in schools in the Netherlands and Denmark, and there are remedial cycling courses for adults, as well as courses for adult immigrants and refugees who have never cycled.
          But I also advocate eliminating the danger at the source. And yes, at MàB, we were very much anti-car activists, advocating not only for cycling, but also for pedestrians and state-of-the-art public transport.

          • billdsd

            If you haven’t taken a course that is based in Vehicular Cycling or Bicycle Driving or read books on it then yes, you are ignorant of what it is and how and why it works. Even if you’ve taken the classes or read the books, if you haven’t practiced it for thousands of miles, then you still don’t really understand it.

            The people who criticize vehicular cycling never understand it and in most cases have never taken a class or read a book on the subject.

          • Are the members of the Forester sect all so rude?

            I suppose their rudeness and machism is logical, given their utter refusal to take the LEAP and fight petrocracy.

            Imagine, I have a master’s degree and speak four languages, and that person is actually calling me ignorant. And yes, I have read stuff by Forester. The cycling course I took – many years ago – doubtless incorporated some of his ideas, whilre rejecting others.

            Those people played no part in our fight, here in Montréal or in many other places, for traffic calming, fewer bloody polluting and lethal cars and more bicycles, public transport and walkable communities. And they call cycling activists “ignorant”. Screw them.

          • billdsd

            Having a masters degree and speaking 4 languages doesn’t mean for one second that you understand vehicular cycling. You can know a lot about a lot of subjects and still be ignorant of another subject.

            Yes, you’re ignorant of this subject.

      • mike

        No, it is not. I could do it with one leg.

        If you think you have to be fast, that’s because you’re either not doing it yourself, or you’re not doing it right.

        If you’re so arthritic that you can’t ride, then you can’t ride, and I’m sorry. But if you _can_ ride, you can ride like you own a lane, which you need to do, NOT cower along the edge.

      • Serge Issakov

        While you don’t have to be fast to drive your bicycle on roads, you do have to ride slow to travel safely on most bikeways. Not only are their pedestrians, joggers, and oncoming cyclists to contend with, but intersections require far more caution (and slower speeds).

        These speed related aspects of most bikeways make them less desirable for fit cyclists, and, thanks to e-bikes, even for unfit cyclists.

      • Bravo. I have arthritis and have started to have trouble launching from the road. I can do it if necessary but at the cost of severe pain. I seek out curb launch points whenever possible. I’ve been cycling for 50 years, and have taken safe cycling courses, and have been a cycling activist for over 40 years. Vehicular cycling is macho, ageist crap.

        Moreover, we want to get rid of private cars, not cycle alongside them. The use of private cars in cities is one of the greatest errors made by humankind.

        • billdsd

          John Forester is 86 years old and he still supports it.

          If you think that you need to be fast an fearless to ride in a vehicular manner, then you do not understand vehicular cycling. Read the article that I linked to written by Diana Steele. She’s not exactly young.

          • Cranky

            Of course he does. It’s his life work and the system works great for him and his band of enthusiasts. As for the average person deciding how to get the 1 mile to the local shops; they’ll continue to totally ignore Forester and the training they may have once received and pick up their car keys until they have something simpler and easier in the shape of infrastructure. There is not a single case study anywhere in the world where VC training has heralded a new era of mass cycling.

          • billdsd

            Separated infrastructure has no heralded a new era of mass cycling anywhere either. Dutch cyclists dominated their streets long before they had separated infrastructure. Their infrastructure is more of an effect than a cause.

            They did things to encourage more cycling and discourage driving due to how dense their cities are. They have very high taxes on vehicles and fuel. Parking is expensive.

            You can’t just grab cycletracks out of Amsterdam out of context and expect it to work in North America. It’s not one simple thing that causes the Dutch to choose bikes. It’s a whole lot of things.

  5. Robert S. Gallup

    Here is another thought experiment. What if, starting 40 years ago, instead of building bike lanes in Montreal, the criminal justice system put motorists in prison for killing, maiming or menacing roadway cyclists with aggressive or negligent driving? For the next 40 years, the roads quietly get more friendly for cyclists.

  6. Jude

    Too bad I haven’t had a chance to experience it. I was an avid cyclist even then but left Montreal in ’79 only one year before the first bike lane.

  7. An ordinary cyclist

    Vehicular cycling is just ordinary cycling as has been practiced for more than a century. Even the Dutch and Danes are taught it in school. There has never been adoption of “car rules” by cyclists because ordinary cycling predates car travel. In contrast, Bikeway (segregated) cycling has no rules. If it did, they could be found with a Google search. Bikeway cycling in North America is merely a means offered by anti-car activists to new cyclists as a way to avoid traffic skills acquisition through training , practice, and experience on the road … the safest method of cycling.

    • Since I’m a proud anti-car activist, and have been for at least 40 years, I don’t see any problem with that. Of course we have to be skilled as we fight the enemy, but who wants to spend their life on a battleground?

      The VC people are insufferably rude. They remind me of two macho creeps I had the displeasure of encountering on the cycle paths between here (Petite-Italie) and the Plateau. Mansplaining, and one was less than half my age.

      The poster who insulted me has no reason to assume I’m ignorant of the theories of “vehicular cycling”; I can read after all. The fact that I don’t accept them, and DO NOT accept petrocracy destroying our planet, equals ignorance in his book.

      L’auto: ça pue, ça tue et ça pollue!

  8. Ian

    “The idea, which he called vehicular cycling, caught on, and it soon became the dominant theory of bicycle transportation in North America.”

    Funny how this gets cause and effect almost completely inverted.

    The cycling environment in the US is largely horrible (outside of a few urban areas in the last decade). Very few Americans ride bicycles for transport. Consequently there is almost zero political support for comprehensive networks of segregated infrastructure.

    So… the new trend in slagging “vehicular cyclists” as this week’s bete noir is a bit puzzling. As is the patient explanation that “Oh, you know, what we really need is cycletracks!” That’s great. But we don’t have cycletracks. We’re nowhere near getting cycletracks. And it’s not because John Forester betrayed the cause. It’s because the vast majority of Americans do not support them.

    So if you want to actually ride a bicycle for transport in the United States, you are left with…vehicular cycling. The current alternative is not a nirvana of segregated bicycling infrastructure. It’s not riding at all.

    As far as VC proponents coming out against infrastructure, that’s because *most* cycling infrastructure leads to dangerous cycling practices. Bike lanes stop and start erratically. They encourage dangerous merges by drivers. They crowd cyclists into the door zone.

    This is offset somewhat by the fact that bike lanes give newbie cyclists a false sense of security, and thus drive up adoption of cycling as a legitimate mode of transport. So intrinsically less safe, but generating a safety in numbers effect.

    Bottom line: it’s not a straightforward situation. But, Jesus, it’s one of my pet peeves to hear Forester being held up as some sort of Emmanuel Goldstein character whose power and influence was such that he single-handedly prevented the Dutch cycling Utopia from taking hold in America. That’s nonsense.

    • billdsd

      Part of the problem with the safety in numbers argument is that the numbers aren’t going up by all that much even with bike facilities. “Build it and they will come” is not all that accurate. You might get a couple of points in mode share but we’re not going to see 50% mode share in the U.S. until we start making it a lot more expensive and inconvenient to drive.

      Part of the reason why cycling is so popular in places like the Netherlands and Denmark is the fact that driving there is so expensive and parking tends to be a very big problem. Cycling is a lot cheaper and for short range commuters it ends up being more convenient as well.

      Cycletracks will not magically give us massive mode share. The Dutch did not get their high mode share from cycletracks. It was more like the other way around.

  9. I dug up the Copenhagenize article about this sect: http://www.copenhagenize.com/2010/07/vehicular-cyclists-secret-sect.html

    Since I’m a veteran of over 40 years’ activism against AUTOcracy, for the right to safe mobility for pedestrians, cyclists and other forms of life, those people seem odd indeed. And I can assure you that cycling activists are NOT opposed to safety education for cyclists. We want to see it start very young. But we also want to eliminate the mortal danger at the source. And while it is a long haul, we have made progress. Only eejits like The Donald deny global warming and attendant ecocide any more…

    • billdsd

      That is nothing but a hatchet piece written by someone who does not understand vehicular cycling.

      Vehicular cycling is not a sect. It’s not a religion. It’s a way of riding with full awareness of how collisions happen in the real world and how to reduce their probability.

      People who oppose vehicular cycling consistently do not understand this. They see cycle tracks as somehow fixing the problem, even though it does not. The real religion is the blind belief that crossing conflicts stop being a problem because you have a separated facility. They don’t. In fact they tend to get worse; not better because they make cyclists less relevant and less visible.

      They work in places like the Netherlands and Denmark because those places have better driver education, strict liability laws, separate phase controls for cyclists and cyclist education on how to use those facilities safely and drivers are much more used to seeing lots of cyclists so they look for them far more than they do here. You can’t just plop down a cycle track in the U.S. without all of that other stuff an expect it to work all on its own, because it doesn’t.

      The crossing conflicts that are aggravated by cycletracks are also more of a problem for faster cyclists than they are for slower cyclists. Speed exacerbates the visibility problems.

      Pretending that cyclists are removed from the mortal danger by being in a cycletrack is naive at best and dangerously irresponsible at worst.

  10. I don’t live in the US. We’ve made quite a bit of progress in those respects here in Montréal – not all places in North America are the same, no more than all places in Europe. Europe also includes vast spaces and wide streets in the East. We are an old city by North American standards (like Boston) and there isn’t much sprawl on the island itself.

    Colville-Andersen has been working on promotion of cycle and pedestrian-friendly cities for many years, relying mostly on the urban planning work of fellow Dane Jan Gehl. He has also lived in North America, in Calgary and Fort McMurray as a lad – places that are many times more carcentric than Montréal. We have to FIGHT for the changes you seem to think impossible. The Dutch certainly did in the 1960s. They were also getting infested with bloody murderous cars and trucks.

    I see NO critique of the domination of petroleum-powered motor vehicles in any of Forester’s writings or your comments. Are you utterly uninterested in the climate crisis and global climate upheaval?

    My comrades in La coalition vélo Montréal (Montréal Bike Coalition) are very much interested in cyclist and driver education. Some member groups specialise in it, as well as advocacy for cyclists and pedestrians and against the domination of the car, of course.

    Societies can change. And in this case, they MUST change.

  11. qatzelok

    The article billdsd refers starts off by trashing the apparently horrible bike lanes of Orlando, and then goes on to wax poetic about “how to gracefully integrate …as part of the flow of traffic. ”

    It’s all about becoming a car and seamlessly blending so that drivers are not in any way inconvenienced. This has zero to do with cyclist safety.

    I only know one person who “believed” in vehicular cycling, and he was injured while “blending seamlessly,” and can’t bicycle anymore because of his injuries.

    So it would appear that seams are really important. And by “seams,” I mean separate road space.

    It’s grown-up to realize that cycling safely involves taking away parking spaces and car lanes. And vehicular cycling isn’t a mystical, magical formula like you repeatedly insinuate it is .

    • Bravo. And what you say about cyclists holds equally for pedestrians, and for more and better public transport.

    • billdsd

      Um, riding in the middle of the lane does inconvenience motorists — though that inconvenience is usually trivial — just changing lanes to pass.

      You don’t understand vehicular cycling but clearly you think that you do.

      Vehicular cycling is indeed not in any way magic or mystical. It’s logical. It’s based upon how traffic moves and where drivers are looking when they drive. It’s based upon understanding visibility and traffic flow issues.

      The vast overwhelming majority of collisions are a result of crossing conflicts. This is true regardless of mode of transport. Cycle tracks either create crossing conflicts or make existing ones worse by making bicyclists less likely to be noticed at them.

      Go ahead. Have fun with your right hooks, left crosses and pull out crashes that you think that cycletracks have some magical ability to prevent. I’ll keep riding in the middle of the lane like I have for years and enjoy having no right hooks, no left crosses and no pullouts. I also enjoy getting full lane change passes and not being in the door zone. I love riding thousands of miles without so much as a close call — no emergency braking — never having to really worry about someone pulling out in front of me or right hooking me because it just plain doesn’t happen to me. Those things used to happen to me all the time on the edge, in bike lanes, on shoulders or on the sidewalk.

      • qatzelok

        I am a trained cyclist safety expert who cycles for a living. Taking the lane in most places in North America will cause motorists to honk, throw things, and pass dangerously close.

        I believe you are “thinking” as a motorist or acting as a mouthpiece for automobile interests. Your advice is so bad that it can lead to death and injury.

        Learning to swim with sharks, as you propose, is no substitute for swimming in a no-no sharks lane.

        • billdsd

          Let me see if I’ve got this straight. You claim that:

          1. Riding in the middle of the lane infuriates motorists.
          2. Riding in the middle of the lane is working for the interests of motorists.

          Could those two things possibly be more contradictory?

          Which bike safety organization certified you as an instructor? I know of two that currently do and another that used to. I’m certified to teach by one of the current ones though I know people who’ve been certified by all three.

          I’m not working for the interest of motorists. I’m advocating for cyclists. You’re advocating for motorists because the most important thing for the anti-cyclists is to get bikes out of the way of cars.

          • qatzelok

            We’re so lucky to have lost our vehicular pedestrian enthusiasts in the early 1900s when we finally got sidewalks.

            Cars and bikes don’t mix easily because of speed and weight differences. This should seem obvious. And advocating for “seamlessly blending in traffic” is a sure way to make sure virtually no one cycles on a regular basis. Like helmet laws, it’s a cyclist-reducing tactic that makes it dangerous for the few cyclists that will actually dare try to act like a car.

            Making cycling safe (so that more people of varying ages and walks of life do it) involves prohibiting right on red, slowing and calming traffic, and building protective barriers between cycle tracks and heavy traffic.

            Nothing short of this works in North American cities. Encouraging people to pretend we’re still in 1953 when roads hadn’t become car sewers… won’t fool very many people. Especially women who (along with kids) make up a tiny fraction of cyclists in cities that are limited to cycling with the cars in traffic.

            I don’t doubt that you know and teach the correct way to cycle in traffic. I learned this method from the time I was in high school. But it simply isn’t safe in our current car-saturated environment. Legal and infrastructure changes are required to move forward.

          • No, I’m advocating to get the bloody cars out of the way of cyclists, pedestrians, and all living things that move and breathe.

          • billdsd

            I do seamlessly blend into traffic — all the time. Of course, it helps to know how, which takes some education.

            It doesn’t “reduce” cyclists. It may not increase them but it doesn’t reduce them.

            Cycletracks set up right hooks, pullouts and left crosses. It’s just how it works, especially in the U.S. where drivers don’t actually respect separate signal phases even in the rare instances that we actually get them on cycletracks.

            Cycletracks don’t work without all of the other stuff that the Dutch have to make them work. If you want them to work, we need better driver education, tougher driver testing, strict liability laws, consistently use of separate signal phases and higher mode share to begin with so that drivers start actually looking for bicyclists in them. We also need tougher laws so that bad drivers lose their licenses more easily.

            Riding correctly is very safe. I don’t like to call myself a vehicular cyclist because bicycle driving has evolved since Forester (who coined the term). Cycling Savvy was built on the same core principles of defensive driving but has improved on the details significantly.

            Reality is that in most American cities, especially many of those in the west that did most of their growth after WW2 in the age of the automobile, too many people live too far from their work or other destinations for bicycling to be practical for any but the most hardcore. Few cities will ever see more than 10% mode share no matter how much “magik” infrastructure you put in. I live in a city that’s all mesas and valleys. If you want to go more than maybe 2 miles anywhere, unless you’re very lucky on your route, you’re going to need to do some significant hill climbing. Cycling will be lucky to ever even get to 5% here despite the fact that we have fantastic weather most of the year.

            Make driving a lot more expensive and parking a lot more difficult and maybe you’ll start seeing the mode share you want in cities with mostly flat terrain and decent weather. Good luck with that on the political front. Too many people love their cars and won’t even consider making driving more expensive and inconvenient like it is in Amsterdam or Copenhagen.

  12. An ordinary cyclist

    “Vehicular cycling” is a term coined for the USA. Anyone with European background or familiar with cycling in Europe in the last century knows that vehicular cycling is just ordinary, everyday cycling on roadways. The addition of the adjective “vehicular” is a political mechanism used in the USA to gain acceptance of cycling on American roads and highways with the same rights and obligations as drivers of other classes of vehicles. Ordinary cycling is the norm having been around long before segregated cycling in the Netherlands or Denmark. There are no rules for segregated cycling, and the latter mostly break all the well established laws governing interaction among road users. Therefore segregated cycling has to be considered as “abnormal cycling”.

  13. An ordinary cyclist

    “But it (cycling) simply isn’t safe in our current car-saturated environment. ”
    Perception doesn’t make it a fact. Please provide evidence.

    • Note the undercurrent among the Foresterites to either NOT criticise carcentrism or say we are powerless against it. Fuck them. They don’t give a shit if the earth becomes a cinder.

      Fortunately a lot of people, in a lot of places, have fought that global plague.

  14. I never knew about vehicular cycling / bicycle driving, that is, until i’ve had discovered this article (from Wikipedia’s “Balance bicycle” to “Vehicular cycling”), to this very discussion. In my honest opinion, to practice Vehicular cycling, on Malaysia’s roads/traffic/urban areas/suburban area, is nearly impossible, or 90% (???) potentially fatal. Segregated bicycle lanes – were very, very, very small in numbers and availability (let alone safety), to none at all. 😔

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