01 July 2010

Vehicular Cyclists - Cycling's Secret Sect


By coincedence I've found myself explaining Cycling's Secret Sect to a couple of colleagues on two separate occasions over the past couple of months. Bicycle planners the both of them. Neither had heard of the group before and in both situations the discussion was whether or not countries like America and the UK would ever get on the bicycle bandwagon in any great numbers, as well as why they haven't done already.

Especially considering the fact that so many cities and towns in Europe have rapidly and impressively increased the numbers of everyday cyclists of the course of two short years.

The secret sect I'm referring to is known in some circles as Vehicular Cyclists and is largely unknown in most international circles. I've had a draft of this article for a while but reading this post over at Crap Cycling in Waltham Forest yesterday made me dig it out.

I explained this Vehicular Cycling theory to my colleagues in brief. Saying that this group fight tooth and nail against virtually any form of separated bicycle infrastructure because their theory is based up on the premise that bicycles are 'vehicles' and therefore should act as the vehicles in the traffic, using the car lanes just like cars.
Copenhagen Bicycle Traffic in Rush Hour
The first colleague, upon hearing this explanation, merely said, "Do these people hit their children, too?"

I couldn't confirm that they did, but I suggested that they made 'vroom vroom' sounds when cycling in traffic.

Both agreed that this theory was quite far-fetched and I tend to agree. Since then I've asked some other colleagues at the Traffic Dept here in Copenhagen about Cycling's Secret Sect and the responses started with sighs and rolling of the eyes.

After talking with so many bicycle advocates at Velo-City from around the world, I can understand that these Vehicular Cyclists are regarded in many areas as a frustrating deterrent to mainstreaming cycling. "A cold-sore that just won't go away", in the words of a German colleague. "Kinda like those vuvuzela horns at the World Cup", said his colleague.

Goodness. What a lot of strong opinions about a relatively unknown group.

It is a small, yet vocal, group that is male-dominated, testosterone-driven and that lacks basic understanding of human nature. They expect that everyone should be just like them - classic sub-cultural point of view - and that everyone should embrace cycling in traffic and pretending they are cars. They are apparently uninterested in seeing grandmothers, mothers or fathers with children or anyone who doesn't resemble then contributing to re-creating the foundations of liveable cities by reestablishing the bicycle as transport.

Calling them a Sect is cheeky, sure. But so many aspects of this group resemble a sect. They have a Guru or two, whom they seem to worship. There's John Forester in the US and John Franklin, to a lesser extent, in the UK. Their numbers are few but they are noisy. They are aggressive. And their influence is destructive.

The theory about Vehicular Cycling has been around for more than three decades. The reason that vehicular cycling can not be considered any more than a theory is quite simple.

There is nowhere in the world where this theory has become practice and caused great numbers of citizens to take to the roads on a daily basis. It remains a theoretical manifesto for a fringe group of cyclists. They often refer to themselves as 'bicycle drivers'. Vroom Vroom.

I asked a leading American bicycle advocate about vehicular cycling and he said, "They have had around 35 years to prove that it works. They haven't be able to. It's time to shelve the idea."

Vehicular cycling, in the countries where the theory is popular, has done little for mainstreaming urban cycling and reestablishing the bicycle as a feasible, accepted and respected transport form, as it used to be.

This is largely because the theory appeals to very few cycling enthusiasts who like to go fast. Going 'fast' is apparently important. This theory is also referred to as Effective Cycling and you can read that "Effective Cycling is Safer, Faster, and More Fun!" on the website of the theory's founder, John Forrester.
Copenhagen Crowd
The group has a Wikipedia page that they guard fervently and where you can read about the theory. While we're linking to Wikipedia, here's a link to the Flat Earth Society.

The vast majority of Homo sapiens in countries without bicycle infrastructure share roads with cars by necessity, not choice. If we once again refer to the analogy of Ignoring the Bull, the vehicular cyclist crowd are the Pamplonans of cycling. They enjoy running with the bulls. Great for them. Completely and utterly useless for the rest of society, not to mention the Common Good, public health, liveable cities.

The group rejects bicycle infrastructure - it's not for them. Unfortunately, they often stand in the way of getting regular citizens onto bicycles. They come up with all manner of excuses when someone mentions Denmark or the Netherlands and the fact that infrastructure actually gets large numbers of people onto bicycles. "Won't work here", they say. They manipulate studies about the safety of infrastructure and actually spin it to the extreme, calling bicycle lanes 'dangerous'. They have a selective memory and never seem to mention all the bicycle infrastructure in the the early part of last century.

They are unable to see that when you have a large percentage of the population riding bicycles, the benefits to society are overwhelmingly positive. They are also blind to the developments in Emerging Bicycle Cultures like French cities, Spanish cities and even cities like Dublin, Portland, New York, Philadelphia, etc etc. People are returning to the bicycle thanks to infrastructure and taming of the bull. All over the world.

Their guru, John Forester, on a forum earlier this year, went so far as to cave in. Effectively giving up.

It has been remarked on some of these lists that I, Forester, have given up with respect to governmental negotiation in bicycling affairs. That is not so. but I need to make my position clear. I have concluded that the political power of the bicycle advocates is so strong that we bicycle drivers are unable to prevent most of what these bicycle advocates advocate. Where they propose items that have many traffic-operational defects we may be able to prevent such items being approved and installed. Bike boxes seem to be the current candidates for this position. However, I am not optimistic about our ability to prevent even such monstrosities as bike boxes, given the political power pushing them.

I have concluded that we bicycle drivers should concentrate our energy on revitalizing and preserving our right to operate as drivers of vehicles. I know that it sounds social to argue that those who desire incompetent and therefore dangerous bicycle transportation, on the basis that anti-motoring trumps cyclist safety and efficiency, ought to be allowed to have their way, since there is no practical way of stopping them. But that's the world as it is. We have tried for thirty five years now to change society to a bicycle driving policy, and society not only has defeated us at every turn but has developed more ways of preventing or discouraging bicycle driving. We must devote our efforts to both preserving what we still have, and reversing the legal (I don't bother about the social aspects) discriminations that work to prevent bicycle driving.

Why don't I bother about the social aspects? First, hoping to change American social opinion against bicycle driving is hopeless. Second, we can live with the occasional nastiness from motorists; after all, that has been present since, probably, the 1930s. Yes, some of us think that American social opinion opposing bicycle driving is a deterrent to cycling in general, and should be opposed because it makes cycling unpopular. However, nothing that we do in that respect will make bicycle driving popular; it will only assist in making cyclist-inferiority cycling more popular, because that's what the public wants. And this consideration has the same reservation that all our political efforts have, that we haven't a hope in Hell of changing American public opinion away from opposing bicycle driving. Don't waste effort on what has to be futile; concentrate the effort where it is most necessary, preserving our right to operate as drivers of vehicles.


Infrastructure. That's what the public wants. Reading his text one is struck by the tone. Another example of the sect-like approach of the group. 'We' are right and yet 'we' are misunderstood. 'They' oppose us. Etcetera.

On the Wikipedia page about Sects, the English sociologist Roy Wallis argues that a sect is characterized by “epistemological authoritarianism”. According to Wallis, “sects lay a claim to possess unique and privileged access to the truth or salvation and “their committed adherents typically regard all those outside the confines of the collectivity as 'in error'”.

The American sociologists Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge assert that "sects claim to be an authentic, purged, refurbished version of the faith from which they split". They further assert that sects have, in contrast to churches, a high degree of tension with the surrounding society.

Here's an interesting blogpost from a Citizen Cyclist in the UK battling with the Pretend you're a car theory.


Can we call these people bicycle advocates? I'm not sure. They're advocating a certain kind of cycling. Stamp collectors are 'communication advocates' but they don't rant against emails and text messages and other forms of mainstream communication that benefit the Common Good and human interaction.

It's as though a group of race walkers are advocating pedestrianism. Telling everyone that it's all about Effective Walking and that it's Safer, Faster and More Fun! Insisting that the general population walks just like them.

35 years is a long time. Especially without any results to back up this sub-cultural theory. How many Citizen Cyclists could have had their lives extended by being provided with safe infrastructure, or lived a life with fewer illnesses? How many overweight people could have had the chance to cycle happily to work on bike lanes and keep fit? The number of potential daily cyclists who have been restricted access to the bicycle must number in the tens of millions. All because of the ideology of a self-serving group.

Let's not wait another 35 years and see yet another generation become obese and suffer a long line of lifestyle illnesses. Now, more than ever, it's time to get people onto bicycles. With theories that have been proven. With best practice that has been established.

Let's get to work.

130 comments:

townmouse said...

In fairness to the vehicular cyclists, I think it's more Stockholm syndrome than a sect. For so long the only way to ride a bike safely in the UK (don't know about the US) was to follow the principles of Cyclecraft etc. (and even now it's still the safest way in many situations on British roads). They kept cycling alive, at least, during the dark ages but in doing so they fell prisoner to their own success and couldn't see why everyone else couldn't do it too (even setting aside the people who don't want grannies and kids cycling because that would somehow diminish their manliness. We don't bother with them).

Personally, I think a book like cyclecraft is in fact the best argument for separated infrastructure there is. Franklin says that to get safely round a big roundabout you need to be able to accelerate very quickly to 20mph from a standing start. If you can do that, well done, I'm impressed. But can your Gran do that? Can your kid do that? Would you even let them try? No? Then we need better infrastructure. Simples.

anna said...

My opinion on this is different, because I can partially understand this behavior. It is not that "vehicular cyclists" are against bicycle infrastructure (although they might not know that themselves), but they are against crappy bicycle infrastructure.

I can also partially follow their concern. Some bike lanes in Vienna are way too narrow, and directly beside parked cars. This makes them a very dangerous place to cycle on, but according to our laws we must use them. In such (and simliar) situations I would also rather prefer if the city wouldn't build such bike lanes (and at the same time call themselves oh so bicycle friendly). Because to the unexperienced cyclist it creates a feeling of safety that simply isn't there.

Plus, we also have a lot of cycle paths on sidewalks, and combined foot and bike path on major connections. Such constructions bear a lot of problems, and I too must say that I would many times also rather share some part of the road with cars rather than a small sidewalk with pedestrians...

I've got nothing against _good bike lanes and paths though :). Just against drawing a line somewhere on the side of a road and claiming that this makes cycling any safer.

Erik Sandblom said...

I agree with Anna. Outside Denmark and The Netherlands, many are rightly offended by the notion that they should be hustled off the road and onto sub-standard "bicycle infrastructure". "Bicycle infrastructure" is often too narrow, too rough, makes too big detours and has too tight curves.

A friend of mine is a vehicular cyclist, and he says that bike paths are fine as long as they are as appealing to cyclists as car roads are to motorists.

So I'm ambivalent to "bicycle infrastructure". Too often it's geared at children and dog walkers.

And here in Sweden it's illegal to ride on the road if there is "bicycle infrastructure" available. So... it's not just to cater to cyclists. It's also to allow car drivers to go faster and pay less attention.

henryinamsterdam said...

Thank you Mikael. Well said.

I once contacted John Forrester to discuss a legal issue in which he was purportedly an expert. This was years before I'd even heard of "vehicular cycling". His reaction was so bizarrely bitter and mean-spirited that I'll never forget the incident. I could only conclude that he's anti-humanist or at least a very strange and antisocial individual.

anna, I believe you're confusing realists like yourself who recognize that it's necessary to make the best of the current situation lacking or having poorly designed/implemented cycling infrastructure... with true "vehicular cyclists" who deeply believe that cycling infrastructure is evil. They rigidly rally against all forms of bike roads, bike lanes, bike signals, separation of cyclists from motor vehicles.

Anonymous said...

I didn't realise I was a 'vehicular cyclist' until I read this post which viciously and perhaps in a similar sectarian way to that of the accused group defends the Copenhagenize way of doing things. I enjoy this blog, follow the Twitter feed, send links out elsewhere etc. Though as a more 'traditional' cyclist who commutes long distances and might wear clipless pedals and lycra from time to time for practical reasons feel this blog clearly alienates and at times sneers at the likes of me. This is a ridiculous stance to take, I am all for cycling - all cycling, getting all the cycling voices together to argue our cause and fill both the roads and cycle paths with cyclists. Moreover, it is the more traditional cyclists that you seem to sneer at who have been keeping cycling alive in the ‘dark ages’, long before it was sexy or fashionable in an urban chic way.

As for the whole 'vehicular' cycling thing, I am from the UK and perhaps here and in the US it is most appropriate. The poorly designed UK cycling infrastructure I feel forces cyclists into the vehicular mode and in conflict with drivers - something I have seen posts on this blog already highlight, and something I could illustrate with a 100 photos taken this afternoon within two miles of my Manchester flat. Hawthorne hedges cut onto cycle paths, narrow stretches of path that lead nowhere, multiple junctions in a short areas that increase risks and don’t just slow but significantly slow cyclists, areas where it isn’t clear if it is cycle path or pavement etc. Thus, the answer I frustratingly feel is to put on a bright yellow jacket and risk taking back the roads. I am all for children and grannies and women in heels on the roads though until all cycling voices can work together through understanding their differences than no side will get anything decent. Sadly, I feel posts about sectarianism in a common interest group do no help. Why not promote a total view of cycling, where those women in heels commuting to work on a Monday, also quit the gym and get into lycra and cycle into the hills on a Sunday for a workout? ‘Cophenhagenize’ is a theory too, perhaps a sect, just at a different stage of its life cycle – we all need to talk and work together – all cyclists are ultimately good.

Peter said...

most vehicular cyclists have gone, now, tho i still do occasionally spot one out in the wild. there's plenty of reasons for that, but i think one of them is that most of them are now retirement age -- 60s+ -- they just don't have the energy anymore. or maybe they're afraid to meet their maker and now have become cycling advocates to make up for their dreadful crimes? got me.

the last prominent vehicular cyclist got fired a few months or so ago from his job as Bicycle Coordinator of Dallas, Texas. yes -- this guy was actually in charge of the bike program there for like 20 years or something. he actually prevented bike lanes in Dallas for that long -- actively opposed them. hilarious.

the good folks at Bike Friendly Oak Cliff finally managed to get him canned. that was a huge step forward for mankind -- the veritable crumbling of the berlin wall that was vehicular cycling -- The chief obstacle to the progress of the human race is the [vehicular cyclist] -- The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the [unreasonable man/vehicular cyclist] -- etc.

Denmark out! Should have been made to cycle home! ;) No, they did ok.

Anonymous said...

This is a strawman depiction of Vehicular Cycling. VC is not John Forester, who did some very good work years ago, but unfortunately is a very blinkered individual now.

From personal experience, I found cycling in Dublin easier and less stressful following the advice in Cyclecraft. If I tried using the "cycling infrastructure" set up by the local authorities here, I'd be constantly placing myself in the trajectory of turning Heavy Goods Vehicles or yielding at every driveway.

I've been cycling as an adolescent or adult for a quarter century now, and I've seen nearly every road here become LESS safe as cycling facilities were added, since the attitude of the local authorities is that they're a wonderful way to get cyclists out of the way of cars, so cars can travel faster. I've also seen cycling numbers plummet as these facilities were added. They didn't even halt the decline, let alone reverse it. It took a crippling recession to increase cycling numbers.

Segregated facilities can be a way to encourage novices and timorous individuals to cycle and that's wonderful IF they're well designed.

They can also be a way to sideline cyclists and get them off perfectly usable road and onto unusable 70cm wide "facilities".

Lucas Jerzy Portela said...

Too radical of your's, Mikael. And i might say that you acted in a "European sub-culture".

Berkeley, California, has all his bycicle trafic in shared roads, and it's huge, safe and perceived as safe.

Also Copacabana district, in Rio de Janeiro, the brazilian metropole that saw the more increasing of bycicle using in Brazil. And also Recife, where I've seen pregnant women on bikes, without fear.

In all american continent, segragated infrastructure mostly is a way of saying "bicycle is dangerous, and is not a transportation form". Keep them mostly on the roads, and use segregated infraestructure only if realy needed.

Adam said...

I'm no Vehicular Cyclist, but in situations where there is no infrastructure, or worse, horribly and dangerously designed infrastructure, familiarity with VC teachings is invaluable when it is necessary to use shared roads. Granted, I take everything they say with a grain of salt, but when I contradict their teachings I do so from an informed position.

Anonymous said...

Two other things strike me here.

You mention developments in Dublin. One of the major recent developments in Ireland is the decision to rescind the law making cycling facilities mandatory to use. The stated reasons included that many of the current designs in Ireland made junctions more hazardous, by placing cyclists who wish to go straight ahead on the inside of turning vehicles. The poor maintenance was also mentioned, as well as how unsuitable they were for use by club cyclists (though I'm sure you disapprove of club cyclists, given the general tenor here).

The other thing is that you seem to be implying that John Franklin is a cult leader of some kind. Given that he has argued very cogently against ill-founded helmet promotion, I find it very unlikely that you have never corresponded with him in some way. In which case, I find it a little distasteful that you are representing a very helpful, well-informed and hard-working individual in this way.

It is possible that he is held in high esteem because people find his work helpful, rather than because he has brainwashed people.

Mark said...

I agree that away from Copenhagen and the Netherlands cycle infrastructure is often second-rate, and this can be frustrating, or even dangerous, for cyclists to use.

But that doesn't mean we should invest all our campaigning efforts into vehicular cycling. Mikael is right, vehicular cycling has failed. Despite what all the good news cycling campaigns will tell you, if you look at modal share statistics cycling rates are flat lining all around the world where there is not really good quality cycling infrastructure. Here in London they'll tell you that cycling is up '150% in 3 years', but what they don't tell you is that cyclists are still only 2% of all traffic. In order for there to be TRUE mass cycling (and it befuddles me that any cyclists *wouldn't* want this) there have to be conditions that your Nan or your kids would feel comfortable cycling in. Vehicular cycling does not provide this. The policies of vehicular cycling ('hop on your bike and mix it up with the traffic') are not appealing to the masses, and rightly so. Most of the cyclists I know cycle in spite of the prevailing conditions on the road, not because of them.... Therefore we should focus our campaigns on building good quality infrastructure, and existing the bad stuff, not telling our Nans that in order to be able to get around they have to cycle at 20mph up against the side of a lorry going at 60mph.

Einstein once said that to do something over and over again and to expect a different result is madness. Vehicular cycling has had 35 years to try and change the cycling world and has failed. Countries like the Netherlands can prove that their system works because the numbers are there for all to see. Therefore, it's time to try something different...

I'd hope that people will read this and think less about the sectionally of vehicular cyclists vs segregrationists, and get all hot under the collar, and would rather we approached cycle campaigning with a business head on: "What can we do that will encourage the MAXIMUM number of people to cycle?" I'll give you a hint, it's not campaigning to 'share the road' or 'look out for the cyclist'...

I look forward to the ensuing vitriol and shit storm!

Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lucas Jerzy Portela said...

And hey, one cannot call me "sub-culture hip". But each city, each culture, needs a kind of intervention that does not aply to other.

And not by chance Vehicular Bycicles are strong in England: in the middle of the way (and not only espacial) between America and Continental Europe.

Here in Brazil, Segregated Cyclist are the one who get no success at all in publics politics intervention. And they mostly uses helmet and lycra (and thinks everyone should).

See?! It's not the same there, in Denmark...

An example: in Salvador, Bahia, my city, which would be the most important intervention for bikes? Spread the ascensor sistems! The city is in the topo of mountains that fall in 90º scrap! We need to go uphill in elevators and inclined-plans cablecars (and indeed we do, with foldable bikes).

The foot-elevators of Norway doesn't aply: we don't have mostly hard aclives. We have scarps! Of 100m!

Would you need this kind of "segregated infraestrucutre" there in Europe? Maybe in Lisbon, but elsewhere?

Adam said...

If there is any universality to cult leadership it is that all cult leaders hate leaders of different cults.

Theo Ritvelt said...

This post is a sad and ignorant example of the very same sect-mentality that tries to depict. "Copenhagenize", is obvious from this post, falls exactly on the same category of a sect. As other comments already showed the world has plenty of nuances and does not stop in Denmark. I am not an advocate of vehicular-cycle but it is not a "new theory" - it is the way everybody cycled 100 years ago, before the cars took over the streets. Is trying to keep a life a skill that a car-based society killed in many societies. However, vehicular cycling is the way people cycle and stay alive in 99% of the world - even if never heard of the term. Only a ethno-centric vision can think that "Copenhagenize" is the solution for every city in the world. A sad post from someone that in certain groups can be accused of being a anti-helmet fanatic - dont worry, you are right on that one, mate! Stick to your guns without futile attempts of ridiculing others.

themightyjim said...

Please get off your high horse (or Pederson). In the UK, Infrastructure is so spectacularly awful that it actually manages to make cycling cumbersome. Not Chic. Not Slow Bicycle Movement Cool. Just plain cumbersome. And often in direct conflict with pedestrians who should have exclusive right to use the pavements that local councils here just convert to 'Shared Use Facilties' without any real alteration other than a bicycle symbol painted from time to time. The people that design cycle infrastructure here aren't cyclists. And it shows. We run with the bulls because we have to if we actually want to get anywhere. Danish and Dutch infrastructure is wonderful I'm sure. But we are nowhere near that here in the UK.

Janice in GA said...

I guess I'm mostly a "vehicular cyclist", since I really have no choice but to ride on the roads with cars. There are almost no bike lanes/bike paths in my little corner of the US. There are a couple of bike paths near me, but they'll run maybe 1/2 mile and then just... stop, often leaving you on the wrong side of the road for where you're going. Then you have to cross four lanes of divided highway so you can go with traffic again. (Yeah, I did some creative cursing the day I found that out.)

I know many folks who just won't ride bikes because they don't want to deal with traffic. I'd totally welcome safe, separate lanes. It would make my riding much less stressful.

It's hard to see it happening here in a small suburb of Atlanta, though, alas. It's kind of a catch-22, I think: to provide infrastructure,you need a demand (i.e., people on bikes that want it.) But people don't ride bikes because there's no infrastructure.

Mike Shoup said...

Find me one city with double digit modal share that doesn't have extensive infrastructure :)

VC propaganda aside, the technique is useful in some situations, specifically high speed arterials found in many American suburbs that do not have infrastructure, or when it does exist is poorly designed.

That said, much of the VC fan club has stood in the way of getting well designed infrastructure put in place by citing old infrastructure that is obsolete and poorly designed.

VC proponents need to move out of the way and let well designed infrastructure get put in place.

Great post Mikael and it certainly has stirred up the hornets nest, as you probably knew it would.

Anonymous said...

When you live in the city with the great cycle infrastructure - it's OK to cycle in the suit, on the Dutch roadster bike. You don't need acceleration to get the pole position on the traffic lights, before the cars, you don't need the short wheelbase for to free your front wheel from the hole in tarmac, the curb or the tram rail. I have had even an nasty accident reported, when a man, mimicking the Dutch or Danish style of cycling, went with his front wheel into the hole in the cyclepath surface. The hole, which I have crossed hundreds of times and treated it as a "bloody nuisance" only, because it required from me to hop. Form follows function. You don't go to the safari in the suit, as well, as don't go to the party in the diving suit...
Well, let's wish everyone to have as great cycle infrastructure, as in Holland or Denmark.
/Marek

Anonymous said...

In the USA we don't have a choice. Learning how to survive as a VC is required if cycling is preferred over motorized driving.

The problem: VCs are willing to take a seat in the back of the bus and continue to believe that most drivers want to STR. This perspective fosters inferior attitudes of cyclists and public officials favor this arrangement since it saves them from additional financial burdens and public debates.

The bigger picture and what it means for the USA is now being experienced in the Gulf. Even with our air, food chain, beaches, life styles, real estate values under assault, the majority are still screaming "Drill-baby-Drill".

These are the masses that honor and respect STR?

Erik Sandblom said...

Anonymous, what's STR?

Brent said...

Jeff Mapes, in his book, "Pedaling Revolution," spends a few pages on Forester's impact on cycling infrastructure in California. A few snippets:

"[He] fought bike lanes, European-style cycletracks, and just about any form of traffic calming."

"He fought safety standards for bikes."

"[H]e saw nothing wrong with sprawl and an auto-dependent lifestyle."

"[B]esides a childhood train journey through Holland before World War II, he has never been in the country. 'However,' he told [Mapes] in an e-mail, 'I have several cycling associates who have cycled there, and they inform me they didn't like cycling there for reasons which I see as eminently reasonable and conforming to my feelings about the few imitations implemented there.'"

Anonymous said...

STR = Share The Road

Bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as operators of automobiles, except where the law specifies otherwise or where it can naturally have no applicability.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_law

Anonymous said...

Awesome writeup. You captured it perfectly.

I do support the VC notion that we have a right to the road, but that's where it stops. I've seen examples where VC ride in the road when there is a 8 foot++ shoulder. Gets arrested.. say goodbye to the nice safe 8 foot shoulders! thanks VC idiots.

Peter said...

Absolute distortion of what vehicular cycling is about. There are so many factual errors that there is no way to point them all out without writing a paper. It reminds me of listening to Rush Limbaugh.

Total nonsense.

Eneko Astigarraga said...

Wow Mikael. You are hunting the wolf still nowadays? I think this discussion is a little bit old fashioned and inconvenient for promoting cycling in "non-cycle-friendly" countries and/or cities. I agree with Anna: both visions have sense. Good infrastructures where necessary and well trained cyclists where the cycle-culture is lost.

I write from Pamplona and I can tell you most of Pamplonans (we call them Pamplonicas) don't run with the bulls, but many of them cycle with the cars and other cycle on the sidewalks. We have plenty of awful cycle paths and cycle lanes, and this amount of money spent on infrastructures doesn't encourage much cycling and are really dangerous for cyclists.

Erik Sandblom said...

Anonymous, I guess that's it in a nutshell. "STR = Share The Road" sounds nice, utopian even. But most people don't want to mix with fast-moving heavy traffic in search of utopia.

portlandize.com said...

Here's how I see this one...

I agree with townmouse that it's more of a Stockholm Syndrome case. In many places in the U.S. at least, there is either no other option than riding in the motor vehicle lanes on large streets with no traffic calming, or the alternate options are in fact so poorly designed that they are dangerous.

In that case, sure, if you want to ride, you have to behave like a car. It's safer if you do. Still, that scenario is never going to get many people on bikes.

I think where vehicular cycling has a problem, is that they are resigned to staying there (and some of them do prefer it, because having a setup like Copenhagen or Amsterdam would mean they would have to travel more slowly).

What I want to see is making do with what we have for now, but pushing hard for a better system of traffic in which pedestrians and cyclists are treated as equally valued users of the roads, and peoples' lives are valued over and above the quick and efficient flow of car traffic.

Vehicular cycling works fairly well, even for less confident riders, on streets where automobile traffic is efficiently slowed WAY down (below 20mph). There are streets like this in Portland, and they work well without separate infrastructure, and you do see large numbers of people riding on them, male and female, of many different age groups.

There are also 5-lane roads with 35 or 40mph speed limits and traffic signals only every 5-10 blocks, which only change to red if someone pulls up to a side street, or in some cases, actually pushes the cross button. These streets do not work well for anyone but people in automobiles.

I agree with people saying that many vehicular cyclists are not just against bicycle infrastructure, but against crappy bicycle infrastructure - but I also feel that many of them don't care to think there might be a better option.

Vehicular cycling to me doesn't seem evil, it just seems resigned to deal with what we have, which is largely crap. If all automobiles could only go 10-15mph, great, vehicular cycling for everyone. As it is, we need more.

Erik said...

Hello

I think that you are missing a point in your blog post. The people who decid to be vehicular cyclist, because it is the best and ,in my opinion, the safest way to get from point A to point B. The reason for that is simple: The bicycle infrastructure is in a catastrophically condition and/or there is no cycling culture in the city.

I am living in Hamburg and the bicycles lanes here a catastrophie. There are holes, pedestrians are always walking on the bicycle lane and if a car can´t find a place to park, it simply parks right on the bicycle lane.

Another problem is the missing cycling culture here in Hamburg. A lot of cyclist constantly ride in the wrong direction on the bicycle lane (which is a problem, because the bicycle lanes are normally only 45 cm wide) and car drivers are simply not even expecting that there will be a a cyclist crossing the rode on a bicycle lane. The cars ride up to the lane the pedestrians use to cross the street and are blocking the bicycle lane.

If you act like a vehicular cyclist, you can avoid all these problems. The car drivers see you and they will be careful and up till now I never saw a cyclist driving in the opposite direction on the road.

Please don´t get me wrong, of course I would prefer a good cycling infrastructure (I grew up in Kiel, there is a good infrastructure, so there most cyclist use the bicycle lane), but if there is no good infrastructure being a vehicular cyclist is the safest way to move in the city.

Whats more, even the German law prefers this. It says that bicycles are vehicles and as a vehicle you have to move on the road. Only if it there is a reason that makes it dangerous for cyclist to use the road (i.e. if the cars are moving at a speed of 80 km/h) the local authorities are allowed to force the cyclists to use the bicycle lane.

I think that a city has to decide, which way they want the cyclists to move in the city. Either on the road or on a separated bicycle Infrastructure. The worst case is making no decision at all. You are right that many people prefer a separated bicycle infrastructure, but it is also important to show these people that it is safe to ride a bicycle on the road, that cycling is not something dangerous.

Being radical by saying "Only moving on a bicycle lane will push cycling culture forward" or "Only moving on the road will push cycling culture forward" is exactly the wrong way, to motivate people using the bicycle.

Greetings from Hamburg

Erik

Paige said...

I think it's important for those of us without bike lanes to understand the tenets of vehicular or effective cycling. I used to live in Portland, Oregon, where this was still important but less so. I now live in a much smaller Oregon town where bike lanes are rare, and where they are they are often dangerous (bisecting a turn lane, etc.). I have never been yelled or honked at while living here (knock on wood, in a big way), which I think is in part because I'm basically a vehicular cyclist out on the open road. I stay to the right for the most part, but when I come to an intersection I'm in the middle of the lane. Though drivers might not understand why I'm doing that, they at least know they're not going to run me over; at most they might be slightly annoyed that it takes me longer to get across the intersection, but they don't develop that fear-rage like they would if I was doing something unexpected.

That said, I don't think it can be argued that that which has the highest ability to make cycling more safe is simply more cyclists, and I know many, many on-the-fence cyclists (my boyfriend included) who don't cycle more because of a lack of infrastructure.

Walk Eagle Rock said...

Okay, so I go to school in Berkeley and the city has far more bicycle infrastructure than Los Angeles, my home town.

For one, Berkeley has separated bicycle path as part of the SF Bay Trails. This path is very convenient for my commute from Richmond. Berkeley even has the beautiful bike bridge crossing the freeway.

Berkeley also has a portion of the Ohlone Greenway, an other separated bicycle path/greenway.

Berkeley has bicycle boulevards, perhaps the "shared roads" mentioned earlier, where bicycles have priority on residential streets and traffic overall is calmed.

Berkeley has (dont know if this qualifies as pro/con VC but is technically speaking "separated bicycle infrastructure") protected bike corals. There are two exclusive bike turn lanes around the UC campus.

Also, though I question the safety of them, Berkeley also has narrow bike lanes sprinkled around.

The city of Glendale, CA looked to Berkeley to see how wean car use and encourage bicycle travel. I doubt they look to Berkeley because of the city's lack of bike infrastructure.

Weighing the two, separated bicycle infrastructure is FAAAR safer and more effective in getting people on bikes.

BG said...

Just to add another voice:

I am a League of American Bicyclists instructor and I teach Vehicular Cycling techniques. My experience, over more than two decades of riding bikes in the USA, shows that these techniques are the best way to deal with the roads we actually have here and the culture that has arisen from them, right now. VC makes my life much easier than it used to be when I rode like a European (just got back from a bike trip in Italy, and can tell you that VC doesn't go over well there -- even on similar roads, it's a totally different culture). If you want to ride a bike here, right now, you need to know how to take the lane, and you need to know that the law protects your right to do so.

That said, I don't advocate for Vehicular Cycling for the future. Mikael hit it right on the head: VC has never convinced anyone who didn't already want to ride in traffic that it's a good idea to ride in traffic. When we have better bike infrastructure here (and we will), we won't need to use the techniques.

As for Forrester: it's really too bad that he's such a crank, because the chapter on lane positioning in Effective Cycling really is the best and most cogent explanation I've seen of how to ride safely and predictably on US roads. He's a smart guy. Unfortunately, his personal nastiness and his complete lack of vision for the future have largely overshadowed the good work he did in the '70s.

scruss said...

About a decade ago, I was opposed to a particular type of cycling infrastructure - the dismally useless kind being installed then in Glasgow; some examples at Glasgow's Crappy Bike Lanes. We were expected to use approach lanes with less than 30cm of usable width. And this was the co-host of Velo-City 2001!

Panglott said...

If American cyclists are pushed off the road network, then they will nowhere to cycle. Except maybe some gravel paths that don't go anywhere.

Maybe in Europe people are willing to spend the money for dedicated bicycle infrastructure, but if American cyclists are pushed off the road, then there'll be hardly any American cyclists at all. Noone will ride their bike to work or the grocery store because there will be no way to get there.

David Hembrow said...

Vehicular cycling is a survival technique for individual cyclists, not a way of campaigning for more cycling.

Someone posed this question in the comments section of one of my recent blog posts: Do we spend our energies to empty the swamp or to fight off the alligators?.

The Dutch and Danes emptied the swamp, while vehicular cyclists are still trying to fight alligators. Alligators wrestling never has been popular, and never will be.

There are many excuses made as to why Dutch and Danish cycling infrastructure can't be emulated elsewhere, but none of them stand up to much scrutiny.

And please don't start that "I'm too fast" nonsense. If you think that cycling infrastructure doesn't serve fast cyclists then you've not been paying attention. Here in the Netherlands there is a fast growing network of intercity cycling superhighways which serve those with longer commutes.

António Louro said...

This is an old fashioned, provincial and arrogant post. Old fashioned because the world moved-on since nerds liked to discuss if things are either black or white. Provincial because Mikael does not realize that there is an whole world out there that does not want to be copenhagenized. Arrogant because he is convinced he knows the solution - his own world view.

And why so much gratuitous violence towards what he perceives as the other side? 1) because there are short-sighted nerds like him on the other side 2) because he feels that his narrow world-view is loosing ground like any silly fanatic VC.

As you can read from these comments, fortunately most bicycle activists have moved forward and do not believe in silly silver-bullets.

The best comment so far:

If there is any universality to cult leadership it is that all cult leaders hate leaders of different cults.

Keep on going like that and you will be remembered just like Forester - a bitter and angry old man, but without having the deserved fame of having written the best books on cycling published last century.

matt13 said...

Here in London I'll support two things:
- Reducing the standard speed limit on residential roads to 20mph (~30km/h). This would be relatively quick, cheap and easy.
- Constructing proper segregated cycle paths (or, where there isn't room in central London, closing some roads to motor vehicles).

Unfortunately, at the moment we get road humps with the 20mph limits, occasional on-road bike lanes narrower than the government-recommended width that end at the worst possible point, paths shared with pedestrians that are about a metre wide and full of obstacles like lamp posts and bus shelters, and "Cycle Superhighways" that are the above but painted sky-blue.

Cycling is the fastest way to get around London, but until decent infrastructure is built some "VC" techniques are pretty much essential.

lagatta à montréal said...

The fight for good cycling infrastructure remains key. If not only macho cyclists will take to the streets as road warriors - almost all men in their youth or early middle-age.

Forrester sounds like a crank. He deliberately didn't go to see countries where mass cycling worked? Arsehole.

Taliesin said...

I don't think this can be characterised as a proponent of one sect (segregated cycling) attacking aonther sect (vehicular cycling). After all, in the race to become a mainstream religion, segregation has proven itself far more capable than VC. 27%+ qualifies as a mainstream religion, 1-2% really counts as more of a sect I fear.

But it is a little academic, since the reason cycling is flatlining in the UK, USA, Australia, etc. is that the governments (and a majority of citizens) aren't interested in the steps that would make changes, since the biggest required change is to reduce the use of motor vehicles. The techinques to achieve this are secondary.

ZA said...

For my part, I don't subscribe to any particular bicycling cult, and focus instead on what is most practical.

My daily commute is 4 miles and 6 hills each way in San Francisco. I typically complete that journey in 18-20 minutes. The route I take includes bike lanes, 'sharrows,' vehicular city roads, alleys, bus lanes, and rail tracks. I obey every traffic light, I selectively obey every stop sign, and occasionally use short stretches of sidewalk and counterflow routes when these choices are safest.

I wear reflective clothing when it's dark & raining, and everyday clothes for the rest of the time.

When a bike lane isn't being blocked by a car, vehicular behavior on my bike is often safest. Some stretches also have timed traffic lights that are advantageous for a 'vehicular cyclist' ("scorcher" was the old name). But I've also noticed the difference between 'pushing' my commute, and talking it more easily is a mere 1-3 minutes additional time.

I welcome additional infrastructure and more types and styles of rider. I certainly feel safest with separated bicycle infrastructure, and would even like to see a 'fast lane' within this 'bikeway' for the two bicycling cultures.

I suppose, like most Americans, I want to have it both ways. To have ideal bicycle infrastructure AND road access, depending on what makes sense for the place and my journey.

Adrian said...

Mikael, in this post you've depicted vehicular cycling too narrowly, and managed to piss off people who otherwise are on your side. There are really two parts to vehicular cycling, but you only mention the first one:

1) The idea that separate bike infrastructure is bad, and that all cyclists should ride on the road as vehicles. You rightly condemn this as a failure.

2) The idea that riding as a vehicle on the road is the safest and most effective way of cycling in the absence of bike infrastructure.

Actually, David Hembrow summed it up better: "Vehicular cycling is a survival technique for individual cyclists, not a way of campaigning for more cycling."

Come for a ride with me in Sydney Australia and I'm sure you'd be a vehicular cyclist for a day. We do it to survive, and we even tell other cyclists to do it because we don't want them to die, but we still want bike infrastructure that will make vehicular cycling obsolete.

Anonymous said...

I think to say that VC is a practical approach to using the road rather than an anti-infrastructure movement is about right.

Another aspect of this debate that might be considered is whether infrastructure really encourages new cyclists. Now, you can argue that the Netherlands and Denmark have a lot of expensive infrastructure and a very high number of cyclists, which is true, but they always have had a high number of cyclists. It's possible (I'd say even very probable) that the infrastructure halted the decline of cyclists that continued unabated in other countries, but it's hard for me to see that it encouraged NEW cyclists, because the numbers cycling didn't go up -- they just didn't fall the way they did in other countries. In fact, the proportion of traffic that cyclists make up in Denmark has been falling for the last few years, though, of course, it remains enviably high.

I'm not personally against cycling infrastructure. I'm against the local authorities in Ireland building any more until everyone involved has been replaced with someone who has had training in this area of engineering, because what they've built over the last two decades is counter-intuitive, counter-productive and just plain insulting most of the time. (And incidentally did not encourage new cyclists; that stimulus only came in the last five years, when a recession hit the country like a tsunami.)

Until there's a regime change in the local authorities here, VC is the man for me. I'm not going to pretend that the infrastructure here is better than the road when it clearly isn't. That would the sort of illogical behaviour one might associate with ... a cult?

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, just to give you some idea, here's a bit of cycling infrastructure from Galway in Ireland.


http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/attachment.php?attachmentid=93919&d=1256345994

Now tell me, who wouldn't preferentially use the road?

Anonymous said...

For me, cycling vehicularly isn't survival mode, it's the most enjoyable way to ride. Most neighborhood streets in the USA couldn't possibly be any better for cycling than they are now, just follow the same rules as other drivers and there are no problems.

Some streets have traffic volumes and speeds that make some cyclists feel intimidated unless there is adequate space for drivers to pass at comfortable distance without changing lanes. Okay, widen the roads or remove other lanes to provide more space for that. But that doesn't mean we should reclassify cyclists as rolling pedestrians. Cycling with the rights of a driver is far more convenient, and following the rules for drivers is far safer.

Lucas Jerzy Portela said...

I think I was wrongly understood.

Of course here, in Brasil, trafic calming measures are welcome.

And shared roads are noto suposed to be incrowded ones (unless there is a huge congestion), or main ones, or risky at any form.

And I'm very favorable to painted bikelanes.

Only that segregated infraestructure is like a coletive helmet: sometimes it's excelente - most of the time it is "ignoring the bull" and "treating bike as a hobby/sports/play-thing".

There will never ever be a segregated lane between my home and the bakery shop in the corner. Nor ther should be: it can't get safer than it is already! And yes: elderly and youngsters uses it as it is: shared street, with very low & slow motorized trafic, no printed lanes...

Lucas Jerzy Portela said...

Another thing that Mikael misregarded: in third-world country, we have to groups.

Very poor countries, where bikes are the main transportation form in a way that Copenhagen can't imagine: China (until 10 years ago), Vietnam, India. There even taxi-cabs are on pedals...

The rich ones, where cars or mass transportation owns the place. Buenos Aires is totaly plain, but nobody cycle! Everybody walks, uses subways, etc. Not much cars, but even less bikes no matter what you do.

In this second kinds of country you need first to create a representative quantity and quality of bike-users, to further demand segregated infraestructures. No one would build segregated lanes to few, poor, users; but they would for more users from midle-class.

And how do you construct this greater number of users, with more conscient use and more political/social/economical voice? VEHICULAR CYCLING.

Maybe in Denmark it's not need. Maybe also, for diferent reasons, at Nigeria or Bangladesh. But in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, it's eagerly urgent...

Anonymous said...

"And how do you construct this greater number of users, with more conscient use and more political/social/economical voice? VEHICULAR CYCLING."

I don't know about Brazil but the problem in the U.S. is that this isn't how things have turned out at all. Vehicular cycling is already legal here and has been so for decades. Yet, in most cities, the number of people who cycle regularly has remained fairly flat or actually dwindled. The city with the highest rate of cycling in the U.S. is Portland, which also happens to have the most extensive and developed cycling infrastructure. Look at how cycling has exploded in infrastructure-dense cities like Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Portland over the past *decade*. Then look at cycling rates in cities where Vehicular Cycling is the only option and look at how they've grown over the past *four decades*. Its not a subjective valuation. The numbers demonstrate that cycling infrastructure brings out more riders. Vehicular Cycling does not.

We have to keep in mind that there will always be a geographic 'divide' among cyclists. Cycling infrastructure will probably never be a huge part of the transportation infrastructure in suburban or rural places (with the exception of a few outliers like Davis, CA and so on). That isn't necessarily a tragedy though - as others have pointed out, a lot of these places have relatively light traffic and conditions that are relatively amenable to cyclists. Vehicular Cycling will likely remain the norm in places like this. However, cycling infrastructure is definitely the route to go in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, etc. - where traffic is much more dense, often much more dangerous and space is always at a premium. "Copenhagenize" or "Amsterdamize" makes sense in these cities and I think its the way to go if we want to expand the use of bicycles as a legitimate and viable form of transportation.

I also think its kind of funny that Vehicular Cycling advocates claim that cycling infrastructure somehow takes cycling as a legitimate form of transportation and turns it into a sport, hobby or somehow infantilizes it. Look at how many everyday people use bicycles to commute to work, to commute to the store or even to go from city-to-city on inter-city networks in Denmark and the Netherlands. Then look at how many of these Vehicular Cyclists are hardcore, geared-out "road warrior" type cycling fanatics and tell me who's turning cycling into a hobby/sport and who is legitimizing it as a valid form of urban and inter-urban transportation.

Lucas Jerzy Portela said...

I'm not talking about "road heros fanatics" at all.

I'm talking about what already exists: poor people, women (even pregnant), children, elderely - using streets (some times broad, fast ones) side by side with cars. And they never heard about "vehicular cycling".

What government should do for them? Provide that this is safe. How? Educating drivers (and cyclists), and taking trafic calming measures.

Maybe I was misunderstood again, so I will repeat: taking trafic calming measures.

Again: I'm totaly pro- taking trafic calming measures!

What I say is: in this conditions, the better segregated lane in the world would be useless - regardless the fact that this users say they would like/need segregated lanes.

And with this: trafic calming + routes + ostensive sharing + same printed lanes + advertesingment, the number of users in Rio de Janeiro and Recife grew very fast. Impressivily.

Both of them made segragated infraestructure? Yes, and it is important.

I'll say again: yes, segregated infraestructur must be made and is important.

Just it's not crucial! That's exactely as helmets: I'm not against it - I'm against the obligation.

I'm no narco-punk fellow. Believe me, I'm more of a cycle-chic fag. But the reality of a city changes from place to place.

And again: what about bigger ascensors in Salvador? This is much more urgent for bike than segregated lanes... Would it be needed in Amsterdam?!

(for the record: trafic congestions and lack of mass transport in Brazil is so sever that people would migrate to bike anyway! Poor people first, midle-class litle less and after. Even in citys with good bus services, as Curitiba and Porto Alegre, it is espontaneously happening...)

Lucas Jerzy Portela said...

One more thing about my city, that is the oldest capital of the american continent (with buildings in use that date since 1550. There was even a Renascentist Cathedral here...).

I'm working with the government in Planing the Ancient Center for Bikes.

In the middle of the Ancient Center there is the Historical Center. Wich was em 1600 the biggest city of the Portuguese Empire - wich was then the second biggest european empire.

Even the floor of the area is protected by UN and cannot be changed.

What was the solution for this center-of-the-center of the city? No bikes at all! Only pedestrians. It's hilly, crowded, and really impossibile to bike inside it. This parte of the town was made to peolpe go up and down in litiers carried by slaves! Even walking there is anatomically anoying.

But than, the priority for all the streets that link Expanded Center and Ancient Center to the Historical Neighboorhood would be for bikes. In shared roads on the top of the hill, eliminating parking lots (see: trafic calming!). And few segregated lanes on the fast avenues in the valley.

This is just to show that each city has it's idiossincratic ways. And in some areas the best you can do for bike is, paradoxically, try to have only pedestrians... (and sometimes it's to segregated, and sometimes it's sharing roads. For each case, a solution. There is no universal panacea!)

Erik Sandblom said...

ZA: "I selectively obey every stop sign"

This will be my new motto! :D

John said...

As a cycle commuter I practise vehicular cycling.

If there was a decent facility (i.e. not strewn with broken glass, wide enough for sane overtaking, smooth enough for decent progress to be made, going in the right direction, without stupid numbers of "give way to the might of the motor" points) then I would use it.

As it is the only stretch of cycle "facility" on my journey is a shared use path I can't get onto (6" kerb, hard to deal with on a recumbent trike) followed by a cycle lane painted into the side of the road. The lane:
a) is not wide enough to accomodate me (let alone anyone wanting to overtake)
b) is poorly finished (deep drain covers, general tarmac rot)
c) is covered in debris
d) encourages motorists to overtake without leaving adequate space.

So I ignore it - I use the road.


If there was a cycle path alongside the railway line then I'd make my journey that way:
Advantages:
- Train tracks are inevitably pretty flat
- Train tracks run along alot of major routes
- Trains tend to stay on their path, being alongside them (assuming some wind protection) would be safer than being alongside motorists

Josh, UK said...

Some of us like to ride.... OUTSIDE of cities.
This post seems to totally sideline the many cyclists who use their bikes as a form of exercise, training to achieve athletic goals.

If i'm doing a 100k training ride, screw doing that on cycle paths! Sure, can be helpful in encouraging greater use of bikes within a city, but even in a city, I woulod encourage them as a possible alternative for those not confident enough to deal with traffic.

I ride on roads because they are significantly faster. If someone is nervous, then sure give them a bike path, but for those of us who TRAIN on the roads, we're happy with the way it is thanks.

Cab said...

I've just got round to writing a response to this post in my own cycling blog; in fact, this post actually made me remember I'd started off the blog and that I should really post to it :)

Said post is here:
http://community.livejournal.com/cyclist_issues/#post-cyclist_issues-1706


To sum it up, I'm a vehicular cyclist, but not because its an ideology. I'm a vehicular cyclist because time and time again cycling infrastructure here is so far below a useable level, there isn't really a good alternative.

velocouture said...

I tend to be on the fence between VC and "all bicycle infrastructure is good". In my experience, most of the infrastructure in the US needs to be treated on a case-by-case basis; in many places "bike lanes" are just a code word for "crappy road access" on roads that I'd rather not travel on at all. But if I want to go through there, wishing there was a pleasant cycle track does me no good, so I use the bike lane or find another route.

In principle, though, I agree with you, Mikael, and also with Mr. Hembrow. Working on infrastructure is the only long term plan that makes any sense. It certainly worked for motorized vehicles!

The thing that bugs me the most about the term "Vehicular Cycling" is that it attaches a bunch of meaning to the act of using of a bicycle as a vehicle. Bicycles are vehicles, and I think that is an important point in the US where many people think that the word "vehicle" is synonymous only with "motorized vehicle." But that doesn't mean that anyone who rides a bicycle is a Vehicular Cyclist. It's too late to ask them to change their name, though. Pity about that!

Cheers

Patrick

Anonymous said...

Anon is right: "look at how many of these Vehicular Cyclists are hardcore, geared-out road warrior type cycling fanatics and tell me who's turning cycling into a hobby/sport and who is legitimizing it as a valid form of urban and inter-urban transportation."

In the USA being a VC is the only way to increase survival rates if you want to get around w/o a motorized vehicle. Too many "cyclists" I know have taken up cycling to improve their health but continue to believe and support motorized travel over bike commuting. Typically they show up for group rides with their bikes on back of their SUVs/pickup trucks (even though they have desk jobs) and laugh at the idea that bikes can serve as a viable commuting option.

A large potential group of cyclists remain on the sidelines and quiet- - they are the personality type that goes out of their way to avoid aggressive & confrontational behavior. Thus they drive instead of bike and end up becoming part of a growing majority who preach "Drill-baby-Drill", to our collective demise.

Without active political leadership to reverse these decades long trends, the USA will continue to prefer dependence on more and expanded roads built for motorized vehicles over civility and self dependence.

Jack

Richard Fairhurst said...

Superb post.

Vehicular cyclists, sadly, are a very vocal set of campaigners here in the UK, and dominate certain organisations (and online forums). They've elevated the CTC's old aim, "the right to ride on the road", into something much more dangerous - "the compulsion to only ride on the road".

The sheer doctrinal lunacy of this was brought home to me when I was manning a stand at a nearby bike festival the other year. We were inundated with queries from mothers asking "do you know of any safe traffic-free routes where I can introduce little Jack to cycling?". The vehicular cyclists would have had me reply "no, he should be cycling on the road". Madness.

Anonymous said...

Ja, ja. Great post. "The secret sect". Here in Madrid there's a lot of that noisy Ninja Cyclists, preaching about how good is ride our roads.
Not surprinsingly, Madrid is the european capital with the poorest cycling percentage (only 0'6% uses the bike, far even from the London's 3%)

Anonymous said...

Richard Fairhurst, I notice that a real person did not tell a child to cycle on the road, just an imaginary VC zealot. So you love telling strawman tales just as much as Mikael does.

Most cycling advocates, of whatever persuasion, would not tell a novice or child to practice on busy roads. This is a ludicrous parody of VC, as indeed was the main article.

Apart from the Forester wing, VC advocates do not say using the road is always best. They say that it's generally better, and in the USA and UK, where VC is strongest, that's absolutely true. As someone else points out, most cyclists in the world use something like VC, though they are unaware of it. They usually get advice from more experienced cyclists, or learn the hard way by experience themselves.

This post was a very dispiriting read, I have to say. What is so scary about using most roads? The Netherlands doesn't have segregation on quieter roads, so segregation is reserved for more stressful streets. This seems fair enough.

And if you don't have decent provision on busy streets, VC tells you what you can do to make your life less stressful and safer. What's Mikael's advice in this situation? Lobby and wait a quarter century for them to build before you start cycling? Or never start in the first place?

Anonymous said...

I also notice that the blame for poor infrastructure is being shifted from indifferent local authorities, who were building such rubbish, to the advocates who wanted them to stop building rubbish.

Apparently once enough rubbish had been built, some alchemy would turn the lead to gold, and cumbersome and dangerous infrastructure would be raised up to Danish standards.

David Hembrow said...

Anonymous: Are you really trying to claim that Los Angeles has a problem with being too crowded for cycling infrastructure ? Usually Americans claim that they can't cycle because they are too spread out and their journeys are too long. You can't have it both ways.

John: I also ride a recumbent trike. A few minutes ago I got home from work.

My commute is 30 km in each direction, 28 km of which is on superb high quality cycle paths. It took just over 49 minutes to get to work this morning and just under 49 minutes to get back home - an average of over 36 km/h. That's what Dutch cycle paths do for you. You can ride much faster on the cycle paths here than on the roads in the UK.

Josh: I'm British and lived most of my life in the UK. I understand what you mean. When I lived there I would cycle "vehicularly" because it's the only way of surviving British streets.

However, you're viewing what is possible through the eyes of someone who knows only the UK's infrastructure. Cycle paths in the Netherlands are built with entirely different ideas in mind. The cities are pretty much done. Much of the growth now is in accommodating high speed inter city cyclists. The result is a network of cycle paths across the entire country which are great for "training".

What's more, if you race you don't expect to do so on roads full of cars. Generally the roads will either be closed for you, or you're on segregated infrastructure like this.

Anonymous: The Netherlands has roughly a quarter as many kilometres of segregated cycle path as it has of roads. All but the very quietest of roads here, which means virtually empty country roads and some residential roads, have a segregated cycle path. The residential roads are generally not as you would expect from British practice. Things have been moving on here for quite a long time.

Quality is important. The Dutch spend the most money and get the best facilities. That's why the Dutch cycling rate is ahead of everywhere else in the world. German cycle paths, for instance, are definitely not good enough.

David Hembrow said...
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David Hembrow said...
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Esteban said...

More bikes are not less cars.

People don't cycle because using cars is cheap and convenient.

Insfrastructure addicts can't understand this basic things.

David said...

I share some of the concerns that have been raised that this post has its own sect-like qualities to it.

In addition to what others here have written on the utility of VC as a survival technique, it's also the case that the criticism of VC advocates in this post goes too far, and is also ignorant. I know for a fact that VC advocates are usually at the forefront of opposing mandatory helmet legislation while opposing them (i.e. supporting helmet legislation) are often the same people who support Danish-style cycling infrastructure. Similarly, VC advocates in North America are often less inclined to wear Lycra and otherwise "suit up" because, for them, being VC is about normalizing bike use in their own lives. They tend to cycle quickly, but calling them "vroom vroom" is rather laughable since they're in a sense nostalgic for an era in which cyclists shared the road with everyone else, including horses, streetcars/trams and early cars. In contrast, it is frequently the cyclists favouring dedicated infrastructure who show up suited in special clothing to "do battle" on the road. This latter group have often been the "useful idiots" whose support was used to build bad cycling infrastructure whose main purpose was to remove cyclists from being in the way of cars rather than to provide cycling-friendly infrastructure.

Nor is it wise to discredit people like Forester who have succeeded at least in ensuring that cycling wasn't regarded as a thing for children and recreation only. The very fact that VC can be amusingly characterized as a sect for heroic men is at least an indication that they succeeded in avoiding having cycling being stigmatized as something only done for recreation, principally children playing. That said, they failed to make cycling something for everyone, but then again it's easier for the rest of us to expand cycling as something for everyone from a starting point of it being for heroic men than it is to try to get its image lifted from being something only for children.

And while I think that dedicated facilities are in principle a good idea, I share the VC concern with how many of these facilities interact with other traffic and roadways in practise. The inclination of the traffic engineers who build them seems to be to slap a stop sign on them at every crossing that a car might use. Even accessing cycling facilities (i.e. turning on and off them) can be a chore. Time and again paths are taken into pedestrian crosswalks, which is illegal in North America.


I go back to my initial point about this post in that there's a lot of nuance and cultural differences that are being painted over and it's every bit as short-sighted as some of the trenchant opposition of the VC core. It's right to sideline the VC core who oppose in principle any kind of dedicated facilities, but it's equally wrong to dismiss them outright. There are lots of cyclists who use VC techniques or training every day to complete their journeys and who appreciate the thought that has gone into it all the while disagreeing with the rest of the VC philosophy with respect to dedicated infrastructure. Frankly, I think a lot of cyclists are looking for a coherent cycling philosophy that pulls in some of the best elements of VC as part of a process of getting towards a more Copenhagen-like cycling environment. I just can't get over how close-minded this post is and how disturbingly similar it is to the way Forester et al regard dedicated infrastructure.

Russ Nelson said...

VC is not optional here in the US -- it's the only way to bicycle safely. I've seen good and I've seen bad bicycle paths. I don't want to be forced by law to use bad bicycle paths. Mixing pedestrians and bicycles ALWAYS makes for a bad bicycle path.

Competent adults should always ride in the road unless they choose to ride on bicycle infrastructure. <--- that is the core of VC.

Anonymous said...

"And if you don't have decent provision on busy streets, VC tells you what you can do to make your life less stressful and safer. What's Mikael's advice in this situation? Lobby and wait a quarter century for them to build before you start cycling? Or never start in the first place?"

Absurd. I've never heard an advocate of bicycle-specific infrastructure argue that cyclists shouldn't have the right to ride on the road or that they shouldn't do their utmost to ride as safely as possible. The point is that many "Vehicular Cycling" advocates *have* in fact actively campaigned and lobbied against the implementation of *any* bicycle-specific infrastructure. See Forrester. Its downright hypocritical and disingenuous to complain about how long it has taken infrastructure to be implemented in many places and then, in the same breath, ally yourself with the group of activists who have dedicated decades of lobbying to fight the implementation of any such infrastructure.

"Similarly, VC advocates in North America are often less inclined to wear Lycra and otherwise "suit up" because, for them, being VC is about normalizing bike use in their own lives. They tend to cycle quickly, but calling them "vroom vroom" is rather laughable since they're in a sense nostalgic for an era in which cyclists shared the road with everyone else, including horses, streetcars/trams and early cars. In contrast, it is frequently the cyclists favouring dedicated infrastructure who show up suited in special clothing to "do battle" on the road."

Where I live, in Southern California, the situation is the complete 180* opposite. The city of Culver City is arguably the regional leader here in terms of expanding bicycle-specific infrastructure. If you look up pictures from the community group rides that the city and the LA County Bicycle Coalition (a pro-infrastructure org.) have organized, you'll see couples, families with kids, everyday people ... and very few lycra-suited road warriors.

Festoonic said...

What a lively discussion!
I'd suggest that, in the US at least, any available funding for improved bike infrastructure has evaporated, probably permanently. Therefore arguing about whether bicyclists would be better served by more of what is not going to be built is kind of academic, isn't it? Bike paths are lovely when they're available, but they're rare even in my supposedly "bike-friendly" environs, and now that they're laying off teachers and firefighters, I think it'd be awfully shortsighted to hold my breath for more of them.

Anonymous said...

I made the comment about waiting for years for infrastructure.

I'm not "allied" with VC. I was making the point that it's an excellent set of practical methods for using the road. It's mostly common sense, in fact. As such, it's very useful in the vast majority of places in the world, because decent, well-funded, well thought-out infrastructure is most definitely the exception on planet Earth.

VC as a methodology has been far more use to me in Ireland than the local authorities have been, with their cumbersome and frequently hazardous designs.

I'm not against bicycle infrastructure, but I am against the absurd situation we've had in Ireland for over a decade where you are obliged to use anything that has a Cycle Track sign on it, but there are no legally binding standards about what a cycle track is: the addition of the sign makes it a cycle track by law. If they want to make the top of a narrow 2m high wall running alongside the road a cycle track, there's nothing to stop them, and by the letter of the law, you'd have to use it,. rather than the road that people have been using for over a century.

I've posted this already, but this is what you can get in Ireland:

http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/attachment.php?attachmentid=93919&d=1256345994

The local authorities in that case made it clear when that design was opposed that cyclists would just have to get off the road and give way to cars every few metres. They were using the infrastructure to make life easier for motorists by making it harder for cyclists, because motorists are more important. So that's what infrastructure can end up being.

Were the cycling advocates wrong to oppose this monstrosity?

So that was the source of my comment about waiting decades for infrastructure. Frankly, I'll be an old man or gone before we have anything approaching Dutch or Danish infrastructure. In the meantime, I have VC (most of the time) and I have a fine cycling life.

As for Forester (one 'r' incidentally), he's a complete pain and he give VC a bad name. He's incredibly rude and his opinion is set in stone about everything.

In fact, even using the term VC is a bit misleading, since I don't adhere to it as a philosophy. I just happen to have to use the road on 95% of my time on the road, and to be honest, I'm perfectly happy to do so and on most roads I would preferentially eschew the infrastructure. I really don't see the need for me.

On the other hand, I don't agree with telling other people that they should be happy using the road, which is why I don't like Forester's attitude one bit. I devoutly want to see mass cycle use (higher than in Denmark in fact, if that's possible) and if infrastructure can achieve that, great. But I don't see why cyclists should be compelled> to use any facilities. If the infrastructure is plainly better that using the road, no-one will need compulsion. If it isn't, it's unethical to compel them (again, look at the cycling facility on boards.ie).

lagatta à montréal said...

Of course cycling advocates have cycled in the roads - that is where Le Monde à bicyclette held our first die-in, over 30 years ago. But we also chanted: "Les cyclistes, ça existe, où sont les pistes?" and painted lanes on the road surfaces, once again over 30 years ago.

I was happy today, doing my first ride on a segregated bicycle path along University Street, down from a street in the southwestern Plateau to la piste Claire-Morrissette, in the heart of the central business district. And a friend happened to be taking it too!

We still have a long way to go and have to get rid of some of the bidirectional lanes, putting lanes along either side of the street as in Amsterdam (and Copenhagen, I presume, though I saw your city far too briefly, and late in December). But the lanes, and the Bixi scheme (patterned on the Parisian Vélib) have contributed to a new spike in utilitarian cyclists in the last couple of years.

Chris said...

What an excellent (and mostly good natured) discussion this has been. Interestingly, of course, the post which Mikael links to is from a closed blog, so no discussion can occur and the author's singular opinion cannot be challenged.

I share the concerns of many that a false dichotomy has been erected between 'VC' and 'segregationists'. It is true that there are a few, deluded invididuals who believe that any form of infrastructure is 'dangerous' and we can all be happy and safe, from 8-80, mixing with the trucks.

But as has been said repeatedly: for most cycling advocates in the UK and Ireland (and elsewhere!) the quality of cycle paths are too low. I for one would love to have Copenhagen or Dutch style cycle paths on main roads and busy streets. But in Britain the engineers and planners are incapable of meeting those design standards at present. Perhaps things are improving, but we are still a long way off.

Then there is maintenance. This is not just a UK problem: the maintenance of German cycle paths is pretty bad, but the Britain you would be lucky if a rural cycle path received one grass cutting a year and perhaps the edges trimmed back. Normally, however, the path gradually returns to nature within a few years of its triumphant opening. There was one path I took for a year or so on my regular commute which had barely 20 cms of clear (rough) asphalt to ride on, maintained by the wheels of the few cyclists using the route: the remainder of the approx 1 metre path was covered with detritus. This path then joined an old road (parallel and horribly close to a motorway) which was only half-cambered, meaning that every time it rained mud and sand slid across the surface. After complaining regularly to the council and nothing happening, I gave up and have never used the route since. This is a very common story in Britain, the land where maintenance is something you do when something has broken, rather than to keep it from breaking.

As has been said countless times: the practice of encouraging cyclists to have the confidence to use the roads is a survival strategy, not a willful attempt to undermine the construction of quality cycle infrastructure. When most towns simply do not have proper cycle paths networks, you need to have some degree of knowledge of how to interact with cars to be able to make utility trips by bike. In my experience the Dutch and Danes are innately vehicular cyclists: at junctions where they have priority they charge out in front of cars and assert their legal rights. That is the essence of vehicular cycling - the refusal to bow down to the bigger vehicle which legally is subservient, or at least equal, to you.

Even in the newer towns in Britain where cycle infrastructure was built from the beginning, the failure to provide continuity and priority over side roads, together with endemic problems of perceived personal security have meant that these networks are massively underused. Towns like Milton Keynes, and, to a lesser extent, Bracknell or Andover, have fragmentary, poor quality segregated facilities, but in general have fewer cyclists using them for utility trips than other nearby towns.

To answer one person's comment: Cambridge is a city with about 20% modal share for cycling (26% cycling to work), and precious little in the way of cycle paths. (Another point being that nowhere has 'no' cycle paths, just that some places have better networks than others). But what Cambridge does have is a strong local cycling campaign who are now pushing for segregated routes and who will strongly audit those routes for quality. They are a model for how good infrastructure gets put in: get decent levels of cycling and a sensible local authority backed by strong community groups, and high quality infrastructure will follow.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Chris.

Anonymous said...

35 years? Well, bike paths have been tried in Germany for over 80 years. Has it been a success? Several cities are reducing their bike paths, in favor of bike lanes. I know bike lanes can be a different discussion, but the fact that bike paths are being reduced 80 years after realizing that they are often dangerous can't be argued away.

Gert Harrit said...

This is a narrow-minded and patronizing post. From a high-horse colonialist point of view Mikael is convinced, like many VC before him, he knows the answer. The complexities of the world urban areas and social contexts fly over the head of this bigoted and ignorant stand point. As a Danish i can see this pattern of thought spread among some young people in my country.

In one thing he is right: beware of people that with starry-eyes believe in the One Trick Pony! Nothing like one of them to recognize the problem.


Mikeal, keep doing what you know best: photographing beautiful people on bikes.

Stefan Warda said...

Cycling on the road lanes or cycling on cycle tracks? It´s all about the determination of the cycle infrastructure. Are cycle tracks built for car traffic like in most of the German cities, or are cycle tracks built for cycle traffic like in Copenhagen.

I love to cycle on Copenhagen cycle tracks. It´s easy, cycling is fast on them and i feel very safe on them. Cycle tracks are wide, in most cases cyclists are visible to car drivers, in particular at intersections. Why? First of all a very good cycle track will be in a Copenhagen street, second if remains enough space there will be parking lots.

In Germany cycle tracks a very small. Cyclists can nearly never pass a slower cyclist. In general terms if cycle tracks are built normally only the sidewalks are reduced. Cycle tracks will be built only if there is enough space for parking lots and lanes for car traffic. Cycle tracks are built to get rid of cyclists on roadlanes. Green phases of traffic lights for cars can be longer if cyclists are away from the road lanes. In Hamburg for better city climate along main roads cars get longer green at intersections while parallel cycle traffic have to stop at each crossroad and push for green lights. This was done to reduce fine dust particles from car traffic. Cyclists are far away from road lanes and not seen by car drivers at intersections, because parking lots and trees, beer-gardens, phone booths, etc. are between cycle tracks and road lanes. At intersections accidents between cyclist going straight and cars turning to the right are very common.

Most cyclists don´t use the Hamburg cycle tracks, but the sidewalks next to them, because cyclist feel unsafe on the small cycle tracks.

Since 1998 the German road traffic regulation allows only to force cyclists on cycle tracks if they are wide enough, safe, in a good condition and maintained. Otherwise the communities have to take away the blue traffic signs with the white bicycle symbol.

What changed since 1998? In Hamburg until now the city does not have the courage to built better cycle infrastructure. The city fears to give the cyclists more space in the streets and avoids to reduce the space for car traffic (road lanes and parking lots).

Most cyclists still do not use the road lanes where it is allowed, they remain on sidewalks or cycle tracks - as far as possible to use the cycle tracks.

I understand the demand to give cyclists the right to use the road lanes to protect them from using unsafe cycle tracks, but in my opinion this does not change the modal split towards cycle traffic.

On www.kk.dk:
"Do cycle tracks encourage more people to cycle?
Yes, every time the city creates a new cycle track, it results in 20% more cyclists (and 10% less cars) using that stretch."
Why? The City of Copenhagen eliminates parking lots or road lanes for building good cycle tracks.
"It costs approx DKK 8 million to create 1km of cycle track ..." Hamburg does not spend that much for cycle tracks.

And last winter for a period of three months Hamburg´s cycle tracks were unusable cause of snow and ice. Hamburg does not clean cycle tracks from ice, even if cyclists are forced to use them.

Cyclist who didn´t want to stop cycling in winter took the road lanes even on streets with six or eight lanes.

To make cycle traffic safe and comfortable and more popular cyclist need their own space in main streets - like in Copenhagen

Ride bikes said...

Please spell the name of Mr. Forester correctly, "Michael" thanks.

Cult figures on both sides get no respect these days.

Seeking to maximize the number of cyclists without also enabling and empowering them with basic skills is grossly irresponsible. I prefer better cyclists not just more cyclists.

Vehicular cycling certainly hasn't failed me, it's partly responsible for my being a longtime utility cyclist and car-free. Bike lanes certainly wouldn't have done much to give me confidence and improve my skills.

Green Idea Factory said...

Perhaps the whole frame for this discussion is a little off, so I want to suggest alternative definitions of the two ways bikes and cars are dealt with in cities:

Vehicular Cycling: In its pure sense, this follows a serious underestimation of the subjective and objective danger cyclists feel towards drivers and cars.

Separated infrastructure: While definitely better in encouraging a higher modal share of cycling, it is the result of accepting that heavy, (especially) unguided vehicles traveling at 50 km/h (30 mph) or higher are necessary, or inevitable, in built-up areas.

Does your street have special bike clothing? Please see my blog for related discussion.

Erik said...

Typical post of a believer! Not only a fear-mongering fanatic but also someone that drank the kool-aid: this devotion to segregation does not even understand that is just supporting a car-oriented city planning theory that gained some popularity during the second half of the twentieth century to maintain/ease and speed up car movement. Just like a fear-mongering helmet nut this guy knows he needs to exaggerate the danger of cars to convince cyclists they should be afraid, very afraid and ask their local politicians to Copenhagenize their city. Never occurred to him that the most sustainable way to encourage cycling is to reduce the speed and quantity of cars. Like advocating helmets for cyclists is usually just a lame excuse to not reduce the speed and quantity of cars on the streets, religious segregation is just a way to keep cyclists off the roads. Apart from DK and NL that had very high proportion of cyclists at the beginning of the century (much higher than now) this idea never took off anywhere in the world, apart from some local exceptions. So we are talking about 0,01% of the cycling in the world being made in segregated conditions - the perfect turf to spur a sect that aspires to mainstream religion. Even China did not have any kind of segregation until very recent exceptions, and these cases are precisely to allow car drivers to speed up. So what is not working is his half-baked theory of bike promotion - claiming that NL and DK have a lot of cyclists because of its infrastructure is like claiming the wind is caused by the shaking of the tree leafs. Unfortunately what is still happening is the technocratic prejudices forced upon some unlucky cyclists around the world that have to endure these theories and insane "facilities"!

When I see those pictures of overcrowded bike tracks I wonder why the good people of Denmark allow themselves to be treated like cattle when most of the street space is given to cars! In the same vein of the post we could ask if they are automatons that never looked to the side. The author of this post seems to believe it is a wonderful social experiment to force the most sustainable vehicle on the road to a crowded narrow corridor. Not only he is happy about it but he sees himself as a consultant to spread the happy message around the world. He is a believer of the worst kind - proselytism equipped with naif cultural superiority. Now that people are asking the right questions, and bright professionals in DK and NL are questioning this car-based design, this idiot post comes with the the debate-is-over theory. We all know what it means when one side rushes to claim the debate is over. Of course he knows that there are places where people are dismantling this apartheid dream. I do not doubt cyclists have wonderful conditions in Copenhagen - in a way that is besides the point. Last century, when questioning some whites in South Africa on apartheid policies their most common answer was - "our blacks have the best hospitals in Africa"!

Does that mean we should be against all cycle infrastructure or people that want to wear helmets? Shall we deny that building infrastructures increase the number of cyclists? Of course not. But it is a good idea to understand where these ideas stem from before claiming to have seen the light.

As many people pointed out already the other problem of this post is that sees VC as a bike promotion program - this is simply too idiotic to comment. The problem with these new believers is that they see their jobs as Jehovah Witnesses and love to compare techniques of recruiting people to their mode choice. As someone said before, with this obsession they do not understand a basic truth: more bikes do not necessary mean less cars!

Clare Wolff said...

Typical post of a believer! Not only a fear-mongering fanatic but also someone that drank the kool-aid: this devotion to segregation does not even understand that is just supporting a car-oriented city planning theory that gained some popularity during the second half of the twentieth century to maintain/ease and speed up car movement. Just like a fear-mongering helmet nut this guy knows he needs to exaggerate the danger of cars to convince cyclists they should be afraid, very afraid and ask their local politicians to Copenhagenize their city. Never occurred to him that the most sustainable way to encourage cycling is to reduce the speed and quantity of cars. Like advocating helmets for cyclists is usually just a lame excuse to not reduce the speed and quantity of cars on the streets, religious segregation is just a way to keep cyclists off the roads. Apart from DK and NL that had very high proportion of cyclists at the beginning of the century (much higher than now) this idea never took off anywhere in the world, apart from some local exceptions. So we are talking about 0,01% of the cycling in the world being made in segregated conditions - the perfect turf to spur a sect that aspires to mainstream religion. Even China did not have any kind of segregation until very recent exceptions, and these cases are precisely to allow car drivers to speed up. So what is not working is his half-baked theory of bike promotion - claiming that NL and DK have a lot of cyclists because of its infrastructure is like claiming the wind is caused by the shaking of the tree leafs. Unfortunately what is still happening is the technocratic prejudices and second rate imitations of The Model forced upon some unlucky cyclists around the world that have to endure these theories and insane "facilities"!

When I see those pictures of overcrowded bike tracks I wonder why the good people of Denmark allow themselves to be treated like cattle when most of the street space is given to cars! In the same vein of the post we could ask if they are automatons that never looked to the side. The author of this post seems to believe it is a wonderful social experiment to force the most sustainable vehicle on the road to a crowded narrow corridor. Not only he is happy about it but he sees himself as a consultant to spread the happy message around the world. He is a believer of the worst kind - proselytism equipped with naif cultural superiority. Now that people are asking the right questions, and bright professionals in DK and NL are questioning this car-based design, this idiot post comes with the the debate-is-over theory. We all know what it means when one side rushes to claim the debate is over. Of course he knows that there are places where people are dismantling this apartheid dream. I do not doubt cyclists have wonderful conditions in Copenhagen - in a way that is besides the point. Last century, when questioning some whites in South Africa on apartheid policies their most common answer was - "our blacks have the best hospitals in Africa"!

Does that mean we should be against all cycle infrastructure or people that want to wear helmets? Shall we deny that building infrastructures increase the number of cyclists? Of course not. But it is a good idea to understand where these ideas stem from before claiming to have seen the light.

As many people pointed out already the other problem of this post is that sees VC as a bike promotion program - this is simply too idiotic to comment. The problem with these new believers is that they see their jobs as Jehovah Witnesses and love to compare techniques of recruiting people to their mode choice. As someone said before, with this obsession they do not understand a basic truth: more bikes do not necessary mean less cars!

To sum up: Mikael is a Uncle Tom and doesn´t know it! lol

Clare Wolff said...

Typical post of a believer! Not only a fear-mongering fanatic but also someone that drank the kool-aid: this devotion to segregation does not even understand that is just supporting a car-oriented city planning theory that gained some popularity during the second half of the twentieth century to maintain/ease and speed up car movement. Just like a fear-mongering helmet nut this guy knows he needs to exaggerate the danger of cars to convince cyclists they should be afraid, very afraid and ask their local politicians to Copenhagenize their city. Never occurred to him that the most sustainable way to encourage cycling is to reduce the speed and quantity of cars. Like advocating helmets for cyclists is usually just a lame excuse to not reduce the speed and quantity of cars on the streets, religious segregation is just a way to keep cyclists off the roads. Apart from DK and NL that had very high proportion of cyclists at the beginning of the century (much higher than now) this idea never took off anywhere in the world, apart from some local exceptions. So we are talking about 0,01% of the cycling in the world being made in segregated conditions - the perfect turf to spur a sect that aspires to mainstream religion. Even China did not have any kind of segregation until very recent exceptions, and these cases are precisely to allow car drivers to speed up. So what is not working is his half-baked theory of bike promotion - claiming that NL and DK have a lot of cyclists because of its infrastructure is like claiming the wind is caused by the shaking of the tree leafs. Unfortunately what is still happening is the technocratic prejudices and second rate imitations of The Model forced upon some unlucky cyclists around the world that have to endure these theories and insane "facilities"!

When I see those pictures of overcrowded bike tracks I wonder why the good people of Denmark allow themselves to be treated like cattle when most of the street space is given to cars! In the same vein of the post we could ask if they are automatons that never looked to the side. The author of this post seems to believe it is a wonderful social experiment to force the most sustainable vehicle on the road to a crowded narrow corridor. Not only he is happy about it but he sees himself as a consultant to spread the happy message around the world. He is a believer of the worst kind - proselytism equipped with naif cultural superiority. Now that people are asking the right questions, and bright professionals in DK and NL are questioning this car-based design, this idiot post comes with the the debate-is-over theory. We all know what it means when one side rushes to claim the debate is over. Of course he knows that there are places where people are dismantling this apartheid dream. I do not doubt cyclists have wonderful conditions in Copenhagen - in a way that is besides the point. Last century, when questioning some whites in South Africa on apartheid policies their most common answer was - "our blacks have the best hospitals in Africa"!

Does that mean we should be against all cycle infrastructure or people that want to wear helmets? Shall we deny that building infrastructures increase the number of cyclists? Of course not. But it is a good idea to understand where these ideas stem from before claiming to have seen the light.

As many people pointed out already the other problem of this post is that sees VC as a bike promotion program - this is simply too idiotic to comment. The problem with these new believers is that they see their jobs as Jehovah Witnesses and love to compare techniques of recruiting people to their mode choice. As someone said before, with this obsession they do not understand a basic truth: more bikes do not necessary mean less cars!

To sum up: Mikael is an Uncle Tom and does not know it! lol

Clare Wolff said...

Typical post of a believer! Not only a fear-mongering fanatic but also someone that drank the kool-aid: this devotion to segregation does not even understand that is just supporting a car-oriented city planning theory that gained some popularity during the second half of the twentieth century to maintain/ease and speed up car movement. Just like a fear-mongering helmet nut this guy knows he needs to exaggerate the danger of cars to convince cyclists they should be afraid, very afraid and ask their local politicians to Copenhagenize their city. Never occurred to him that the most sustainable way to encourage cycling is to reduce the speed and quantity of cars. Like advocating helmets for cyclists is usually just a lame excuse to not reduce the speed and quantity of cars on the streets, religious segregation is just a way to keep cyclists off the roads. Apart from DK and NL that had very high proportion of cyclists at the beginning of the century (much higher than now) this idea never took off anywhere in the world, apart from some local exceptions. So we are talking about 0,01% of the cycling in the world being made in segregated conditions - the perfect turf to spur a sect that aspires to mainstream religion. Even China did not have any kind of segregation until very recent exceptions, and these cases are precisely to allow car drivers to speed up. So what is not working is his half-baked theory of bike promotion - claiming that NL and DK have a lot of cyclists because of its infrastructure is like claiming the wind is caused by the shaking of the tree leafs. Unfortunately what is still happening is the technocratic prejudices and second rate imitations of The Model forced upon some unlucky cyclists around the world that have to endure these theories and insane "facilities"!

When I see those pictures of overcrowded bike tracks I wonder why the good people of Denmark allow themselves to be treated like cattle when most of the street space is given to cars! In the same vein of the post we could ask if they are automatons that never looked to the side. The author of this post seems to believe it is a wonderful social experiment to force the most sustainable vehicle on the road to a crowded narrow corridor. Not only he is happy about it but he sees himself as a consultant to spread the happy message around the world. He is a believer of the worst kind - proselytism equipped with naif cultural superiority. Now that people are asking the right questions, and bright professionals in DK and NL are questioning this car-based design, this idiot post comes with the the debate-is-over theory. We all know what it means when one side rushes to claim the debate is over. Of course he knows that there are places where people are dismantling this apartheid dream. I do not doubt cyclists have wonderful conditions in Copenhagen - in a way that is besides the point. Last century, when questioning some whites in South Africa on apartheid policies their most common answer was - "our blacks have the best hospitals in Africa"!

Does that mean we should be against all cycle infrastructure or people that want to wear helmets? Shall we deny that building infrastructures increase the number of cyclists? Of course not. But it is a good idea to understand where these ideas stem from before claiming to have seen the light.

As many people pointed out already the other problem of this post is that sees VC as a bike promotion program - this is simply too idiotic to comment. The problem with these new believers is that they see their jobs as Jehovah Witnesses and love to compare techniques of recruiting people to their mode choice. As someone said before, with this obsession they do not understand a basic truth: more bikes do not necessary mean less cars!

To sum up: Mikael is an Uncle Tom and does not know it! lol

Clare Wolff said...

Typical post of a believer! Not only a fear-mongering fanatic but also someone that drank the kool-aid: this devotion to segregation does not even understand that is just supporting a car-oriented city planning theory that gained some popularity during the second half of the twentieth century to maintain/ease and speed up car movement. Just like a fear-mongering helmet nut this guy knows he needs to exaggerate the danger of cars to convince cyclists they should be afraid, very afraid and ask their local politicians to Copenhagenize their city. Never occurred to him that the most sustainable way to encourage cycling is to reduce the speed and quantity of cars. Like advocating helmets for cyclists is usually just a lame excuse to not reduce the speed and quantity of cars on the streets, religious segregation is just a way to keep cyclists off the roads. Apart from DK and NL that had very high proportion of cyclists at the beginning of the century (much higher than now) this idea never took off anywhere in the world, apart from some local exceptions. So we are talking about 0,01% of the cycling in the world being made in segregated conditions - the perfect turf to spur a sect that aspires to mainstream religion. Even China did not have any kind of segregation until very recent exceptions, and these cases are precisely to allow car drivers to speed up. So what is not working is his half-baked theory of bike promotion - claiming that NL and DK have a lot of cyclists because of its infrastructure is like claiming the wind is caused by the shaking of the tree leafs. Unfortunately what is still happening is the technocratic prejudices and second rate imitations of The Model forced upon some unlucky cyclists around the world that have to endure these theories and insane "facilities"!

When I see those pictures of overcrowded bike tracks I wonder why the good people of Denmark allow themselves to be treated like cattle when most of the street space is given to cars! In the same vein of the post we could ask if they are automatons that never looked to the side. The author of this post seems to believe it is a wonderful social experiment to force the most sustainable vehicle on the road to a crowded narrow corridor. Not only he is happy about it but he sees himself as a consultant to spread the happy message around the world. He is a believer of the worst kind - proselytism equipped with naif cultural superiority. Now that people are asking the right questions, and bright professionals in DK and NL are questioning this car-based design, this idiot post comes with the the debate-is-over theory. We all know what it means when one side rushes to claim the debate is over. Of course he knows that there are places where people are dismantling this apartheid dream. I do not doubt cyclists have wonderful conditions in Copenhagen - in a way that is besides the point. Last century, when questioning some whites in South Africa on apartheid policies their most common answer was - "our blacks have the best hospitals in Africa"!

Does that mean we should be against all cycle infrastructure or people that want to wear helmets? Shall we deny that building infrastructures increase the number of cyclists? Of course not. But it is a good idea to understand where these ideas stem from before claiming to have seen the light.

As many people pointed out already the other problem of this post is that sees VC as a bike promotion program - this is simply too idiotic to comment. The problem with these new believers is that they see their jobs as Jehovah Witnesses and love to compare techniques of recruiting people to their mode choice. As someone said before, with this obsession they do not understand a basic truth: more bikes do not necessary mean less cars!

Clare Wolff said...

Typical post of a believer! Not only a fear-mongering fanatic but also someone that drank the kool-aid: this devotion to segregation does not even understand that is just supporting a car-oriented city planning theory that gained some popularity during the second half of the twentieth century to maintain/ease and speed up car movement. Just like a fear-mongering helmet nut this guy knows he needs to exaggerate the danger of cars to convince cyclists they should be afraid, very afraid and ask their local politicians to Copenhagenize their city. Never occurred to him that the most sustainable way to encourage cycling is to reduce the speed and quantity of cars. Like advocating helmets for cyclists is usually just a lame excuse to not reduce the speed and quantity of cars on the streets, religious segregation is just a way to keep cyclists off the roads. Apart from DK and NL that had very high proportion of cyclists at the beginning of the century (much higher than now) this idea never took off anywhere in the world, apart from some local exceptions. So we are talking about 0,01% of the cycling in the world being made in segregated conditions - the perfect turf to spur a sect that aspires to mainstream religion. Even China did not have any kind of segregation until very recent exceptions, and these cases are precisely to allow car drivers to speed up. So what is not working is his half-baked theory of bike promotion - claiming that NL and DK have a lot of cyclists because of its infrastructure is like claiming the wind is caused by the shaking of the tree leafs. Unfortunately what is still happening is the technocratic prejudices and second rate imitations of The Model forced upon some unlucky cyclists around the world that have to endure these theories and insane "facilities"!

When I see those pictures of overcrowded bike tracks I wonder why the good people of Denmark allow themselves to be treated like cattle when most of the street space is given to cars! In the same vein of the post we could ask if they are automatons that never looked to the side. The author of this post seems to believe it is a wonderful social experiment to force the most sustainable vehicle on the road to a crowded narrow corridor. Not only he is happy about it but he sees himself as a consultant to spread the happy message around the world. He is a believer of the worst kind - proselytism equipped with naif cultural superiority. Now that people are asking the right questions, and bright professionals in DK and NL are questioning this car-based design, this idiot post comes with the the debate-is-over theory. We all know what it means when one side rushes to claim the debate is over. Of course he knows that there are places where people are dismantling this apartheid dream. I do not doubt cyclists have wonderful conditions in Copenhagen - in a way that is besides the point. Last century, when questioning some whites in South Africa on apartheid policies their most common answer was - "our blacks have the best hospitals in Africa"!

Does that mean we should be against all cycle infrastructure or people that want to wear helmets? Shall we deny that building infrastructures increase the number of cyclists? Of course not. But it is a good idea to understand where these ideas stem from before claiming to have seen the light.

Clare Wolff said...

Typical post of a believer! Not only a fear-mongering fanatic but also someone that drank the kool-aid: this devotion to segregation does not even understand that is just supporting a car-oriented city planning theory that gained some popularity during the second half of the twentieth century to maintain/ease and speed up car movement. Just like a fear-mongering helmet nut this guy knows he needs to exaggerate the danger of cars to convince cyclists they should be afraid, very afraid and ask their local politicians to Copenhagenize their city. Never occurred to him that the most sustainable way to encourage cycling is to reduce the speed and quantity of cars. Like advocating helmets for cyclists is usually just a lame excuse to not reduce the speed and quantity of cars on the streets, religious segregation is just a way to keep cyclists off the roads. Apart from DK and NL that had very high proportion of cyclists at the beginning of the century (much higher than now) this idea never took off anywhere in the world, apart from some local exceptions. So we are talking about 0,01% of the cycling in the world being made in segregated conditions - the perfect turf to spur a sect that aspires to mainstream religion. Even China did not have any kind of segregation until very recent exceptions, and these cases are precisely to allow car drivers to speed up. So what is not working is his half-baked theory of bike promotion - claiming that NL and DK have a lot of cyclists because of its infrastructure is like claiming the wind is caused by the shaking of the tree leafs. Unfortunately what is still happening is the technocratic prejudices and second rate imitations of The Model forced upon some unlucky cyclists around the world that have to endure these theories and insane "facilities"!

When I see those pictures of overcrowded bike tracks I wonder why the good people of Denmark allow themselves to be treated like cattle when most of the street space is given to cars! In the same vein of the post we could ask if they are automatons that never looked to the side. The author of this post seems to believe it is a wonderful social experiment to force the most sustainable vehicle on the road to a crowded narrow corridor. Not only he is happy about it but he sees himself as a consultant to spread the happy message around the world. He is a believer of the worst kind - proselytism equipped with naif cultural superiority. Now that people are asking the right questions, and bright professionals in DK and NL are questioning this car-based design, this idiot post comes with the the debate-is-over theory. We all know what it means when one side rushes to claim the debate is over. Of course he knows that there are places where people are dismantling this apartheid dream. I do not doubt cyclists have wonderful conditions in Copenhagen - in a way that is besides the point. Last century, when questioning some whites in South Africa on apartheid policies their most common answer was - "our blacks have the best hospitals in Africa"!

Does that mean we should be against all cycle infrastructure or people that want to wear helmets? Shall we deny that building infrastructures increase the number of cyclists? Of course not. But it is a good idea to understand where these ideas stem from before claiming to have seen the light.

Clare Wolff said...

Typical post of a believer! Not only a fear-mongering fanatic but also someone that drank the kool-aid: this devotion to segregation does not even understand that is just supporting a car-oriented city planning theory that gained some popularity during the second half of the twentieth century to maintain/ease and speed up car movement. Just like a fear-mongering helmet nut this guy knows he needs to exaggerate the danger of cars to convince cyclists they should be afraid, very afraid and ask their local politicians to Copenhagenize their city. Never occurred to him that the most sustainable way to encourage cycling is to reduce the speed and quantity of cars. Like advocating helmets for cyclists is usually just a lame excuse to not reduce the speed and quantity of cars on the streets, religious segregation is just a way to keep cyclists off the roads. Apart from DK and NL that had very high proportion of cyclists at the beginning of the century (much higher than now) this idea never took off anywhere in the world, apart from some local exceptions. So we are talking about 0,01% of the cycling in the world being made in segregated conditions - the perfect turf to spur a sect that aspires to mainstream religion. Even China did not have any kind of segregation until very recent exceptions, and these cases are precisely to allow car drivers to speed up. So what is not working is his half-baked theory of bike promotion - claiming that NL and DK have a lot of cyclists because of its infrastructure is like claiming the wind is caused by the shaking of the tree leafs. Unfortunately what is still happening is the technocratic prejudices and second rate imitations of The Model forced upon some unlucky cyclists around the world that have to endure these theories and insane "facilities"!

When I see those pictures of overcrowded bike tracks I wonder why the good people of Denmark allow themselves to be treated like cattle when most of the street space is given to cars! In the same vein of the post we could ask if they are automatons that never looked to the side. The author of this post seems to believe it is a wonderful social experiment to force the most sustainable vehicle on the road to a crowded narrow corridor. Not only he is happy about it but he sees himself as a consultant to spread the happy message around the world. He is a believer of the worst kind - proselytism equipped with naif cultural superiority. Now that people are asking the right questions, and bright professionals in DK and NL are questioning this car-based design, this idiot post comes with the the debate-is-over theory. We all know what it means when one side rushes to claim the debate is over. Of course he knows that there are places where people are dismantling this apartheid dream. I do not doubt cyclists have wonderful conditions in Copenhagen - in a way that is besides the point. Last century, when questioning some whites in South Africa on apartheid policies their most common answer was - "our blacks have the best hospitals in Africa"!

Does that mean we should be against all cycle infrastructure or people that want to wear helmets? Shall we deny that building infrastructures increase the number of cyclists? Of course not. But it is a good idea to understand where these ideas stem from before claiming to have seen the light.

As many people pointed out already the other problem of this post is that sees VC as a bike promotion program - this is simply too idiotic to comment. The problem with these new believers is that they see their jobs as Jehovah Witnesses and love to compare techniques of recruiting people to their mode choice. As someone said before, with this obsession they do not understand a basic truth: more bikes do not necessary mean less cars!

To sum up: Mikael is an Uncle Tom and does not know it! lol

Clare Wolff said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Clare Wolff said...

When I see those pictures of overcrowded bike tracks I wonder why the good people of Denmark allow themselves to be treated like cattle when most of the street space is given to cars! In the same vein of the post we could ask if they are automatons that never looked to the side. The author of this post seems to believe it is a wonderful social experiment to force the most sustainable vehicle on the road to a crowded narrow corridor. Not only he is happy about it but he sees himself as a consultant to spread the happy message around the world. He is a believer of the worst kind - proselytism equipped with naif cultural superiority. Now that people are asking the right questions, and bright professionals in DK and NL are questioning this car-based design, this idiot post comes with the the debate-is-over theory. We all know what it means when one side rushes to claim the debate is over. Of course he knows that there are places where people are dismantling this apartheid dream. I do not doubt cyclists have wonderful conditions in Copenhagen - in a way that is besides the point. Last century, when questioning some whites in South Africa on apartheid policies their most common answer was - "our blacks have the best hospitals in Africa"!

Does that mean we should be against all cycle infrastructure or people that want to wear helmets? Shall we deny that building infrastructures increase the number of cyclists? Of course not. But it is a good idea to understand where these ideas stem from before claiming to have seen the light.

As many people pointed out already the other problem of this post is that sees VC as a bike promotion program - this is simply too idiotic to comment. The problem with these new believers is that they see their jobs as Jehovah Witnesses and love to compare techniques of recruiting people to their mode choice. As someone said before, with this obsession they do not understand a basic truth: more bikes do not necessary mean less cars!

Anonymous said...

Mikael, I usually love your articles, but you are crazy off base with this one.

I've met Forester. He's brilliant. He can also be an ass. But he's not Vehicular Cycling. And if it weren't for VC, I would not have enjoyed decades of riding, touring, and seeing the world.

I don't pretend I'm a car (your straw man). I simply ride where I have the full legal right to ride, in ways that are the most safe. Sometimes that means being in the middle of a three-meter lane, and I do it with ease. What would you have me do, stand at the side until all cars go away?

I'm afraid your answer would be "No, just lobby for bike tracks everywhere." But that means my grandchildren would be the ones to ride, not me. And trust me, they'll ride anyway, because I will easily teach them safe operation according to the rules of the road, just as I have taught my kids.

I've been in many large European cities with my bike. Many of those cities have attempted the bike infrastructure you demand. Some were pretty good, assuming one doesn't mind slowing and clotting both car and bike traffic for special traffic lights and for dodging pedestrians. Others were not so good, with bike tracks skimming trees and blind spots and doors that might pop open and kill me. Still others were dismal, with bike facilities that required three minutes for a left turn - the same turn I made in fifteen seconds when I rode as a vehicle on the road - and with steep curb ramps, horrible pavement, zig-zags through parking lots, things to run into and worse. And most U.S. facilities I see are like those last ones.

I'm all for promoting bicycling. You want to do that? Then yes, preach about slowing down the cars. Yes, explain that you can ride in normal clothes. Yes, make them stop scaring people about the false dangers. Yes, mock the nonsense about helmets. But please, don't work against my right to the road, or the techniques that allow me to safely use roads!

Hex said...

Panglott: "If American cyclists are pushed off the road network, then they will nowhere [sic] to cycle."

Russ Nelson: "I don't want to be forced by law to use bad bicycle paths."

A straw man argument. Nobody is suggesting that. The point is to have a choice: riding in traffic, or riding in good facilities.

Anonymous: "VC advocates do not say using the road is always best. They say that it's generally better."

I hope this is a distortion of what VC advocates believe, because I find it hard to accept that anyone could believe something so manifestly untrue. I recently got back onto two wheels after a long absence; within a few hours of bike time, I'd had multiple cars blast inches past me doing 50mph on 30mph roads. As Erik Sandblom commented here, "Share The Road" sounds utopian; like any utopia, it's a fantasy that bears no relation to the world we actually live in.

"Ride bikes": "Seeking to maximize the number of cyclists without also enabling and empowering them with basic skills is grossly irresponsible. I prefer better cyclists not just more cyclists."

Another straw man argument. Who's said that cyclists should go out untrained? But anyway, unfortunately, how good you are at cycling will not protect you from lethally-bad criminal drivers that fill roads. You can follow all the "VC" principles you like yet still be killed instantly by a speeding driver paying more attention to talking on their cellphone than to the road. Segregated cycle facilities are there to keep fragile cyclists apart from high-speed, multi-ton lumps of metal.

"Erik"/"Clare Wolff" - what's that about eh?

Anonymous said...

Hex, segregation makes people feel more secure. It generally doesn't actually make them more secure, because the majority of collisions happen at junctions, not between junctions. And most segregated facilities in the world don't maintain segregation and junctions. They usually dump the cyclist back into the traffic stream at an awkward angle at the moment of maximum hazard.

Now, making people feel more secure is great and that probably can increase the number of cyclists, but if you don't work hard to make the junctions safe, you're giving people a false sense of security, and that can end very badly.

The scientific studies, such as there are, find elevated risk of collision on junctions when segregated facilities are used.

http://www.cyclecraft.co.uk/digest/research.html

I can well believe that many of these problems have been overcome in Denmark and the Netherlands (I'm not sure whether there has been a trade-off in longer journey times to accomplish it), but they haven't just about anywhere else.

VeloCity2009 said...

Ha ha, this one really got the discussion going, credits to Michael. Clearly there are hard, almost sectlike views on both sides of the scale, claiming to have "seen the light". So I add my view, not claiming it to be any better.

Separated infrastructure: Is great to get people on bikes, is highly symbolic in showing that the city values cyclists (=spends money on them), can increase speed and accessibility for cyclists (if well designed), is a safety-necessity on streets with high traffic speed and volume. So for all it matters - build it if your city can afford it,take road space from car traffic and parking, build it besides roads where speed can not be reduced, build it in prominent places to SHOW that cycling matters, build it everywhere where high cyclist volumes can be expected etc... BUT, as many already said, good design is crutial, otherwise it defies its purpose.

My experience is that segregated cycling infrastructure is without any doubt a key to get people cycling and important for increasing cycling in cities. However, if we want to keep people cycling and really improve the conditions for cycling in cities quickly, there are limits to what can be achieved with segregated infrastructure. The reasons are time, space and money - most cities can not build a coherent, segregated cycle infrastructure quickly, if we're lucky there is money and space for main connections. The space "in between" however is equally important and there we will not see segregated infrastructure anywhere in the near future - not even in Copenhagen where actually a lot of cycling takes place in mixed traffic if you look at it closely.

Which brings us to my next point: The main problems of mixing cycle- and car traffic is not actually mixing, but difference in speed and acceptance/experience.

Cycling on streets with car traffic at speeds of 50 km/h+ where car drivers are not used to and respectful of cyclists is clearly dangerous and unattractive. In many cases, the main reason for segregated bike lanes is that it is not even considered an option to lower the speed on the car-road.

Get the (real, not signposted) speed to 20-max 30 km/h and the situation becomes radically different. Safety increases drastically, actually for all traffic. The existing infrastructure (roads) can be efficiently used, speed-segmentations is made possible (fast cylists that travel at 20-30 km/h more to the middle, slower to the right) AND it is actually cheap, quick and easy to do. Put in speed-limiters of various kind at low cost and signs that show that the road is shared and in no time a city can increase its streets cycle-friendliness drastically at low cost.

To conclude: Separate cycle-lanes are great if well designed and strategically placed. There should be put in: symbolic places, at main arteries, at high-volume streets.

For the large, remaining part of the street network, reducing speed and creating road-space that allows for safe co-existence is key.

Imagine a city where all motorised travel inside the city is at max 25 km/h. Cycle-lanes might still be needed, but to a far lesser extend...

/koucky

VeloCity2009 said...

Ha ha, this one really got the discussion going, credits to Michael. Clearly there are hard, almost sectlike views on both sides of the scale, claiming to have "seen the light". So I add my view, not claiming it to be any better.

Separated infrastructure: Is great to get people on bikes, is highly symbolic in showing that the city values cyclists (=spends money on them), can increase speed and accessibility for cyclists (if well designed), is a safety-necessity on streets with high traffic speed and volume. So for all it matters - build it if your city can afford it,take road space from car traffic and parking, build it besides roads where speed can not be reduced, build it in prominent places to SHOW that cycling matters, build it everywhere where high cyclist volumes can be expected etc... BUT, as many already said, good design is crutial, otherwise it defies its purpose.

My experience is that segregated cycling infrastructure is without any doubt a key to get people cycling and important for increasing cycling in cities. However, if we want to keep people cycling and really improve the conditions for cycling in cities quickly, there are limits to what can be achieved with segregated infrastructure. The reasons are time, space and money - most cities can not build a coherent, segregated cycle infrastructure quickly, if we're lucky there is money and space for main connections. The space "in between" however is equally important and there we will not see segregated infrastructure anywhere in the near future - not even in Copenhagen where actually a lot of cycling takes place in mixed traffic if you look at it closely.

Which brings us to my next point: The main problems of mixing cycle- and car traffic is not actually mixing, but difference in speed and acceptance/experience.

Cycling on streets with car traffic at speeds of 50 km/h+ where car drivers are not used to and respectful of cyclists is clearly dangerous and unattractive. In many cases, the main reason for segregated bike lanes is that it is not even considered an option to lower the speed on the car-road.

Get the (real, not signposted) speed to 20-max 30 km/h and the situation becomes radically different. Safety increases drastically, actually for all traffic. The existing infrastructure (roads) can be efficiently used, speed-segmentations is made possible (fast cylists that travel at 20-30 km/h more to the middle, slower to the right) AND it is actually cheap, quick and easy to do. Put in speed-limiters of various kind at low cost and signs that show that the road is shared and in no time a city can increase its streets cycle-friendliness drastically at low cost.

To conclude: Separate cycle-lanes are great if well designed and strategically placed. There should be put in: symbolic places, at main arteries, at high-volume streets.

For the large, remaining part of the street network, reducing speed and creating road-space that allows for safe co-existence is key.

Imagine a city where all motorised travel inside the city is at max 25 km/h. Cycle-lanes might still be needed, but to a far lesser extend...

/koucky

VeloCity2009 said...

Clearly there are hard, almost sectlike views on both sides of the scale, claiming to have "seen the light". So I add my view, not claiming it to be any better.

Separated infrastructure: Is great to get people on bikes, is highly symbolic in showing that the city values cyclists (=spends money on them), can increase speed and accessibility for cyclists (if well designed), is a safety-necessity on streets with high traffic speed and volume. So for all it matters - build it if your city can afford it,take road space from car traffic and parking, build it besides roads where speed can not be reduced, build it in prominent places to SHOW that cycling matters, build it everywhere where high cyclist volumes can be expected etc... BUT, as many already said, good design is crutial, otherwise it defies its purpose.

My experience is that segregated cycling infrastructure is without any doubt a key to get people cycling and important for increasing cycling in cities. However, if we want to keep people cycling and really improve the conditions for cycling in cities quickly, there are limits to what can be achieved with segregated infrastructure. The reasons are time, space and money - most cities can not build a coherent, segregated cycle infrastructure quickly, if we're lucky there is money and space for main connections. The space "in between" however is equally important and there we will not see segregated infrastructure anywhere in the near future - not even in Copenhagen where actually a lot of cycling takes place in mixed traffic if you look at it closely.

Which brings us to my next point: The main problems of mixing cycle- and car traffic is not actually mixing, but difference in speed and acceptance/experience.

Cycling on streets with car traffic at speeds of 50 km/h+ where car drivers are not used to and respectful of cyclists is clearly dangerous and unattractive. In many cases, the main reason for segregated bike lanes is that it is not even considered an option to lower the speed on the car-road.

Get the (real, not signposted) speed to 20-max 30 km/h and the situation becomes radically different. Safety increases drastically, actually for all traffic. The existing infrastructure (roads) can be efficiently used, speed-segmentations is made possible (fast cylists that travel at 20-30 km/h more to the middle, slower to the right) AND it is actually cheap, quick and easy to do. Put in speed-limiters of various kind at low cost and signs that show that the road is shared and in no time a city can increase its streets cycle-friendliness drastically at low cost.

To conclude: Separate cycle-lanes are great if well designed and strategically placed. There should be put in: symbolic places, at main arteries, at high-volume streets.

For the large, remaining part of the street network, reducing speed and creating road-space that allows for safe co-existence is key.

Imagine a city where all motorised travel inside the city is at max 25 km/h. Cycle-lanes might still be needed, but to a far lesser extend...

Henson said...

"To sum up: Mikael is an Uncle Tom and does not know it! lol"

Not sure he does not know! Some of you have probably noticed that this blog places regularly links to Mikael consultancy. This post is just a way to try to get rid of what he sees as the last stumbling blocks for him when he goes around the world, bible in his hand and fear on his voice! 100% independent, my ass! He needs fearful and gullible politicians and cyclists to further his dream of copenhagenizing the world. Dream on.

Ride Bikes said...

Hex.

I cannot use my bike for transportation and utility cycling without using the roadways.

It is the vast majority of my cycling.

I'm merely defending VC from criticism.
Why? Because it's quite valuable to know and to practice.
It's beneficial and can be used with or without separated facilities.
If "the secret sect" which is neither secret nor a sect and therefore a fallacy, don't support the cause of separated facilities, then you'll have to do it without them.
Attacking is generating enemies. And wasting effort.

"Who's said that cyclists should go out untrained?"

Unskilled children and unskilled hyperannuated and the fearful are frequently cited as baselines for usability for separated facilities.

Yet if they stay only on separated facilities due to fear and lack of skills and knowledge, they cannot get around as to be useful to reduce car trips. Are facilities a gateway to competent cycling?
Maybe. That's one reason I'm not completely opposed to separated facilities.

"Segregated cycle facilities are there to keep fragile cyclists apart from high-speed, multi-ton lumps of metal."

That same threat of the high-speed, multi-ton lumps of metal applies to driving a car, riding a motorcycle or walking on a roadway. I won't stop doing any of that activity out of an exaggerated fear. I will continue those activities with a level of alertness and attention as warranted.

And the threat still exists and is sometimes compounded at crossings by separated facilities.

I never stated I was against separated bicycle facilities.
Many are complete crap, however.

I am far MORE in favor of for education in skills and behavior of cyclists AND of motorists and of traffic enforcement.

As it is a far easier sell for facilities than to improve the level of abilities and awareness of and for cyclists, that facilities approach clearly does not need my assistance.

There is a LOT more money to be made and political hay to rake with separated facilities.

There are far more factors than facilities to cause people to replace car trips with bicycle trips, however. Most are cultural and economical. These are usually completely ignored by those who point to Copenhagen and the Netherlands as examples.

It isn't that their facilities arguments aren't valid but they seem to be made in a vacuum.

As for me, I'm plan to work on helping people become more skilled, more confident, and ride more utility miles.

If cyclists want to limit themselves to sidepaths, fine. That's their loss.

The confidence and ability to safely ride on roadways leads to more joy in cycling. The operators of the "bulls" (cars) can speak, some have interesting lives, and some are my friends. Car drivers are decent people for the most part.
I expect to be able to share public resources with them.

I don't fear using the roads, I just use necessary caution and safe habits.

It isn't that hard. Fear can be conquered with knowledge and experience.
Old people and children used to be expected to do that. And they did.

Ride Bikes said...

Hex.

I cannot use my bike for transportation and utility cycling without using the roadways.

It is the vast majority of my cycling.

I'm merely defending VC from criticism.
Why? Because it's quite valuable to know and to practice.
It's beneficial and can be used with or without separated facilities.
If "the secret sect" which is neither secret nor a sect and therefore a fallacy, don't support the cause of separated facilities, then you'll have to do it without them.
Attacking is generating enemies. And wasting effort.

"Who's said that cyclists should go out untrained?"

Unskilled children and unskilled hyperannuated and the fearful are frequently cited as baselines for usability for separated facilities.

Yet if they stay only on separated facilities due to fear and lack of skills and knowledge, they cannot get around as to be useful to reduce car trips. Are facilities a gateway to competent cycling?
Maybe. That's one reason I'm not completely opposed to separated facilities.

"Segregated cycle facilities are there to keep fragile cyclists apart from high-speed, multi-ton lumps of metal."

That same threat of the high-speed, multi-ton lumps of metal applies to driving a car, riding a motorcycle or walking on a roadway. I won't stop doing any of that activity out of an exaggerated fear. I will continue those activities with a level of alertness and attention as warranted.

And the threat still exists and is sometimes compounded at crossings by separated facilities.

I never stated I was against separated bicycle facilities.
Many are complete crap, however.

I am far MORE in favor of for education in skills and behavior of cyclists AND of motorists and of traffic enforcement.

As it is a far easier sell for facilities than to improve the level of abilities and awareness of and for cyclists, that facilities approach clearly does not need my assistance.

There is a LOT more money to be made and political hay to rake with separated facilities.

There are far more factors than facilities to cause people to replace car trips with bicycle trips, however. Most are cultural and economical. These are usually completely ignored by those who point to Copenhagen and the Netherlands as examples.

It isn't that their facilities arguments aren't valid but they seem to be made in a vacuum.

As for me, I'm plan to work on helping people become more skilled, more confident, and ride more utility miles.

If cyclists want to limit themselves to sidepaths, fine. That's their loss.

The confidence and ability to safely ride on roadways leads to more joy in cycling. The operators of the "bulls" (cars) can speak, some have interesting lives, and some are my friends. Car drivers are decent people for the most part.
I expect to be able to share public resources with them.

I don't fear using the roads, I just use necessary caution and safe habits.

It isn't that hard. Fear can be conquered with knowledge and experience.
Old people and children used to be expected to do that. And they did.

Ride Bikes said...

Now I know why all the duplicate comments are appearing.

Blogger's scripts are effing up.

Hex said...

"Ride Bikes":

"Unskilled children and unskilled hyperannuated and the fearful are frequently cited as baselines for usability for separated facilities. Yet if they stay only on separated facilities due to fear and lack of skills and knowledge, they cannot get around as to be useful to reduce car trips."

I really can't believe that you're making the assertion that children and the old ("hyperannuated" sure is a mighty fine word) will actually have their mobility reduced by the presence of segregated cycle facilities. This runs counter to everything real-life experience has shown us.

"That same threat of the high-speed, multi-ton lumps of metal applies to driving a car, riding a motorcycle or walking on a roadway. I won't stop doing any of that activity out of an exaggerated fear."

No. It's utterly absurd to suggest that the risk level of all these activities is the same, and that to regard placing oneself in the midst of hurtling speeding traffic as more dangerous is "an exaggerated fear".

"I will continue those activities with a level of alertness and attention as warranted."

As I have already pointed out, nobody here is suggesting preventing YOU from doing this. Like many on the "vehicular cycling" side, you are phrasing the issue entirely around your own needs, as if it is some vendetta against those who choose to ride in traffic. It is not.

"There is a LOT more money to be made and political hay to rake with separated facilities."

Oh, please. Can we discuss things rationally without bringing in the conspiracy theories? Thanks.

"The confidence and ability to safely ride on roadways leads to more joy in cycling."

Again, for you, perhaps. The rest of us don't like having to thread our way through life-threatening situations in order to reach our destinations. That's why in Copenhagen you see tens of thousands of cyclists on the street daily, and in London you see... a handful.

"Car drivers are decent people for the most part. I expect to be able to share public resources with them."

I don't know where you live, but it's not the same world I live in.

"It isn't that hard. Fear can be conquered with knowledge and experience. Old people and children used to be expected to do that. And they did."

That's the most eye-rollingly asinine thing that's been said in this whole discussion. Well done.

Jasen said...

Hex

"A straw man argument. Nobody is suggesting that. The point is to have a choice: riding in traffic, or riding in good facilities."

Is not a straw man argument! The choice you give is not realist. In fact to forced to use bad infrastructure already happens. In most countries bike facilities are compulsory to use when they do exist. As already too many people explained in most countries bike infrastructure is crap and more dangerous. Even when is not compulsory it is too common when bike paths exist to have car honking pointing you that your plan is there!

That does not mean we should be against bike infrastructures all the time and everywhere. But we should be aware of their problems.

The rest of your e-mail is indeed only fear inducing arguments that usually keeps people from cycling - very similar to helmet advocates. It goes like this: there are enormous amount of research and arguments against bike helmets (yes even promotion). The answer is: yes, but once I knocked my head and... blabla...

Thanks velocity for the balanced comment. Segregation is a problem and the result of a society that does not want to keep the cars at low speeds. Meanwhile, in my opinion, we have to compromise and accept some forms of segregation in very rare cases.

Jasen said...

"I really can't believe that you're making the assertion that children and the old ("hyperannuated" sure is a mighty fine word) will actually have their mobility reduced by the presence of segregated cycle facilities. This runs counter to everything real-life experience has shown us."

If parents go along your fearful arguments they will be locked home. Obviously even in your dream world they will not have segregated facilities all the way to all their origins and destinations.

You base your thoughts on only one bogus argument: in Denmark there are many cyclists because there are a lot of segregated bike paths. That is only your conclusion. Cyclists were always there in great numbers, even when they had to share the road.

Never occurred to you that the speed and quantity of cars can be curbed and then we are all happier?

Anonymous said...

I live in a tourist area where our old villages were designed for horse and pedestrian traffic (and are automatically traffic-calming)and where main routes between villiages have (or had, before "engineers" shaved them down to install bigger sidewalks) ride-able shoulders. We have all types of cyclists here, ranging from sidewalk riders to commuters, to once-a-year-on-vacation riders, to college "fixie" dare-devils, to narcicistic "roadies" to bearded recumbent and "freddy" riders. We even have a successful bike-share program. We have almost no collisions between bicyclists and motor vehicles, but had a pedestrian killed while inside a crosswalk (a painted pedestrian "facility"!).

Traffic-clming design - either intentional or un-intentional - WORKS!

In spite of the ride-ability of our roads and the relative ease with which past engineering mistakes could be corrected to make roads more bicyclist-friendly, there is now an enoumoue appetite for segregated bicycling facilities, and nearly zero interest in learning to become competent cyclists who can share the roads with motorists.

Because of typical distances involved in commuting here, riders must either get fitness quickly or else already be fit. I commute short distances occasionally to meetings wearing street clothes, but if I relied on this riding to maintain my fitness I'd still be over 200 pounds. Short, slow rides don't do much for fitness!

It is unfortunate that the "Copenhegenize" mentality has found so many useful idiots here who will gladly wait until we have ideal, segregated bicycle facilities leading to all destinations before they take their keys out of the ignition and stop driving to schools, gym, work, coffee shops, grocery stores, etc. Purveyors of bicycling facilities who ignore law enforcement education and parity and ignore bicyclist and motorist education are hurting all of us by making us remain reliant on cars.

I'm not opposed to providing high-quality bicycling facilities where they are the only reasonable alternative to correcting dangerous or physically uber-demanding obstacles to bicycling for "average" physically fit people. The problem we are dealing with here is that the appetite for segregated bicycling facilities is hyper-inflated, and the attention to education and law enforcement is nearly non-existant.

The additional problem that looms here is the risk that providing even dangerous and inconvenient bike facilities might result in legislation requiring bicyclists to use these facilities when they exist. Florida just passed such legislation.

When the "bike-friendly" folks are willing to sand up for competent cyclists who want to ride legally in the road, then there will be more unity in promoting cycling. Giving Florida a "bike-friendly" designation is an obscenity to people who cycle competently.

In the USA there are too many dangerous bicycling facilities already. Since we can't maintain or correct the facilities we already have, how can we justify awards to cities that design dangerous facilities and force competent riders off the roads?

When these trends are curtailed and when bicycle "advocates" accept that education and law enforcement must play greatly increased roles in creating more bicycling, then we will finally make progress. Right now there are too many "dreamers" with their heads in a Copenhagen reverie.

Let's get real.

Anonymous said...

I live in a tourist area where our old villages were designed for horse and pedestrian traffic (and are automatically traffic-calming)and where main routes between villiages have (or had, before "engineers" shaved them down to install bigger sidewalks) ride-able shoulders. We have all types of cyclists here, ranging from sidewalk riders to commuters, to once-a-year-on-vacation riders, to college "fixie" dare-devils, to narcicistic "roadies" to bearded recumbent and "freddy" riders. We even have a successful bike-share program. We have almost no collisions between bicyclists and motor vehicles, but had a pedestrian killed while inside a crosswalk (a painted pedestrian "facility"!).

Traffic-clming design - either intentional or un-intentional - WORKS!

In spite of the ride-ability of our roads and the relative ease with which past engineering mistakes could be corrected to make roads more bicyclist-friendly, there is now an enoumous appetite for segregated bicycling facilities, and nearly zero interest in learning to become competent cyclists who can share the roads with motorists.

Because of typical distances involved in commuting here, riders must either get fitness quickly or else already be fit. I commute short distances occasionally to meetings wearing street clothes, but if I relied on this riding to maintain my fitness I'd still be over 200 pounds. Short, slow rides don't do much for fitness!

It is unfortunate that the "Copenhegenize" mentality has found so many useful idiots here who will gladly wait until we have ideal, segregated bicycle facilities leading to all destinations before they take their keys out of the ignition and stop driving to schools, gym, work, coffee shops, grocery stores, etc. Purveyors of bicycling facilities who ignore law enforcement education and parity and ignore bicyclist and motorist education are hurting all of us by making us remain reliant on cars.

I'm not opposed to providing high-quality bicycling facilities where they are the only reasonable alternative to correcting dangerous or physically uber-demanding obstacles to bicycling for "average" physically fit people. The problem we are dealing with here is that the appetite for segregated bicycling facilities is hyper-inflated, and the attention to education and law enforcement is nearly non-existant.

The additional problem that looms here is the risk that providing even dangerous and inconvenient bike facilities might result in legislation requiring bicyclists to use these facilities when they exist. Florida just passed such legislation.

When the "bike-friendly" folks are willing to sand up for competent cyclists who want to ride legally in the road, then there will be more unity in promoting cycling. Giving Florida a "bike-friendly" designation is an obscenity to people who cycle competently.

In the USA there are too many dangerous bicycling facilities already. Since we can't maintain or correct the facilities we already have, how can we justify awards to cities that design dangerous facilities and force competent riders off the roads?

When these trends are curtailed and when bicycle "advocates" accept that education and law enforcement must play greatly increased roles in creating more bicycling, then we will finally make progress. Right now there are too many "dreamers" with their heads in a Copenhagen reverie.

Let's get real.

Ride Bikes said...

Howdy, Hex.

HEX
... you're making the assertion that children and the old ... will actually have their mobility reduced by the presence of segregated cycle facilities.

- My mistake. I meant "superannuated".
Any other assertions are yours.
It would probably not reduce car trips much.


HEX
No. It's utterly absurd to suggest that the risk level of all these activities is the same,

- Not my claim the risk level is the same for driving, cycling, motorcycling, and walking on roadways, only that they share the threat of the HST, but the fear level is different.

Motorcycling is more dangerous, apparently.

The fear level about cycling in traffic does not correlate to the actual risk. Hence it is exaggerated. That's common and should be addressed.

(more to come as the character count on the Blogger script is faulty)

Ride Bikes said...

Howdy, Hex.

HEX As I have already pointed out, nobody here is suggesting preventing YOU from doing this. Like many on the "vehicular cycling" side, you are phrasing the issue entirely around your own needs, as if it is some vendetta against those who choose to ride in traffic. It is not.

- No vendetta presumed.
And I'm not preventing you from your agenda, either. You may not have noticed that.

I am stating that only promoting facilities is half-hearted and that cycling in roadways is too quickly dismissed as too dangerous.

There should also be attention paid to unskilled users and education to improve their competency. I think new cyclists deserve it. This is my point.
Those needs of cyclists should also be met.

Riding in traffic is necessary for utility and transportation cycling in the absence of a complete separated network.

So train people how to ride better and more safely.

RB
"There is a LOT more money to be made and political hay to rake with separated facilities."

HEX Oh, please. Can we discuss things rationally without bringing in the conspiracy theories? Thanks.

- Sorry, I have no conspiracy theory available.
Those are indeed some factors of decision-making on these issues.

And these conditions (business opportunity, political capital) can lead to successful policies.

Policies that do not garner political capital and which offer little incentive for industry to support are a difficult sell and they are abandoned to work on more likely prospects for change.

HEX
The rest of us don't like having to thread our way through life-threatening situations in order to reach our destinations. That's why in Copenhagen you see tens of thousands of cyclists on the street daily, and in London you see... a handful.

- Do you view the separated facilities as the only reason for this discrepancy of cycling popularity?

Are you against cyclist training for road use? It also reduces the dislike of those situations and makes cycling more useful and enjoyable.


RB "Car drivers are decent people for the most part. I expect to be able to share public resources with them."

HEX
I don't know where you live, but it's not the same world I live in.
Huh? Most drivers aren't decent people? I live in the Boston area in the US. You are in London, England? Are all British drivers right bastards?

I talk to drivers.
I believe traffic code enforcement and requirements for licensing must also be increased considerably.

RB "It isn't that hard. Fear can be conquered with knowledge and experience. Old people and children used to be expected to do that. And they did."

HEX That's the most eye-rollingly asinine thing that's been said in this whole discussion. Well done.

- It's a wonder you can still see if you had such a strong reaction to that statement.

View old cyclist training videos or read bike curriculum materials.
They usually make a direct comparison to auto driving on the roads.

Judging by photographs and video (usually British) where the superannuated are in the midst of hurtling speeding passing traffic. They are usually in the background or somewhere in the shot of something not bike related.
Yes, times have changed.

Cars handle and stop better but drivers are worse and roads more crowded. Don't give up on drivers. They can be trained.

I sincerely think it isn't that hard to improve cycling ability and confidence. It improves cycling safety for those who stay on separated facilities and those who don't.

I see it as a necessary adjunct to separated facilities. If you increase the pool of cyclists, also increase their competence.

Hex, I hope you become superannuated, and I hope you enjoy your cycling wherever it may be.

Flying Pigeon LA said...

To me, VC is like wilderness survival skills.

It is terrible as a means of getting more people to ride bikes, but if you're an athletic person that wants to know how to ride in U.S.-style traffic, then VC will give you the tools to do it.

I want separate facilities, but I have to ride in the VC way to protect myself (though I often lapse when riding my bakfiets with my kid in the front).

Jasen said...

Flying Pigeon is not "U.S.-style traffic" but in 99.9% of the roads in the whole world. And the large majority of the streets in Denmark and The Netherlands. Cycling is done in segregation on a tiny, tiny proportion of roads - even in Copenhagen!

Laughing Dog said...

The number of potential
daily cyclists who have been restricted access to the bicycle must number in
the tens of millions. All because of the ideology of a self-serving group.


You sincerely believe this?
This language does your cause a disservice.

I like well-designed bike facilities, and I encourage them.
But I would oppose poorly engineered facilities, which sadly are the ones which appear most frequently.

Why should one accept inferior facilities?

Cyclists deserve better consideration in transportation plans, yet one runs into the problem of appearing ungrateful if sub-standard facilities are proposed or provided and then opposed and criticized for valid reasons.

Being a small user group of roadways, that doesn't help in demanding more money and planning for cycling facilities. A broader consensus needs to be developed and the positive results quantified.

David Hembrow highlights some good facilities. Urban areas certainly do need improvements and encouragements to cycling. Use all that are available. How about Cycling for British Petroleum?

VC Advocate said...

Criticizing vehicular cycling advocacy for not encouraging more people to ride bikes is like criticizing 1st amendment advocacy for not encouraging more people to write books and articles, and to make speeches.

Vehicular cycling is riding a bicycle on roadways in accordance with the vehicular rules of the road. It's about acting and being treated as an equal on the vast majority of roads that are without minimum speed limits, like motorcycle, bus, cement truck, horse & buggy and Smartcar drivers.

Vehicular cycling advocacy is primarily about protecting and defending the equal driving rights of bicyclists, but also about encouraging bicyclists to ride in this manner, and encouraging motorists, law enforcement, traffic engineers, etc., to accept it.

The association with segregated facilities is only to the extent to which the facilities contradict vehicular cycling or the goals of vehicular cycling advocacy. For example, most vehicular cycling advocates have a much bigger issue with laws that make bike lane use mandatory than with bike lanes themselves, especially with bike lanes that do not encourage dangerous or inappropriate behavior. Many cyclists who are not vehicular cycling advocates join vc advocates in opposing poorly designed facilities, like bike lanes that encourage dangerous behavior.

Why the animosity? Can't we all get along?

Evan said...

In the context of a blog discussing Copenhagen style cycle lanes, it is clear when the author discusses VC he is referring to the political movement and biking culture (as much as it exists) and not the sound advice of acting like a car when sharing a road with them.

While there may be cases where the vehicular cyclists have played a progressive role in fighting against bad cycle lanes and for slowing down traffic, their general belief that there is nothing wrong with sharing the road means that they play a regressive role in cycling advocacy, and therefore the author's polemic is justified.

VC argues that sharing the road is fine at low speeds, but for this to have any significance on a meaningful scale we would effectively kill car traffic completely (including busses). While there are places where low speed limits would be a good idea, often such places would be better outlawing car traffic totally. If you are going to get rid of 90% of traffic much better to get rid of all of it to create a truly peaceful street.

So we are left with the reality of needing high speed traffic and cyclists to co-exist. Yet recreational, relaxed cycling is impossible if both are side by side, so segregated cycle paths are the ONLY answer! And if cycling is not fun and relaxed, I don't have much time for it. I prefer to hike in the hills on my days off, and to be able to drive at a decent speed on routes where cycling isn't worth it due to lack of cycle lanes.

Jim Baross said...

Musings:
I have been teaching vehicular style cycling for the League of American Bicyclists since the 1980s (LCI#185). I visited Copenhagen for VeloCity 2010 and rode two tours of the city with Mikael - thanks Mikael. Previously I visited Amsterdam for VeloMondial 2000. I wanted to find out what was working and why bicycling was so large and successfully a part of the travel mode mix.
Mikael's "Secret Sect" hackle-raising article certainly raised a lot of interest that I hope has brought a better understanding for Mikael through the the comment respones.
First, sure there are obvious differences between bikes and cars, but the important interactions are between people - bicyclists and motorists, not bicyclists and cars.
In Copenhagen the Danes appear to have been and to be both bicyclists and motorists - with an awareness of the needs of both modes and willingness to share, take turns, etc. This is largely lacking in the US; a car-culture.
In both Copenhagen and Amsterdam I saw reasonably well designed and operating cycle-tracks/paths but I also saw lots of vehicular cycling on the shared roads - roads with no special markings or facilities that bicyclists and motorists were sharing seemingly very comfortably, albeit these were roads with relatively slow motor vehicle traffic. Bicyclists were "driving" vehicularly - gee!
I am struggling here in California to help (save the world by and for) bicycling in an environment and culture that is largely hostile to bicyclists using existing roadway infrastructure - unless no motorist is impeded. In this milieu the few separated facilities that are developed are usually not providing equal access; not even close. We too often see the special bike facilities being installed to keep us out of the way so that motorists are not inconvenienced. Cycling in with other traffic is required to get around here; that's vehicular cycling.
Further, unlike Copenhagen, most motorists are surprised, unsure how to react, overly cautious or openly hostile to bicyclists in traffic. And, way too many people who try bicycling here are clueless about what to do; vehicular cycling is lawful cycling.
I'll continue to promote bicycling in a vehicular manner as the safest and most effective lawful way to ride. I will continue to attempt to encourage development of bicycling infrastructure that supports and encourages more people riding as long as bicyclists are not restricted to using only the separated facilities where they exist.
This is where I have an unresolved conflict - when, if ever, should bicyclists be mandated to be out of the way of motor traffic; freeways?busy arterials? never?

jensen said...

"VC argues that sharing the road is fine at low speeds, but for this to have any significance on a meaningful scale we would effectively kill car traffic completely (including busses). While there are places where low speed limits would be a good idea, often such places would be better outlawing car traffic totally. If you are going to get rid of 90% of traffic much better to get rid of all of it to create a truly peaceful street. "

This is lack of imagination, information, observation and knowledge. You just need to travel to any well planned city, or read any book in sustainable transportation to understand that there are actually cities where a large majority of streets have speeds perfectly compatible with safe bike riding, without having to ban entirely the car traffic. You just need decent street design to calm and reduce the traffic and with good results for every mode!

bikecat said...

I also teach Bikeability (what we in the UK call vehiclar cycling) to actually mainly women and to children. As well as teaching them where to wait at junctions ad where to ride on roads the most important thing I teach them is to interact with drivers. This includes how to look behind without wobbling and how to signal ditto. Almost all adults I have taught have reported being a happier, more confident and more frequent cyclist. Happily in the UK there is no compulsion to use cycle lanes or infrastructure, so I teach people to look at the road and decide whether to use the facility or not depending on whether it is useful to them and safe to use. If it is neither, they should stay on the road.
As infrastructure gets better this advice will still be relevant, but the choice made may be different. I personally find that as long as I communicate with other road users and and prevent them using the space I need to be safe, I have very enjoyable and safe journeys in any part of the city I live in. I rarely get hooted at, but then you can't do anything in this world without being hooted at occasionally! In this city at this moment, this sort of cycling is essentilal. Cyclists who end up under lorries are usually, unfortunately found to have been hugging the kerb at junctions, often on a cycle lane.

Wrinkled Linen said...

Is this article a joke, or a flame, or is it perhaps intended simply to be thought-provoking? Like many arguments which make sweeping generalizations, this one is full of holes. There are contexts where vehicular cycling is absolutely the correct and efficient strategy. Consider an urban through street with stop lights, and with many cross streets. If cyclists are segregated, they will need to stop and yield at every cross treet, whereas if they go with traffic, behaving like traffic, in a predictable fashion, they will flow naturally through intersections.

On the other hand, segregated facilities can be very effective, and very pleasant, if there aren't constant cross treets. A bicycle "road" which takes one from one small town to the next small town, and then the next, can be very nice. Unless it's also occupied by hoardes of pedestrians. By the way, this latter facility will be vastly more expensive than sensible on-street planning, with a small amount of widening to give cyclists a bit more room, would be.

Rick @ Bicycle Fixation said...

Really? Will someone kindly send us here in the US a couple of trillion Euro so we can raze all our cities west of the Appalachians and rebuild them on a northern European scale?

Our commutes are often 20 or 30kms long, every day; no one would ride if they were limited to upright sleds rolling along at 10 to 15kph. I ride 30kms for coffee with my friend. Maybe one of us should move?

We already have a vast network of roads here, and we choose to use them. we are in a program of slowly repurposing parts of those roads as bikelanes and so forth, but would you sarcastic ladies and gentlemen mind very much if we continued to ride in traffic for the next several decades till the conversion is done? Or have we broken with the One True Cycling Faith? What's next--the auto da fe? Or just the auto, since we don't have the Perfect Place to Ride Short Distances Slowly, so would be pretentious and misguided to ride at all.

One of the worst cycling articles I've ever read. Fortunately, knowing Mr. Forester's and similar techniques has made it possible for me to bicycle almost exclusively for transport in Los Angeles, hundreds of miles a month, for most of the last 44 years.

jhvu said...

It's easy to skewer some of the most ornery proponents of VC, but come on! What are people supposed to do in places like L.A., just give up until their perfect cycling mecca is created?

Don't get me wrong, I WANT infrastructure and I want kids and moms on bike. However, I will never relinquish my right to ride on the road. It doesn't have to be one or the other.

Steve said...

Sorry, but I quit reading at the "vroom, vroom" jibe. I'm sure you'll win over lots of other vehicular cyclists by ridiculing them though, cheers!

Glenn Ammons said...

Here are a list of trips, which I take frequently by bike, that I couldn't do by bike if I weren't willing and able to share the road with cars:

- my house to the Amtrak station
- my house to my daughter's daycare
- my house to the grocery store
- my house to my wife's work
- Grand Central to Penn Station (Metro-North to Amtrak)
- Tarrytown, NY Metro North station to my work
- my house to the shops on Market St. (West Chester, PA)
- my house to the YMCA

I can't think of a single (useful) trip that I could take without sharing the road with cars. I'm also hard-pressed to think of anywhere I can't go by bike, so long as I'm willing to share the road with cars.

There are few bicycle facilities on these routes. Where they _are_ available, some are so crappy (for example, any bike lane in Times Square) that they're not safely usable. Others are useful and I use them.

Fortunately, there's no hard-to-learn trick to sharing the road with cars. All one has to do is obey the rules of the road and stay alert, just like everyone else should do.

I think it's better to advise new cyclists to learn to ride (there are classes for that; driver's ed is an excellent start) than to tell them to wait until we enact bicycle heaven-on-earth.

Green Idea Factory said...

1. Decrease number of private automobiles. 2. Increase number of carshare vehicles. 3. Reduce speeds on ALL surface streets to 30km/h (or lower near residences on streets without PT vehicles, etc., parks, schools..) 4. Allow cyclists to mix. 5. On 30km streets/streets with buses, trams etc. build or preserve separated infrastructure for people (slower cyclists, children, cargo bikes) who do not want to mix.

It'll take some work but it's not rocket science.

Raymond Parker said...

This "divided" discussion may become purely academic once oil hits $200 per barrel.

Anonymous said...

I think we all need to promote the idea of shared space on our streets. On a big scale we have to learn to share our planet. On a smaller scale, there is a limited amount of street space. Cars people and bikes should be encouraged to think about sharing the space and that we all have a responsibility for each others safety.
I love bike lanes even the line at the side of the road is better then nothing. But this constant movement towards separation makes everyone very tense. I often see angry drivers because they think bikes should not be on the road but in their bike lane. Walkers angry when a bike goes on the path. Cyclists when a car is parked on the bike lane.
Often these things happen because we all are going about our business and at times we just have to go across each other.
A sense of shared space whould make these flash points a little easier

TransitPlanner said...

People have probably mentioned this before, but the implementation of vehicular cycling techniques is not problematic, however they lose it when they advocate against other types of bicycle advocacy. Learning effective cycling in traffic techniques is important, and anyone who becomes a regular cyclist and eventually a bicycle advocate agrees with them. However taking the next step into being opposed to other bicycle advocates is where the hard core VC lose me.

Anonymous said...

Even if one lives in Denmark, eventually the tenants of Vehicular Cycling will need to be employed. After all, cycling tracks and paths don't go everyplace. If one want's to visit the countryside by bike, riding a country lane will be necessary. Also, there are several factors which are quite local/regional phenomenons which promote cycling in the Western European locals that have so chosen: High fuel prices which probably include 100% tax. High sales tax on motor vehicles (I have heard it's 100% in Denmark). Vastly more stringent licensing requirements and driving code enforcement. And most importantly, much denser population centers and strict land use controls which keep farmland farmland.

Here were I live - in a rust-belt mid-Atlantic US city - all attempts at 'cycling infrastructure' have been abject failures. With the coming government budget crunch, I doubt anything will be built in the near future, but if the past is any indication, that will be a good thing.

Yes it would be lovely if Copenhagen could be cloned and transported all across the world. But what are the chances?

Erik Sandblom said...

Anonymous 13:46, lack of punitive taxes is not the only thing keeping car traffic dominant in the USA. In most parts of the USA (and Europe) it's illegal to build buildings without car parking. This is effectively a subsidy amounting to more than what the consumer pays to drive.

Shoup to O’Toole: The Market for Parking Is Anything But Free

Shoup: NPR Puts a Price on Parking. Why Not Cato?

oboe said...

So just so we're clear: the primary obstacle to building out the comprehensive, segregated bike infrastructure that will allow general purpose cycling to flourish in the US is a handful of guys with beards who aren't keen on poorly designed bike lanes, and cracked, root-riddled multi-use paths.

I'm curious: have you ever *tried* to ride a bicycle in a US city? Suddenly the practices espoused by the "vehicular cyclists" start looking a lot more attractive.

The main obstacle to building out a Dutch/Danish style comprehensive network of bike infrastructure in the US is that there's no political will outside of a few liberal cities.

It's all well and good to say "we need better infrastructure". That's obvious. But the idea that one should hang one's bike in the garage until such time as that infrastructure exists is, frankly, idiotic.

Only someone from a country steeped in cycling culture could have such a profound misunderstanding of the deep structural issues facing US cyclists.

Sam said...

My husband and I are car free and we're honestly quite tired of these VCers and their retarded opinions. So my husband came up with an equally compelling perspective, VD. VD stands for vehicular driving. For example, we <a href="http://vehiculardriving.wordpress.com/>approve mandatory helmet laws</a> for drivers. :)

maxxdshine said...

All I know is that when I follow the cycle lanes I am late for picking my daughter up from school. When I use the roads (which are amply wide for shared use) , I am on time

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, I'm a vehicular cyclist. Bicycles in the UK are "Carriages", like cars, trucks and horse drawn vehicles. they were defined (in law) as such in the late 19th century. They are legally obliged to use the road where there is no other infra-strucure, they are entitled to take the same priorities as cars. In 1967 I was taught at school (the "cycling proficiency test") that is was correct and safest to cycle this way - and to position yourself as a car would. Cycle paths in the UK are stageringly poorly surfaced, you have to give way to all vehicles from all directions at every junction (once every 30-50 meters in town is a bore; and cars will race up from behind to turn across your path. At a busy intersect you will never get the chance to cross... there will never be a point at which there are no cars! Many rural cyclepaths have a 15 cm vertical drop kerbs at intersections, obliging you to dismount. I prefer the road as it deters left turning cars from racing up from behind to assert priority. Fortunately my commute is now segregated cycle path, so for the time being it's all academic.

TK

Baljeet Degun said...

The key here is safety...

Mikael's approach is a longer-term strategic (attempt at a) solution.

The VC approach is a low-investment (attempt at a) solution.

Both have merits, and both are necessary. They aren't completely mutually exclusive.

But both miss the most important solution of all - a medium to longer term change of driver attitude. That needs to be a priority, and requires legal changes and public information. Here is a good example of approaches which produce "cultural" change: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeJ-d86pKsw&list=PL77EEF75F6FCBD3DE&index=10&feature=plpp_video (showing how the Dutch handled a dangerous driver).

Slow Factory said...

Baljeet: Mikael is right, but I disagree with the rest of what you say, and your conclusion, especially in relation to Dutch best practice.

"VC" is, in a sense, taught in the Netherlands, but assumes mixed traffic only at about 30km/h or less, AND this relates to your conclusion about the very well done video: While the heat was on the driver in the huge pick-up and how people reacted to his behaviour, the concrete conclusion was to make safe with infrastructure all those dangerous places in Den Bosch.

This is just about what the Dutch Cycling Embassy intro video says about Dutch consensus for road safety. That video can also be found within this post from A View from the Cycle Path (also by Marc Wagenbuur, who did the Den Bosch video).

dd.dd said...

"Vroom Vroom" really?

I wish the author would leave Copenhagen and come to the heart of the US and see how the bicycle infrastructure is implemented. You have armadillos, bed mattresses, and skunks in the bicycle lanes.
On bicycle paths, runners, strollers, dogs, skaters, etc.
People run on bicycle paths in Denmark sir?

You have motorists falsely claiming that cyclists went outside the bicycle lanes to get away with car-bike collisions.

Some bicycle infrastructure advocates are back tracking with the segregation policy by using chevrons, dotted lines, using bicycle lanes that cover the entire lane at intersections, etc.

Those actions address the concerns of vehicular cyclists by ensuring that the needs of one group does not deprive the needs of the vehicular cyclist group. This is peace, civilisation, and progress, not cheering because the "other side" lost. Respect.

Mikael Colville-Andersen said...

The author has ridden bicycles in over 60 cities around the world, including numerous North American ones. Indeed, he grew up in Calgary, Canada.

So... nice try.