Mass Cycling, Bicycle Infrastructre and Vehicular Cycling

Bryan Blanc is a transportation engineering student in Portland, OR.  In the summer of 2014, he spent a couple of months in the Netherlands studying their bicycle system and wrote about it.  The entire blog is a great read.

Bryan lays down some great information on bicycle infrastructure and riding techniques here.

His thoughts on vehicular cycling are especially interesting:

“A huge opponent of infrastructure for mass cycling in America has been the persistent ideology popularized by John Forester known as ‘Vehicular Cycling’. The basic idea of Vehicular Cycling is that cyclists are safest when they ‘act and are treated as drivers of vehicles’, and so it supposedly follows that separate bicycle infrastructure detracts from bicyclist safety. Forester’s ideology is not based on any credible empirical evidence (despite the impression that his 800+ page manifesto, Effective Cycling, may give) and is instead based on his anecdotal experience as a long-time bicycle commuter. Forester’s website (which looks to have been designed by someone adhering strictly to the philosophy of ‘Effective Web Design’) provides essays on various topics related to promoting Vehicular Cycling and serves as a point of contact for those who wish to become a part of the Vehicular Cycling movement.

“Forester’s claims that separated bicycle infrastructure detracts from safety run counter to many studies of the success of separated infrastructure around the world (including here in America). Furth highlights several of these studies in his chapter, and many more have recently come out since.  Colleagues at PSU’s Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium have released a multi-year study on the success of six different protected bicycle facilities as part of the Green Lane Project. See the People For Bikes repository for further studies on the successes of separated infrastructure.

“This is not to say that separated infrastructure is superior or even necessary in all cases. Design judgements must be made based on the compromise between facility functionality and safety. For example, on many residential streets, shared lane treatments such as bicycle boulevards may be the better choice. But to say that separated infrastructure is inherently unsafe ignores the massive success it has around the world. There are good designs and bad designs for separated infrastructure, and consequently design is where the conversation should be taking place. It should seem intuitive that separating small, slow vehicles without roll cages or crumple zones from motor vehicles is beneficial when there is a significant speed differential, but the idea that cyclists need no separated infrastructure was much easier (and cheaper) for policy makers to swallow. It seems the tide is turning.”


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