Vehicular Cycling: America’s Curse

Vehicular Cycling, or Effective Cycling, as John Forester originally called it, means riding as though you are a car, but with a range of reflex actions programmed into your mind to avoid being hit, when drivers don’t see you. It generally works. In my car-centric city, I’m forced to rely on it more often than I wish I had to. However, on rainy nights, on heavily trafficked narrow roads where there are downhills and uphills, and for young children, it is pure suicide.
  
From this we can conclude: A. that John Forester was only ever a fair weather cyclist, B. that he was a pussy who didn’t like hills, C. that he never rode a bike as a kid, and D. is now one of those old Mr. Magoos who drives around cursing at cyclists for popping out of nowhere in front of his car. We might also speculate that he doesn’t have children, I guess due to his reluctance to cycle when conditions got tough, making him unattractive to women—but of course, this is pure speculation. What cannot be denied, is he has set the cause of all-weather bicycle transportation back by decades in the US, a country that treats cyclists in parks and on sidewalks as though they were Hummers.

America are world leaders in many things, but when it comes to cycling, a little prudence and humility would help them see Holland and Denmark are eons ahead. Separate bike paths, plus laws attributing responsibility proportionate to the dangerousness of your vehicle (high for cars, low for bikes, nil for pedestrians) — that is the recipe for genuine bicycle transportation, in all weather, and for all ages, and John Forester only every drove to work when it was raining, and he and his gang are big girls. There, I have said it!

You might also check out this witty essay making more fun of dyed-in-the-wool vehicular cyclists.

About Steven

I'm on a mission to put cycling on the agendas of architects, urban designers and fellow academics, who see the potential for bicycles to change cities and buildings. My PhD is in architectural history and my interdisciplinary research spans art theory, philosophy and cultural studies. I teach architectural history and theory and design studio at The University of Tasmania, Australia, and formerly worked as an architect designing large public housing projects in Singapore.
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6 Responses to Vehicular Cycling: America’s Curse

  1. Anonymous says:

    Vehicular cycling

    Very well put. What you say about our American friends applies equally to us of course. The only difference is that where America is honest about forcing its cyclists to behave like Hummers, we pretend we are protecting them with helmet laws. Separate bike paths and appropriate laws (I would add proper driver training) are the way to go.

    Edward

    • Steven says:

      Re: Vehicular cycling

      Thanks Edward. I just spent some days in Northern Italy (Florence and Ravenna) where cyclists are flat-out treated as though they’re pedestrians (unless they want to go fast in the traffic). It just made so much sense.
      Of course separate infrastructure is the ideal. Until it is made though, the footpath is a safe option for kids, the meek, and we more intrepid riders when the weather turns nasty.

    • Anonymous says:

      Re: Vehicular cycling

      Totally agree. I understand that’s how it works in Japan and why you see so many mothers leaving childcare centres with children on their “mamachari”. Perhaps Japan could be next on your itinery.

      Edward

    • Steven says:

      Re: Vehicular cycling

      indeed you are the voice of my conscience. I race bikes with a pilot who is based out of Japan, who has told me of stainless steel bikes by such brands as panasonic, that sell cheaply out of hardware shops. I’ve been to Japan, but not with an eye on bikes, as I would like.

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