Vehicular Cycling

Do you know what it is, and why it’s so important & controversial?

Because it’s key to understanding where we are now.

A thread:
In short, the idea is that on roads designed for cars, and full of cars, it’s safer to cycle as if you are a car too.

In practice that means ride confidently out from the kerb, take up the whole lane, and try to go fast enough to keep up with the traffic.
Why is it important? Well given how dangerously designed most roads are, it’s an essential survival tactic every cyclist should understand.

Timid cyclists get given no quarter by drivers. You need to learn how to create space for yourself.
As an example, if I’m coming up to a pedestrian refuge or parked car that narrows the street, I’ll briefly move out into the middle of the lane so it’s obvious to the driver behind that this is not the moment to overtake. (look behind and indicate first!)
Why is it controversial? Well some view it as an alternative to segregated cycle lanes, rather than a desperate way to cope with dangerous roads

And let’s face it those people are usually confident, fast, white, male cyclists (like me). Vehicular cycling is really not inclusive
A couple of bits of history - in 1934 Britain’s first dedicated cycle lane opened, alongside the new Great West Road, leading out through London’s expanding suburbs

Cycle groups hated it, fearing a slippery slope to being banished from all roads, and relegated to paths
That debate set the scene for 75 years of cycles being thrown in with the growing tide of general traffic.

We got left behind as first the Dutch, then others, provided dedicated safe cycle lanes.

As a result the UK had dwindling cycle use, and high fatalities.
A key figure in this is John Forester - English-born US engineer, father of vehicular cycling, author of “Effective Cycling” and passionate campaigner against segregate lanes from the 1970s

His influence can still be seen in highway design, such as “sharrows” in the US.
The high profile 2010 opening of the CS3 cycleway on London’s Embankment arguably marked a turning of the tide in favour of safe segregation in the UK.

People could see how it enabled diverse, slower, less confident cyclists to feel safe. Certainly scales fell from my eyes!
But even now, you still see committed vehicular cyclists opposing cycle lanes.

“I prefer the road”
“the cycle lane is dangerous”
“I never needed a cycle lane”

Maybe they didn’t. But most people did, and the lack of safe lanes meant the majority gave up cycling long ago.
Thankfully, attitudes are changing. More UK cities are making safe space. And it’s working. The transformation of Paris shows what we can do.

And that change is urgently needed, because while vehicular cycling is an essential survival skill, it really cannot keep you safe.
Problems ignored by vehicular cycling advocates include:

- Drivers behind threatening with horns or revving engines

- “Punishment passes” overtaking deliberately close

- Sideswiping lane changers moving into lane you’re occupying

- Head-on traffic on narrow residential roads
Even the fit, confident and experienced can’t avoid these problems. Let alone new cyclists.

The only solution is engineering. Safe cycling is not about behaviour or education, it’s about street design.

After 75 years of vehicular cycling, we’re finally coming to realise that.
Postscript: vehicular cycling also taints reaction to cycleway proposals

Opponents imagined Chiswick’s C9 route would bring the terror of high-speed “lycra louts” hurtling through. Reality is it’s enabled pottering families and shoppers previously scared off by traffic
Reflecting on comments, one thing John Forester got right: some cyclists want to go FAST and FAR. And why not, cars do.

You can’t do that on a busy cycle lane, so for some people the road *is* better

But without safe lanes, cycling will be stuck as the preserve of this minority

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More from @IsItABikeLane

Mar 30, 2019
So, electric bikes. Wondering what all the fuss is about? E-curious? ⚡️

I took the plunge in January, and here’s 10 things I’ve learnt (thread).

Tl;dr - Pay attention to e-assist, I really think this is going to be transformative, in ways I’d not appreciated.
1. First surprise: quite how much FUN e-bikes are!

You know those days when the wind’s at your back, you feel strong, & eating up the miles? The sheer uplifting joy of that feeling? Riding an e-bike is like that *all the time*

Ride an e-bike and try not to say Wheeee!
2. E-bikes are simple & natural.

There’s no throttle to think about. Modern e-bikes sense how hard you pedal, your speed, your gear, and electronic controls make everything else work. The motor just amplifies what you’re doing.

If you can ride a bike, you can ride an e-bike.
Read 14 tweets
Aug 4, 2018
Cycling with the family in the Netherlands. First time cycling there in 30 years and it’s changed so much. I expected good cycle facilities but I’m just blown away. The ubiquity, quality, continuity, convenience... the UK has so far to go it makes me want to cry.
My two overriding thoughts from cycling with kids in Netherlands:

1. Cycle paths designed as “how do we get bikes flowing through here” not “how do we get bikes out of the way of the flow here”. It’s just so *convenient* and that makes it quick even when cycling slowly.
2. How on earth did we ever think mixing heavy vehicles with people was OK? I can’t look at a “normal” UK street the same way again. Rather than thread one cycle route through an area, we can’t accept anything short of *every road* being safe for people.
Read 9 tweets

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