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Old 03-06-07, 12:15 PM   #1
Brian Ratliff
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Working definition of "Vehicular Cycling"

I've seen vehicular cycling (VC) being defined as encompassing all forms of legal cycling, up to and including cycling on sidepaths and sidewalks, and I've seen it being defined narrowly to include only those techniques which put the cyclist in the relm of car traffic. Every description of VC has the "To me..." qualifier attached to it, either implicitly or explicitly.

I am not really interested in a definition of vehicular cycling which basically includes all forms of legal cycling. Not because I am against the definition per se, but because such a definition is not useful. It's like an entomologist who insists on doing his research by calling everything with three legs and three body segments a "bug".

Let me put this out: Vehicular cycling is a group of techniques surrounding the adoption by a cyclist of destination positioning utilizing the full width of the roadway. This is not an ideological definition; the ideologues can define whatever they want, to their heart's content. This is a working definition.

Examples of what is not within the working definition of vehicular cycling:

1) riding to the right hand side of the road and sharing the lane. A cyclist traveling in vehicular mode will not share lanes in any way, shape, or sense of the word.

2) sidewalk or bike path/MUP riding.

3) two step left turns.

4) simply following the local laws that are contrary to destination positioning utilizing the whole roadway. For example, if the local law tells cyclists to use the sidepath, using the sidepath is still not cycling vehicularly. If the local law demands lane sharing; this is still not cycling vehicularly to remain in compliance with this law.

5) the equipment for traffic cycling

6) the head flicks, hand flicks, winks, nods, pedal cadence, steely eyed alpha dog stares (), etc. utilized to gain a motorist's attention. These will vary according to environment, cyclist, cyclist's mood, etc.

7) riding to the right in a WOL and sharing this lane with car traffic. This is a working definition, and for reasons of consistency, I have to exclude this from the working definition. WOLs are a special case where lane sharing is explicitly encouraged. This is not a vehicular practice. This is not to say that WOLs are somehow inferior cycling facilities. It is just to say that lane sharing while using WOLs is not an example of vehicular cycling.

8) the basics of cycling, such as riding on the right side of the road and stopping at stop signs. This is to keep the definition precise.
What are within the working definition of vehicular cycling:

1) destination positioning at intersections

2) vehicular left turns

3) taking the lane. i.e. not sharing a lane with another vehicule.

4) riding in the bike lane. This is vehicular because a bike lane, as defined as a traffic lane dedicated to bicycle use (this definition doesn't include those "bike lanes in name only" lanes that DOTs sometimes force on us) meets the requirements of non-lane sharing, and to leave a bike lane means to go through all the procedures used to change lanes in traffic. One cannot, by design move arbitrarily from the bike lane to the adjacent traffic lane because the cyclist does not have right of way to do this. As with the WOL lane sharing designation, this is not to imply that bike lanes are somehow "better" than WOLs.
What I am trying to do is break the working definition of "vehicular cycling" away from the notion of safety. Safety will always be relative to the specific environment and transient. To evaluate whether "vehicular cycling" is "safer" than an alternative, one cannot have a definition of "vehicular cycling" which is linked to safety.

I am also trying to separate the working definition of "vehicular cycling" from the specific notion of "cycling facilities." For instance, one aspect of this working definition of vehicular cycling is that lane sharing is not allowed. Certain facilities, i.e. bike lanes, follow this principle provided that the bike lanes are true lanes and not "bike lanes in name only", which in practice, basically results in bike lanes which are 5-6' wide, flow into intersections logically and vehicularly (either the RTOL merges into the bike lane, which sometimes results in a "bike lane to the left of the right turn only lane", or the bike lane merges into the next adjacent traffic lane at the intersection), are swept regularly and signed "for bikes only".

Other facilities, i.e. WOLs, are certainly useful for traffic cycling, but encourage lane sharing and thus if used as such, do not fall under the working definition of vehicular cycling. Again, this is not for ideological reasons. It is for reasons of consistency in the definition. Consistency means that there are no exceptions to the rule. WOLs certainly can be ridden vehicularly, but this involves a lane position which does not allow for lane sharing.

I want a critique of this definition, but not a critique coming from how "right" it is (this is a working definition of my own design, so that we have a language for which to talk on this forum about vehicular cycling), but I want critiques regarding how self-consistent this definition is. This means no ideological battles on this thread, and most importantly this has nothing to do with bike lanes or any other cycling facility.

Some of you are going to be agitating to use Helmet Head's Wiki link as a definition instead. Realize that I don't really care; it's okay to have two different definitions of the same word, as long as we realize there are two different definitions, and we differentiate between the two. The problem I see with the wiki link is that it defines the term too broadly. The definition given in wiki is kind of like using "bug" to describe all insects. This is my opinion only though. Just differentiate by appending the "wiki definition", or "Brian's working definition" somewhere when posting. Or use "broad" or "narrow" to describe the way you are using the term. The point is: I am not trying to make an ideological point here. I am trying to define a well used but ill defined term in more specific language so we don't keep going 'round in circles and misunderstanding each other.

I'm kind of preening here for a sticky so we don't get all these newbies coming in asking, in the midst of a thread, what "VC" is.
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Old 03-06-07, 12:27 PM   #2
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kudos to attempt to define VC for the benefit of the forum, Brian. seems pretty spot on the money.
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Old 03-06-07, 12:34 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
Let me put this out: Vehicular cycling is a group of techniques surrounding the adoption by a cyclist of destination positioning utilizing the full width of the roadway. This is not an ideological definition; the ideologues can define whatever they want, to their heart's content. This is a working definition.

Examples of what is not within the working definition of vehicular cycling:
...
8) the basics of cycling, such as riding on the right side of the road and stopping at stopsigns. This is to keep the definition precise...

What I am trying to do is break the working definition of "vehicular cycling" away from the notion of safety. Safety will always be relative to the specific environment and transient. To evaluate whether "vehicular cycling" is "safer" than an alternative, one cannot have a definition of "vehicular cycling" which is linked to safety.
Brian, You are on the right path.

Especially with excluding item 8 if anyone wants a useful definition. It is from the false claim of "ownership" by VC salesmen of every single basic and proper operation of bicycling (from use of lights at night to staying upright) that opinions are generated that the safety of cyclists depends on their knowledge of "vehicular cycling."
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Old 03-06-07, 12:45 PM   #4
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Because I had to look them up I will add the definitions I found to some of terms and abbreviations used in your definition for the n00bs like me. The definitions are from wikipedia and if they do not match your own or what you are trying to describe I (or a mod) can change them.


WOL: Wide Outside Lane
A wide outside lane (WOL), sometimes known as a wide curb lane (WCL), is a term used by cyclists and bicycle transportation planners to refer to an outside lane of a roadway that is wide enough to be safely shared side by side by a bicycle and a wider motor vehicle at the same time. Generally, the minimum width standard for a WOL is 14 feet (4.3 m). A WOL may also be known as a wide outside through lane (WOTL) to differentiate it from a right turn only lane (an outermost lane for traffic that will turn right, not intended for use by through traffic).


Destination Positioning:
As drivers approach a junction of ways, destination positioning comes into play and they position themselves laterally according to their destination (left, straight or right):
  • Where lanes are marked, slower drivers approaching a junction should choose the outermost lane that serves (i.e., corresponds to) their destination. For example, if the outermost lane is turn-only lane, drivers in that lane who do not intend to turn outward should merge inward into the adjacent lane. Drivers of narrower vehicles should be careful about moving to the side of marked lanes when turning, as drivers of overtaking wider vehicles may be tempted to share the lane during the turn.
  • When lanes are not marked, drivers approaching a junction will travel along the inside of their side of the road if turning toward the inside, along the outer side if turning to the outside, and in between if going straight.
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Old 03-06-07, 12:48 PM   #5
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^^^
Thanks. I get in this habit... well you know . The above definitions of "wide outside lane" (WOL) and "destination positioning" will do nicely. Thanks for encoding them into this thread.
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Old 03-06-07, 12:54 PM   #6
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I want to add this to the list of definitions, since I use it in a bit of a special sense which is somewhat not intuitive. Again, I do this for consistency in the definition of "vehicular cycling."

Bike Lane:

Is defined as a traffic lane dedicated to bicycle use provided that the bike lanes are true lanes and not "bike lanes in name only".

In practice, this basically results in bike lanes which are 5-6' wide, flow into intersections logically and vehicularly (either the RTOL merges into the bike lane, which sometimes results in a "bike lane to the left of the right turn only lane", or the bike lane merges into the next adjacent traffic lane at the intersection), are swept regularly and signed "for bikes only".
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Old 03-06-07, 12:56 PM   #7
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It's a fine definition, Brian, I guess, though I'm lost as to its applicability in theory or in practice.

According to this definition (particularly, "A cyclist traveling in vehicular mode will not share lanes in any way, shape, or sense of the word. "), I, for one, am certainly not a vehicular cyclist.
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Old 03-06-07, 12:56 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff

Examples of what is not within the working definition of vehicular cycling:[indent]
1) riding to the right hand side of the road and sharing the lane. A cyclist traveling in vehicular mode will not share lanes in any way, shape, or sense of the word.
I would disagree strongly with this. Most cyclists who believe themselves to be cycling vehicularly share lanes all the time. I share narrow lanes with other cyclists side by side (like motorcyclists often do), and share wide lanes side by side with drivers of wider vehicles.

My favorite roads tend to be two-lane collector roads with 16' lanes, or 32' of pavement width and no striping at all. Why should I refuse to allow a driver to pass in the same lane or on the same side of the road if I can operate near the right side safely and efficiently?

-Steve Goodridge
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Old 03-06-07, 01:08 PM   #9
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I would have to add that since every state's vehicle code requires lane sharing when the lane width allows it (the as far right as practicable clause) that lane sharing is most definitely vehicular cycling.
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Old 03-06-07, 01:09 PM   #10
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^^^^
Again, this is a working definition for a set of techniques encompassed by the term "vehicular cycling."

HH: "Vehicular cycling" is not something you are, it is something you do. I do not define the term "vehicular cyclist." I define the term "vehicular cycling."

sggoodri: The road system is set up explicity such that no vehicle shares a lane with another. This is why, in the "narrow" definition of VC I've set up here, lane sharing is not allowed; it is not vehicular.

For instance, my favorite roads tend to be two lane (one each direction) rural highways with 18 feet of pavement (9' for each lane) and no shoulder. When I ride, I usually ride in, what HH describes as, the margin. (FWIW, HH also rides in the margin when cars are present and passing, which is the important part.) I would refer to this as riding in "lane sharing" mode, as opposed to "vehicular mode".

I've gained an array of specific skills for riding in "lane sharing mode" which are different from "vehicular mode" riding. In many places on these roads, I do have to take the lane and bicycle in a vehicular mode, with the assortment of skills and techniques that this requires. After these choke points pass, I revert back to lane sharing mode.

Again, I am trying for a self-consistent definition. The techniques for lane sharing and vehicular modes of cycling differ, as do the behaviors' of other vehicles around the cyclist. This alone justifies making a distinction.
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Old 03-06-07, 01:11 PM   #11
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I would have to add that since every state's vehicle code requires lane sharing when the lane width allows it (the as far right as practicable clause) that lane sharing is most definitely vehicular cycling.
No, actually, my definition explicity rules out following a law being the only reason for a cycling mode's inclusion into "vehicular cycling." Just because there is a law that requires "stay to the right" (in this or other words), doesn't mean that to simply follow this law is to be cycling "vehicularly".

In other words, "vehicular cycling" is not always legal.
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Old 03-06-07, 01:12 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
Let me put this out: Vehicular cycling is a group of techniques surrounding the adoption by a cyclist of destination positioning utilizing the full width of the roadway. This is not an ideological definition; the ideologues can define whatever they want, to their heart's content. This is a working definition.
Vehicular cycling concerns the negotiation of vehicular traffic on roadways according to the same basic vehicular rules. This includes traveling on the right half of the roadway, destination positioning at intersections, speed positioning between intersections, yielding before moving laterally, and yielding before crossing or entering a more important road.

Vehicular cyclists only occasionally need to use more than a small part of the roadway. It is important that their legal right to use the roadway be protected for those occasions, and cyclists fshould be treated as fully entitled users of the roadway. But most practicing vehicular cyclists have little interest in creating the impression of using more of the roadway than they need for safety, efficiency, and comfort.

-Steve Goodridge
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Old 03-06-07, 01:17 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sggoodri
Vehicular cycling concerns the negotiation of vehicular traffic on roadways according to the same basic vehicular rules. This includes traveling on the right half of the roadway, destination positioning at intersections, speed positioning between intersections, yielding before moving laterally, and yielding before crossing or entering a more important road.

Vehicular cyclists only occasionally need to use more than a small part of the roadway. It is important that their legal right to use the roadway be protected for those occasions, and cyclists fshould be treated as fully entitled users of the roadway. But most practicing vehicular cyclists have little interest in creating the impression of using more of the roadway than they need for safety, efficiency, and comfort.

-Steve Goodridge
Again, I am not trying out for an ideological definition. What you just stated above is kind of like the scientist refering to all three legged creatures as "bugs." A working definition cannot include all forms of cycling under the sun. Here, I've pared the definition down to include only the essentials, with no caveats, no exceptions, and no overlap between it and other definitions.

I honestly don't care if you accept this working definition. Words can have different meanings in different contexts. You have encompassed all "best practice" skills under the heading of "vehicular cycling." This is all well and good, but not very useful as a precise definition.
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Old 03-06-07, 01:18 PM   #14
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Hey! Glad someone else started the thread. I will have to check in later though.
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Old 03-06-07, 01:19 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sggoodri
Vehicular cycling concerns the negotiation of vehicular traffic on roadways according to the same basic vehicular rules.
I want to emphasis that lane sharing does not come under the heading of "same basic vehicular rules." To make it do so is to posit imaginary "implicit bike lane lines" as Helmet Head does, or to create an exception in the definion of vehicular cycling.
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Old 03-06-07, 01:21 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
I want to add this to the list of definitions, since I use it in a bit of a special sense which is somewhat not intuitive. Again, I do this for consistency in the definition of "vehicular cycling."

Bike Lane:

Is defined as a traffic lane dedicated to bicycle use provided that the bike lanes are true lanes and not "bike lanes in name only".

In practice, this basically results in bike lanes which are 5-6' wide, flow into intersections logically and vehicularly (either the RTOL merges into the bike lane, which sometimes results in a "bike lane to the left of the right turn only lane", or the bike lane merges into the next adjacent traffic lane at the intersection), are swept regularly and signed "for bikes only".
Regardless of how you define or built it, whether it is a "true lane" or a "bike lane in name only" is determined by how others use it and treat those who do use it, not by the definition.
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Old 03-06-07, 01:21 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff

sggoodri: The road system is set up explicity such that no vehicle shares a lane with another. This is why, in the "narrow" definition of VC I've set up here, lane sharing is not allowed; it is not vehicular.
Vehicles come in very different widths. Lanes don't vary as much. Lane striping practice is an imperfect oversimplification in that it sometimes differs from best driving practices for the widest and the narrowest vehicles.

I suggest that if a vehicular cyclist is lane-sharing as a courtesy, the inconsistency with your invented paradigm is how the road was striped, not the cyclist's actions.

Vehicular cycling means riding to the right to allow faster traffic to pass when safe and appropriate, and riding to the left when not.

Sometimes the lane line striping means that the right-riding vehicular cyclist is in his own right hand lane, other times the lane striping means he is sharing a wide lane. It is vehicular cycling either way.
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Old 03-06-07, 01:24 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Helmet Head
Regardless of how you define or built it, whether it is a "true lane" or a "bike lane in name only" is determined by how others use it and treat those who do use it, not by the definition.
You are correct. In this case, a cyclist should not treat a "bike lane in name only" as a bike lane. I suggest not worrying so much about what other driver's think. I ride where I ride where I ride.
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Old 03-06-07, 01:27 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
I want to emphasis that lane sharing does not come under the heading of "same basic vehicular rules." To make it do so is to posit imaginary "implicit bike lane lines" as Helmet Head does, or to create an exception in the definion of vehicular cycling.
Lane striping is a very specific construct. Vehicular cycling is very general. The most important, basic rules for vehicular cycling are fully defined for roads with no lane lines. Understand vehicular cycling on a road with no lane lines first, and then deal with lane striping as it appears by following the basic positional rules of vehicular cycling rather than being confused by suboptimal striping.
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Old 03-06-07, 01:31 PM   #20
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sggoodrie:

Okay, I register your complaint. I am not interested if my working definition is "correct," or even if it is the way you see the term. I am not interested in debating the pros and cons of bike lanes or lack thereof. I am interested in if my definition is self-consistent, meaning there are no exceptions or caveats, and that it is narrow, i.e. doesn't cover the world.

I know, it hurts to have an ideological term upsurped and made more precise for the sake of those who don't agree with the ideology. But it is, for better or for worse, the term we use around here, and I am tired of it's lack of precision. It has previously been used in the sense of "what VC means for me...". It has formerly meant everything and nothing.

I am simply trying to tighten the meaning up so that it is not an all encompassing descriptor of safe, legal cycling. You want to keep it broad to suit your ideological goals. I'll keep that in mind when we have discussions together.
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Old 03-06-07, 01:31 PM   #21
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Brian, do you know of anyone anywhere who has ever used a definition of vehicular cycling that comes close to what you have defined here? If so, who, where?

If not, why not come up with some other name for whatever it is that you're trying to define, rather than use a term for which there are already meanings quite different from what you're trying to define here?
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Old 03-06-07, 01:34 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
You are correct. In this case, a cyclist should not treat a "bike lane in name only" as a bike lane. I suggest not worrying so much about what other driver's think. I ride where I ride where I ride.
Again, what they think only matters to the cyclist in terms of how it affects their behavior, and, in particular, their behavior with respect to the space demarcated as a "bike lane".

That was the point of my thread the other day describing the incident I was in. If I had treated the bike lane I was in as a regular traffic lane, I would not have slowed, and would have kept going, leaving myself open to a right hook.

Edit: When I'm traveling in a regular traffic lane that is open in front of me, I normally do not slow to simply to avoid passing someone in an adjacent lane, unless they are negotiating for the right of way to do so, and I have decided to yield to them. Treating road margin space as if it is a real traffic lane, whether that space is unmarked, marked as a shoulder, or marked as a bike lane, is often not a good idea.

Last edited by Helmet Head; 03-06-07 at 01:41 PM.
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Old 03-06-07, 01:39 PM   #23
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Most people here, mostly the people who you deride as "not knowing what the definition of VC is" has the above concept of a definition in mind. The agreements in this thread are reflective of that.

The above definition also separates the distinctive characteristics of vehicular cycling from those characteristics which are simply under the perview of "safe, legal cycling." There is no need to encompass all aspects of "safe, legal cycling" in with vehicular cycling; this would make everyone claim to be a "vehicular cycling" (which I did not define), which is what happens here, and then endless fights over what "vehicular cycling" really means "to me...".
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Old 03-06-07, 01:44 PM   #24
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I honestly don't care if you accept this working definition. Words can have different meanings in different contexts. You have encompassed all "best practice" skills under the heading of "vehicular cycling." This is all well and good, but not very useful as a precise definition.
Again this is elated to the OP exclusion #8. The all encompassing definition of vehicular cycling prefered by Steve and HH calls for the reciprocal, an all encompassing definition of safety: all cyclists are safe cyclists, unless they are not, as evidenced by their having an accident. Hence: safe cyclists are vehicular cyclists; unsafe cyclists are not. Works for HH and Steve G. I'm sure.
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Old 03-06-07, 01:44 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Helmet Head
Again, what they think only matters to the cyclist in terms of how it affects their behavior, and, in particular, their behavior with respect to the space demarcated as a "bike lane".

That was the point of my thread the other day describing the incident I was in. If I had treated the bike lane I was in as a regular traffic lane, I would not have slowed, and would have kept going, leaving myself open to a right hook.
With all due respect, I really don't care how motorists see bike lanes. If motorists see enough cyclists using certain versions of bike lanes in certain ways, it will become the norm, as it is where I live. And even when driving cars, one doesn't always avoid being cut off. One still needs to remain aware of your surroundings. If you are implying that riding in the bike lane means one doesn't have to be aware, I am not in agreement with that.

In the end, they are just lines in the road which are used in standard ways. Some motorists still violate these standards. It doesn't just apply to bike lanes.

In any case, I didn't make a value judgement of bike lanes in the definition. I simply defined what they were. What they are is the physical paint on the ground. I also did not make a value judgement of bike lanes in relation to anything else.
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