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Vehicular Cycling (VC) No other subject has polarized the A&S members like VC has. Here's a place to share, debate, and educate.

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Old 06-06-07, 11:28 AM   #1
Niles H.
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Flawed communications

“Vehicular”

This word seems to cause a lot of confusion. The whole presentation tends to cause a lot of confusion.

When people read something about faring best if you behave like a vehicle, it is not clear what it means. It is often taken to mean that you should behave as if you were a car.

[A daydream: cyclist has message printed on jersey: “I AM A CAR”. Cyclist gets pulled over by police. After questioning, police determine that this cyclist belongs on a 72-hour hold for evaluation, since cyclist appears to be delusional, and a danger to self and others. Cyclist’s behavior in traffic contributes to overall impression.]

It has been fairly well established on these forums that behaving like a car is not quite the intended message. So (since people so often tend to interpret it that way), why not adapt or amend or intelligently modify the message?

***
Isn’t the basic idea that cyclists are (or can be) road-worthy?, and that bikes can be serious transportational vehicles, rather than toys?

(and not so much that they should necessarily behave as if they were motor vehicles?)

[Actual incident: An associate at a large Wal-Mart answered the question “Where is the bike section?” with “In the toy department,” and then apologized for this, saying that it is an American thing….]

***
So re-classifying bikes as (serious, road-worthy) vehicles makes sense, in a way. It helps to change people’s thinking and perceptions and attitudes; and it can also help when it comes to cyclists’ rights on the roads.

This makes sense.

But the statements about cyclists faring best when behaving as if they are (motor (or understood to mean motor)) vehicles says something else, something that doesn’t make as much sense and is often unclear to people. It seems unnecessary and amendable. It engenders unnecessary confusion, resistance, disbelief, successful counterarguments, many counterexamples and exceptions, etc.

So why not communicate the essential messages in a clearer, more unmixed way?
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Old 06-06-07, 12:03 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Niles H.
“Vehicular”

This word seems to cause a lot of confusion. The whole presentation tends to cause a lot of confusion.

When people read something about faring best if you behave like a vehicle, it is not clear what it means. It is often taken to mean that you should behave as if you were a car.
Indeed, "behaving like a vehicle" is not clear. In fact, it makes no sense, since vehicles don't behave. Where have you seen anyone advocate such nonsense?


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[A daydream: cyclist has message printed on jersey: “I AM A CAR”. Cyclist gets pulled over by police. After questioning, police determine that this cyclist belongs on a 72-hour hold for evaluation, since cyclist appears to be delusional, and a danger to self and others. Cyclist’s behavior in traffic contributes to overall impression.]

It has been fairly well established on these forums that behaving like a car is not quite the intended message. So (since people so often tend to interpret it that way), why not adapt or amend or intelligently modify the message?
"Behaving like a car" is not quite the message? Behaving like a car is utter nonsense and is not the message at all from anyone, so far as I know. Since cars don't behave, "behaving like a car" has no meaning whatsoever. It's meaningless. It's nonsense.

Quote:
***
Isn’t the basic idea that cyclists are (or can be) road-worthy?, and that bikes can be serious transportational vehicles, rather than toys?
Yes, that is the basic idea.

Quote:
(and not so much that they should necessarily behave as if they were motor vehicles?)
Again, utter nonsense. Motor vehicles don't behave.

Quote:
[Actual incident: An associate at a large Wal-Mart answered the question “Where is the bike section?” with “In the toy department,” and then apologized for this, saying that it is an American thing….]

***
So re-classifying bikes as (serious, road-worthy) vehicles makes sense, in a way. It helps to change people’s thinking and perceptions and attitudes; and it can also help when it comes to cyclists’ rights on the roads.

This makes sense.
Glad you're with us on that much of it.

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But the statements about cyclists faring best when behaving as if they are (motor (or understood to mean motor)) vehicles says something else, something that doesn’t make as much sense and is often unclear to people. It seems unnecessary and amendable. It engenders unnecessary confusion, resistance, disbelief, successful counterarguments, many counterexamples and exceptions, etc.
Utter nonsense again.

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So why not communicate the essential messages in a clearer, more unmixed way?
You mean like, "Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles"?
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Old 06-06-07, 12:40 PM   #3
Niles H.
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Originally Posted by Helmet Head
You mean like, "Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles"?
That too is confusing.

Test it out. A little empiricism here.

Or just observe the multitude of confused responses you have already gotten -- just here on this forum, not to mention in the much wider world outside it.

IT'S CONFUSING!

I can't say it any clearer than that.

***
"Vehicles" means what, in most people's minds?

We could look it up in one or several dictionaries to get an idea of the fuzz factor here, or you can ask people. Or you can observe.

So why not make it clearer?

(Please note that I am not opposing the essential principles, just the awful level of confusing communications.)

***
On a related point: You've mentioned a need for greater clarity in your writing. There is a little book that may be worth a look (or another look if you've already seen it) -- a book that many writers have found to be an extremely valuable touchstone for clarity of style, Strunk and White's The Elements of Style.

Convoluted syntax and over-polysyllabification often turn people off. They often tune out or stop reading.

Clarity would be much more in the interests of getting your good points across well.
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Old 06-06-07, 12:51 PM   #4
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I read Strunk and White many years ago. I lost my original copy, but it's on my Amazon wishlist.
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Old 06-06-07, 12:55 PM   #5
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So, what conveys the same thing as

"Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of
vehicles"

but is clearer?

The problem is that you can't convey what this means in one sentence, or even one paragraph. Books like Effective Cycling and Cyclecraft do it. You can find reasonable summaries like John Allen's StreetSmarts, or even the summary in Jeffrey Hiles essay.

Have you read these?
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Old 06-06-07, 01:23 PM   #6
Niles H.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Helmet Head
So, what conveys the same thing as

"Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles"

but is clearer?

The problem is that you can't convey what this means in one sentence, or even one paragraph....
Why assume that there is nothing clearer? Why not at least try to come up with something?

Are you certain that you cannot convey the essential meaning(s) more concisely and clearly?

***
-- and without generating the obvious confusions associated with the present words?
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Old 06-06-07, 01:33 PM   #7
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cyclists fare best whn they follow the rules of the road, unless doing so would put them in danger or not make sense in that particular situation...( ex sitting in a row of cars when you could filter forward)

I don't know. It's got to be simple yet admit the possibility of flexibility when warranted. maybe that forester line is not the best shorthand way to describe it.
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Old 06-06-07, 01:49 PM   #8
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well, lets think about it this way....

lets assume that you have a low powered motorcycle (vespa kind of thing) (30-40 mph).

How would you drive it? would you drive it like you would your car?

some interesting ideas:
does that mean the cycle should be driven in the bike lane?
can that cycle take up a lane?

would you drive that cycle through an intersection to stop at the far right side in order to make a
left turn?

now, I know that as a cyclist I can go about 20 mph but the idea is the same because that cycle is going to be slower than the other traffic and there are going to be spots where the motorist is going to be blocked for a short amount of time before s/he can get around.

bike lanes are nice (wider lanes maybe better) but the long term solution is to have use of the roads like other vehicles...
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Old 06-06-07, 01:51 PM   #9
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I think part of it is that a lot of folks have a poor understanding of the English language, from lack of study, laziness and most so in this case common usage creating an implied definition or common definition of the word vehicle to mean only 'motor vehicle' or even 'car.'

Another issue that crops up occasionally here on BF is that those that enjoy fighting VC intentionally take advantage of this popular confusion of what a vehicle really is and perpetuate it.

Unfortunately I agree that there is no really better term than 'vehicle' - but I'd be open to suggestion. Until then the only thing that can be done is to use the dictionary meaning of vehicle.

Al
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Old 06-06-07, 01:53 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rando
cyclists fare best whn they follow the rules of the road, unless doing so would put them in danger or not make sense in that particular situation...( ex sitting in a row of cars when you could filter forward)

I don't know. It's got to be simple yet admit the possibility of flexibility when warranted. maybe that forester line is not the best shorthand way to describe it.
well, here in NJ, guess what, if the shoulder is wide enough for a car to fit, it will "filter" to make a right hand turn... its the same if a car is blocking the lane in order to make a left turn.
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Old 06-06-07, 01:54 PM   #11
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Part of my problem with it is that I think it implies a false dichotomy.

you could add on the end: as opposed to acting and being treated as a pedestrian.

One of the core foundations of VC seems to me that there are only two choices for road using cyclists: to be vehicles, or to be pedestrians.

Now, if you give me the choice of acting and being treated as a vehicle, or acting and being treated as a pedestrian, I will of course choose the former.

Somehow I feel that the choice, though, is forced.
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Old 06-06-07, 01:56 PM   #12
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Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of low powered, narrow vehicles.

Don't try to emulate a car, embrace the narrow aspect and be aware of the low powered aspect.
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Old 06-06-07, 01:57 PM   #13
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Quote:
some interesting ideas:
does that mean the cycle should be driven in the bike lane?
can that cycle take up a lane?
Here in California, mopeds, low powered scooters, and those standing scooters can travel in bike lanes.
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Old 06-06-07, 01:59 PM   #14
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Quote:
"Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles"?
Acting like one does not correspond to being treated as one. How often do you have to do something forceful -- give a special hand signal, or a glare or a steely-eyed stare -- in order to get the "treated as" part to work.

The acting as and the treated as do not flow from each other.
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Old 06-06-07, 02:00 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sbhikes
Acting like one does not correspond to being treated as one. How often do you have to do something forceful -- give a special hand signal, or a glare or a steely-eyed stare -- in order to get the "treated as" part to work.

The acting as and the treated as do not flow from each other.
this is true.
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Old 06-06-07, 02:02 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by zeytoun
Here in California, mopeds, low powered scooters, and those standing scooters can travel in bike lanes.
ok, can which means you can take an advantage to allow other traffic to pass (I am making an assumption here so let me know if I go wrong, and actually other slower traffic here in NJ would use the bike lane as well, like farming equipment for example)... but would you have problem with driving it like you would a car?
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Old 06-06-07, 02:04 PM   #17
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Some vehicles are, by design limitation, significantly slower than average. Some vehicles are, by design, significantly narrower than average, or have less mass. Some vehicles are all three.

They are all still vehicles. The same basic rules of the road apply to drivers of all of them. There are a few special restrictions placed on the larger, heavier vehicles with higher speed capabilities. But the rest of the normal rules of the road apply to all vehicles when driven on public ways. These are the rules of traffic negotiation that allow a diverse set of vehicles to be operated effectively on the same roads by the same reliable principles.
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Old 06-06-07, 02:05 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sbhikes
How often do you have to do something forceful -- give a special hand signal, or a glare or a steely-eyed stare -- in order to get the "treated as" part to work.
I find that the acting part when I am driving an SUV is just as important to get treated how I want.
Even driving an SUV I find hand signals, looks of a non-nasty nature, communicating intent, assertiveness, positioning, etc. results in far better treatment from other drivers - especially in denser urban areas. Keep in mind this behavior is not just about getting, but giving and sharing as well.

Al

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Old 06-06-07, 02:08 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by sbhikes
Acting like one does not correspond to being treated as one. How often do you have to do something forceful -- give a special hand signal, or a glare or a steely-eyed stare -- in order to get the "treated as" part to work.

The acting as and the treated as do not flow from each other.
If you act like a driver, you have a very good chance of being treated like one. At the very least, you get to use the roadway quite safely and efficiently, with the slight possibility of an occasional horn honk or close pass depending on local ignorance.

But if you don't act like a driver, you'll never be treated like a driver, and you're much more likely to be treated like a pedestrian, or worse, like a mailbox.
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Old 06-06-07, 02:12 PM   #20
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Quote:
but would you have problem with driving it like you would a car?
I'm not sure I understand your question.

Do you mean, can a moped, or low power scooter stay travelling in a bike lane for miles?
If so, yes.

Does this mean they have to?
Not necessarily. However, if they are slower then traffic, they would be required to keep to the far right on many roads, or at least pull over if there are more then 5 cars delayed behind them.

Then again, bicyclists are not always required to use bike lanes here in California.

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would you drive that cycle through an intersection to stop at the far right side in order to make a
left turn?
In some areas, yes. It's called a hook turn, and in some places is required for all vehicles.
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Old 06-06-07, 02:15 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sggoodri
Some vehicles are, by design limitation, significantly slower than average. Some vehicles are, by design, significantly narrower than average, or have less mass. Some vehicles are all three.

They are all still vehicles. The same basic rules of the road apply to drivers of all of them. There are a few special restrictions placed on the larger, heavier vehicles with higher speed capabilities. But the rest of the normal rules of the road apply to all vehicles when driven on public ways. These are the rules of traffic negotiation that allow a diverse set of vehicles to be operated effectively on the same roads by the same reliable principles.
Actually it appears that the restrictions are placed on the narrow, slow vehicles... which in the case of CA law do NOT have equality, except through "exceptions."
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Old 06-06-07, 02:16 PM   #22
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If you act like a driver, you have a very good chance of being treated like one. At the very least, you get to use the roadway quite safely and efficiently, with the slight possibility of an occasional horn honk or close pass depending on local ignorance.

But if you don't act like a driver, you'll never be treated like a driver, and you're much more likely to be treated like a pedestrian, or worse, like a mailbox.
And by "driver" here do you mean riding the ride direction in the road, etc (the VC is anything goes paradigm), or are you including other things like Helmet Heads "advanced VC" ideas?
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Old 06-06-07, 02:28 PM   #23
Niles H.
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Originally Posted by Helmet Head
So, what conveys the same thing as

"Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles"

but is clearer?
I'm not splitting hairs in saying this, but "fare best..." is also part of the problem.

The main problem, though, as far as I can tell, is the word "vehicles". It is misleading (for many people) (in actual fact) (test it; or look at it, look at what is happening with it...) (find out what people read when they read it).

When I read that sentence (even now, even after exposure to a lot of clarification), it still doesn't have the right meaning or the right ring, and I've spent far more time than most people ever will -- most people are not willing to dedicate hours to wading through all this. Some of them just reject it or drop it. Others misunderstand it, and go with their misunderstandings (which can itself be dangerous). Some who finally get what is being said (which is basically simple and straightforward) end up resenting all the headaches, the hassle, and the unnecessary obfuscation that goes on around all this; and it does not often help the image of VC in (nor endear it to) their eyes.

You could always try an empirical test -- try out different wordings, different sentences, and see what various people understand when they read them. VC is in need of more scientific approaches, more testing, less reliance on (unseen as such) subtly flawed, flawed or incomplete logic. --less reliance on conjecture (or confabulistic, speculative, or novelistic tendencies and methods), and more reliance on scientific methods and testing.

You could also try two or three clear sentences to convey the essential meaning(s). There is no rule that says it has to be a single sentence; and if you cannot find a better single sentence, then it might make sense to try another approach.

That sentence is clearly confusing to many people.

Last edited by Niles H.; 06-06-07 at 04:53 PM.
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Old 06-06-07, 02:36 PM   #24
Niles H.
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The term roadworthy vehicles may communicate something important -- it may clarify the meaning substantially for some people.

The term "drivers" may also be a bit of a stumbling block for some people. It does not read smoothly, and it is basically unnecessary.

Most people understand speech such as "motor vehicles behave as if..." without getting too pedantic. I'm sure you could find many such phrasings with Google searches; and most people understand them more clearly and more immediately than they understand much of the VC phrasing. They understand that it does not mean (driverless) motor vehicles separate or distinct from (or opposed to) driven motor vehicles. People can read between the lines if you speak clearly in their language.

***
Sometimes efforts at concision can go too far, and result in something that is clear and mathematically precise to insiders, but cryptic and confusing to outsiders.

There are sometimes slightly longer communications that are much clearer (to others, who are new to the ideas), and still quite concise.

It is a challenge to come up with them, but perhaps it can be done?

To me, "Cyclists can be treated as operators of serious, roadworthy vehicles" is much clearer than most of the other sentences that are meant to convey the same meaning(s).

One approach would be to give three or four clear sentences , then expand briefly on each one beneath.

Or have each major (clear) sentence in bold, then a short (clear) paragraph beneath each....

Last edited by Niles H.; 06-06-07 at 04:55 PM.
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Old 06-06-07, 02:47 PM   #25
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I think Niles brings up good points.

I think most people would say "huh?" if you substituted the word "equestrians" for "cyclists". Either it means something so narrow that it can often have points that are inherently counter to how horses or cyclists operate, or it means something so broad it has no meaning at all.

I would say that cyclists fare best when they are treated like traffic, not pedestrians.
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