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  1. #1
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    Cyclists fare best?

    The central theme of the Vehicular Cycling ideology seems to be J. Forester's pithy formulation: "Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles". We have a traffic system, the argument goes, designed for a given set of behaviors. Bicycling on the road works best when the cyclist fits into that system with minimum fuss.

    The problem I see with using this idea as a prescription for cyclists' behavior is that cyclists are often not treated as "drivers of vehicles". For example, other drivers often fail to yield right of way, or they yield it inappropriately. Also, some parts of the traffic system are not safely usable for bicycles--unresponsive signal triggers is an obvious example. Many other examples have been discussed in this forum.

    My point is not to catalog all the ways bicycles have trouble with the existing traffic system. My interest is in the question of whether bicyclists should aim to behave "as drivers of vehicles" when they are not treated as such. I agree that the best outcome occurs when both predicates of Forester's statement are true, but it seems to me that when the cyclists are not treated as drivers of vehicles then they are wise not to act like them, either.
    "Le souffle des quatre vents décuple ma puissance."

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    Senior Member Script's Avatar
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    Glad to see someone else can be handed Pandora's box.

    Good luck Scout!

    By the way, Who is John Gault?....sorry, I meant who is John Forester?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Script View Post
    Glad to see someone else can be handed Pandora's box.

    Good luck Scout!

    By the way, Who is John Gault?....sorry, I meant who is John Forester?
    ah, yes it always starts with such innocent curiosity doesn't it?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Scout! View Post
    The central theme of the Vehicular Cycling ideology seems to be J. Forester's pithy formulation: "Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles". We have a traffic system, the argument goes, designed for a given set of behaviors. Bicycling on the road works best when the cyclist fits into that system with minimum fuss.

    The problem I see with using this idea as a prescription for cyclists' behavior is that cyclists are often not treated as "drivers of vehicles". For example, other drivers often fail to yield right of way, or they yield it inappropriately. Also, some parts of the traffic system are not safely usable for bicycles--unresponsive signal triggers is an obvious example. Many other examples have been discussed in this forum.

    My point is not to catalog all the ways bicycles have trouble with the existing traffic system. My interest is in the question of whether bicyclists should aim to behave "as drivers of vehicles" when they are not treated as such. I agree that the best outcome occurs when both predicates of Forester's statement are true, but it seems to me that when the cyclists are not treated as drivers of vehicles then they are wise not to act like them, either.
    It is certainly true that mistreatment happens. But for a cyclist who behaves like a driver of a vehicle, the incidence of this mistreatment is relatively rare, and doesn't even come close to the point where we can say "cyclists are not treated as drivers of vehicles" in such absolute terms as you have above. I can count the number of such incidents of mistreatment per year on the fingers on my hands (on some years, I need only one hand).

    Acting like a driver of a vehicle includes being prepared for inattentive motorists, whether you're driving a car, a bike or a bus. Heck, that's even true if you're walking.

    The thing is, if you don't think, feel and act like a vehicle driver, then you are going to be mistreated much more often. MUCH more often. And then from that experience, it may seem perfectly reasonable to conclude that "cyclists are not treated as drivers of vehicles". Well, indeed, cyclists who do not think, feel and act like vehicle drivers are often not treated as drivers of vehicles. But cyclists who do think, feel and act like vehicle drivers are almost universally treated like drivers of vehicles, with very rare exceptions. I cannot stress that point enough.

    You say you don't want "catalog all the ways bicycles have trouble with the existing traffic system", but I suggest you don't want to because then you would realize how few those ways are, particularly for cyclists who think, feel and act like vehicle drivers. You happened to note one of the few arguably significant issues that vehicular cycling advocates try to get fixed - traffic signals that don't detect cyclists - but even that is pretty minor, and certainly doesn't justify even beginning to support the notion that cyclists are not treated as drivers, so it makes no sense for them to act like drivers.

    To stress the most important point again:

    Indeed, cyclists who do not think, feel and act like vehicle drivers are often not treated as drivers of vehicles. But cyclists who do think, feel and act like vehicle drivers are almost universally treated like drivers of vehicles, with very rare exceptions.

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    In other words, the vehicular cycling principle is: "Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles".

    The vehicular cycling principle is NOT: "Cyclists fare well only if they are treated as drivers of vehicles without exception, and no matter how they act".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head View Post
    It is certainly true that mistreatment happens. But for a cyclist who behaves like a driver of a vehicle, the incidence of this mistreatment is relatively rare, and doesn't even come close to the point where we can say "cyclists are not treated as drivers of vehicles" in such absolute terms as you have above.
    Hopefully this wont digress into unpleasantries at which point I will not partake anymore
    but this may apply to your area. It certainly DOESNT apply in any way shape or form
    to where I or others ride. I can even recall threads from people who are familier with
    both of our areas that call you on this. Here in SF, you will be routinely assaulted on
    an almost daily basis ranging from just a bothersome horn to an intentional, dangerous
    crowding situation. Anyone from this area will back me up on this. Drivers here are
    stupid and mean. Fortunately for you, it appears you live amoung people who havent
    tricked Darwinism. We arent that lucky. Ive lived up and down the East Coast, three
    different places since joining BF alone and all areas have there own predisposition.
    To say the stuff you say based on your area alone is not realistic. Other people live
    in violently aggressive areas, too....DC/Virgina area, Atlanta, etc. Im sure they will
    have similar responses to the absolute terms you have posted.
    -ADVOCACY-☜ Radical VC = Car people on bikes. Just say "NO"

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    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scout! View Post
    "Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles"
    the fatal flaw of this approach is that it requires the buy-in of the other 95% of the road users in their motor vehicles; yet for some reason the Foresterologists eschew motorist education as non-essential to the success of vehicular cycling.

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    53 miles per burrito urban_assault's Avatar
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    And so it begins...

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    I've spent enough time at the wheel of a car to question whether I want to be treated as the driver of a vehicle.

    It's my opinion that drivers of motor vehicles threaten and harass each other far more than they bother cyclists.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by randya View Post
    the fatal flaw of this approach is that it requires the buy-in of the other 95% of the road users in their motor vehicles; yet for some reason the Foresterologists eschew motorist education as non-essential to the success of vehicular cycling.
    This gets brought up from time to time and the answer is always the same: ask any vehicular cyclist and they will tell you that 99% or more of their motorist encounters are as good as they are going to get. What do you expect motorist education to really achieive?

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    Quote Originally Posted by -=£em in Pa=- View Post
    Hopefully this wont digress into unpleasantries at which point I will not partake anymore
    but this may apply to your area. It certainly DOESNT apply in any way shape or form
    to where I or others ride. I can even recall threads from people who are familier with
    both of our areas that call you on this. Here in SF, you will be routinely assaulted on
    an almost daily basis
    ranging from just a bothersome horn to an intentional, dangerous
    crowding situation. Anyone from this area will back me up on this. Drivers here are
    stupid and mean. Fortunately for you, it appears you live amoung people who havent
    tricked Darwinism. We arent that lucky. Ive lived up and down the East Coast, three
    different places since joining BF alone and all areas have there own predisposition.
    To say the stuff you say based on your area alone is not realistic. Other people live
    in violently aggressive areas, too....DC/Virgina area, Atlanta, etc. Im sure they will
    have similar responses to the absolute terms you have posted.
    Even if you encounter harassment once per day (more often than "on an almost daily basis"), that means the overwhelming majority of SF drivers treat you well. What's the problem?

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    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by randya View Post
    the fatal flaw of this approach is that it requires the buy-in of the other 95% of the road users in their motor vehicles; yet for some reason the Foresterologists eschew motorist education as non-essential to the success of vehicular cycling.
    Not sure what you mean by buy-in, but vehicular cyclists all over the country report no additional change in motorist behavior/attitude is required in order for them to be treated well enough to use vehicular cycling with only infrequent incidents of harassment, which they already achieve.

    And it's not just vehicular cyclists. A theme in Robert Hurst's book is all about accepting the situation as it is, and the way he recommends riding is not significantly different in terms of behavior that is more or less likely to inspire the kind of harassment vehicular cycling skeptics seem to fear.

    Motorist education is of course essential for the success of vehicular cycling (so motorists know how to drive in accordance with the rules of the road, more or less), but not more than is already available and utilized.
    And neither 100% adherence to the rules of the road by motorists, nor flawless attention on the part of motorists, is required for the success of vehicular cycling either (for the same reasons these characteristics are not required for the success of defensive driving).

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    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocruiser View Post
    I've spent enough time at the wheel of a car to question whether I want to be treated as the driver of a vehicle.

    It's my opinion that drivers of motor vehicles threaten and harass each other far more than they bother cyclists.
    There are friends and family members who are more prone to harassment and crashes than are others. When you are a passenger in their car it quickly becomes obvious why.

    The biggest factor, by far, in determining how you are treated, or the likelihood you will be in a crash, is your behavior. This is just as true if you're driving a car, motorcycle, bicycle or bus. I can't even imagine what factor might come in second place, but I know it would be a distant, distant second. This is a point that defensive driving, Hurst's Urban Cycling, and Forester's vehicular cycling all have in common.

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    Quote Originally Posted by joejack951 View Post
    This gets brought up from time to time and the answer is always the same: ask any vehicular cyclist and they will tell you that 99% or more of their motorist encounters are as good as they are going to get. What do you expect motorist education to really achieve?
    Good luck. The only one I've ever gotten to answer this question is Gene, and his answer was quite vague.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head View Post
    Even if you encounter harassment once per day (more often than "on an almost daily basis"), that means the overwhelming majority of SF drivers treat you well. What's the problem?

    That is riding somewhat passively, in the bike lanes.
    You couldnt take a lane here and of the high population
    of bike riders, Ive never seen it done.
    I suppose one could try based on the knowledge that there
    have been a few people who have survived long falls out
    of airplanes but Im not going to be the one to try it.
    There is a difference between not hitting, and treating well.
    SF drivers most assuredly do not treat you well. Vermont
    drivers treat you well.
    -ADVOCACY-☜ Radical VC = Car people on bikes. Just say "NO"

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    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocruiser View Post
    I've spent enough time at the wheel of a car to question whether I want to be treated as the driver of a vehicle.

    It's my opinion that drivers of motor vehicles threaten and harass each other far more than they bother cyclists.
    Really? So while driving, you have had things thrown at you from other cars???

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    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joejack951 View Post
    What do you expect motorist education to really achieive?
    To begin, while I think that the vast majority of drivers are civilized with respect to cyclists, I doubt that the 99.9% is accurate. Moreover, I don't know why vehicular cyclists -- whoever they are -- would be the authority on the figure.

    I believe that there is a misconception regarding rights to the road and appropriate lane positioning. If a person of authority -- or organization for that matter -- made it clear what they are, my guess is that bad behavior that originates from the sense of driver entitlement would decrease significantly. More generally, it would probably improve the casual cyclist-motorist relationship since a part of the argument would be resolved.

    EDIT: Mind you, I don't think that motorist education would be a panacea, nor do I think that it need be a huge affair. A few questions -- ??potential questions?? -- on driver exams would probably do.
    Last edited by invisiblehand; 02-03-08 at 09:00 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scout! View Post
    The central theme of the Vehicular Cycling ideology seems to be J. Forester's pithy formulation: "Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles".
    "Pithy" is one way to describe the bottom line theme of Forester ideology. More accurately is a trite cliché; an unmeasurable platitude with no defined metrics for "faring best". In what way do believers in Vehicular Cycling ideology "fare best"?

    Forester's conclusions of "fare best" rests on his own Smoke and Mirrors Analysis of a chimerical population of cyclists allegedly "likely" to be practicing unspecified vehicular cycling techniques more than other cyclists, by some unknown, unmeasured degree.
    Last edited by iltb-2; 02-03-08 at 11:24 AM.

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    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by -=£em in Pa=- View Post
    There is a difference between not hitting, and treating well.
    What is it?

    Quote Originally Posted by -=£em in Pa=- View Post
    SF drivers most assuredly do not treat you well. Vermont drivers treat you well.
    I don't know what your answer is to the above; but I ride in San Francisco occasionally. What is wrong with the drivers there? Maybe the key word here is "well".

    I make no claims regarding my being a global rider with the ability to compare urban environments to make universal assessments. However, I am just comparing lots of riding in DC with my travel to NYC, San Francisco/Oakland, and Albuquerque (relatively tiny to the other areas) to the club rides in rural areas. I don't recall anything nefarious about Bay area drivers relative to other areas. Then again, if you think that most drivers fail to treat you well, then the statement makes sense.

    That begets the question, "What do you mean by treat 'well'?"

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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
    What is it?

    ...

    That begets the question, "What do you mean by treat 'well'?"
    Which of course begets "What do any of the VC Proselytizers mean by "cyclists fare best"? And how do they know it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by -=£em in Pa=- View Post
    That is riding somewhat passively, in the bike lanes.
    You couldnt take a lane here and of the high population
    of bike riders, Ive never seen it done.
    I suppose one could try based on the knowledge that there
    have been a few people who have survived long falls out
    of airplanes but Im not going to be the one to try it.
    There is a difference between not hitting, and treating well.
    Thank you for admitting that you've never tried, and never seen anyone try, that which you so vociferously denounce.

    By the way, no one is suggesting taking the lane when a bike lane is present, the space it demarcates happens to be the safe and reasonable place to be for the circumstances, and faster same direction traffic is present. If I took the main traffic lane in such a circumstance, I too would expect some increased harassment. It's posts like this that cause me to believe most of you vc contrarians don't understand what you're opposing.


    Quote Originally Posted by -=£em in Pa=- View Post
    SF drivers most assuredly do not treat you well. Vermont
    drivers treat you well.
    Considering you run into a SF driver that does not treat you well less often than once per day, isn't that broad generalization a tad absurd?
    Last edited by Helmet Head; 02-03-08 at 09:44 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
    What is it?



    I don't know what your answer is to the above; but I ride in San Francisco occasionally. What is wrong with the drivers there? Maybe the key word here is "well".

    I make no claims regarding my being a global rider with the ability to compare urban environments to make universal assessments. However, I am just comparing lots of riding in DC with my travel to NYC, San Francisco/Oakland, and Albuquerque (relatively tiny to the other areas) to the club rides in rural areas. I don't recall anything nefarious about Bay area drivers relative to other areas. Then again, if you think that most drivers fail to treat you well, then the statement makes sense.

    That begets the question, "What do you mean by treat 'well'?"
    San Francisco? I've been assuming Lem means South Florida when he writes "SF".
    Last edited by Helmet Head; 02-03-08 at 10:09 AM.

  23. #23
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    Oh boy......Every time I lower myself to partake of the absurd hypothesizing,
    provincial generalizations and over-the-top petty semantics I regret it.


    The important question here is, when will I ever learn ?
    -ADVOCACY-☜ Radical VC = Car people on bikes. Just say "NO"

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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
    To begin, while I think that the vast majority of drivers are civilized with respect to cyclists, I doubt that the 99.9% is accurate. Moreover, I don't know why vehicular cyclists -- whoever they are -- would be the authority on the figure.

    I believe that there is a misconception regarding rights to the road and appropriate lane positioning. If a person of authority -- or organization for that matter -- made it clear what they are, my guess is that bad behavior that originates from the sense of driver entitlement would decrease significantly. More generally, it would probably improve the casual cyclist-motorist relationship since a part of the argument would be resolved.

    EDIT: Mind you, I don't think that motorist education would be a panacea, nor do I think that it need be a huge affair. A few questions -- ??potential questions?? -- on driver exams would probably do.
    Let's say you're right, and that some kind of motorist education would have these results: bad behavior that originates from the sense of driver entitlement would decrease significantly.

    For a cyclist like me, the total amount of motorist "bad behavior" that I encounter and affects me that originates for any reason whatsoever is so rare that my behavior is virtually unaffected by it. So eliminating motorist bad behavior altogether would have little effect. And reducing an essentially insignificant problem by some small percentage (the percentage of all bad behavior that "originates from the sense of driver entitlement") would be even less significant. So I would be honked at 0 times per year instead of 6 times. Big deal.

    Okay, so that's me. What about other cyclists you say? Fine. If you look at cyclist fatalities, at least half originate from bad behavior on the part of the cyclist. And that's using a conservative assessment of cyclist "bad behavior", and does not include all behavior that I would include being "bad" (such as going straight from the right side of the lane into an intersection without due diligence, passing a slowing motorist on the right, etc.). But, let's say for the sake of argument that in half of car-bike cyclist fatalilties "bad behavior" on the part of the motorist is the major factor. Of those, what percentage do you believe the bad behavior "originates from the sense of driver entitlement"? Frankly, I would be surprised if it was 5%, and would not be surprised if it was less than 1%. But even if it's 10% (double the most I think it could possibly be, that's 10% of half). Assuming about 800 cyclists are killed per year, that means, at most, we would save about 40 cyclist lives per year. You say, that's great, 40 lives are worth saving, no matter the cost. But imagine if we spent all that focus and energy within the cycling community, and a fraction of those millions, on bringing about change in cyclist behavior instead... we could save not just up to 80 lives per year, but hundreds of lives per year, and countless more injuries. This is why I'm an advocate of best practices in traffic cycling.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head View Post
    The biggest factor, by far, in determining how you are treated, or the likelihood you will be in a crash, is your behavior. This is just as true if you're driving a car, motorcycle, bicycle or bus. I can't even imagine what factor might come in second place, but I know it would be a distant, distant second. This is a point that defensive driving, Hurst's Urban Cycling, and Forester's vehicular cycling all have in common.
    Correct.

    How does that relate to my post that you quoted?

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