Tuesday, July 10, 2012

In Appreciation of John Forester

Browsing the DFW Point to Point blog the other day, I learned about the recent release of the 7th edition of John Forester's Effective Cycling - that classic tome espousing the vehicular cycling philosophy. Thinking about this book, I feel great affection toward my own tattered blue copy.

When it comes to bicycle infrastructure, Metro Boston has changed considerably since I first began riding here. In Spring 2009 the majority of my routes involved traveling along streets with no infrastructure what so ever. When I discovered Vehicular Cycling, I thus interpreted it not as something that was a matter of agreeing or disagreeing with, but as a necessary tool for the realities of my environment. John Forester believes that bicyclists should behave like vehicles, sharing roads with motorised traffic. Effective Cycling gives precise and detailed instructions on how to do that.

As an absolute beginner, I purchased an older edition of the book and found it immensely helpful. It educated me about traffic maneuvers from the bottom up: Starting with very basic concepts that I was able to implement right away, then getting into more nuanced ideas that became useful once I gained a bit of experience and courage. And just as importantly, Effective Cycling got me into an "I can do this. I have a right to do this." frame of mind. It seems almost hard to believe now, but at the time I was often the only bicyclist out on the roads and there were no social or infrastructural cues to indicate that it was okay to ride a bike on the street. No sharrows, no "share the road" signs, no other people on bikes. Drivers would routinely shout "You're not supposed to be here!" at me, incredulous at my very presence. Effective Cycling gave me the confidence and the skills to operate in that kind of environment, and to do it safely.

Today there are bike lanes, sharrows and signage along most of my routes through the city. There are also many other cyclists out on the roads. The combined effect of this has been an increased awareness and acceptance of bicycling. The infrastructure here is far from perfect. The drivers are still far from nice. But nonetheless things are much better than they were three years ago. There is less hostility, less stress. It no longer seems abnormal to ride in the city, and cycling feels more accessible to beginners.

Extreme proponents of the Vehicular Cycling philosophy are against bicycling infrastructure of any kind, believing that separated paths and bike lanes are not in the best interest of cyclists. Often they will actively fight against infrastructure, making it a point to attend town meetings and speak out against it. Conversely, those who favour infrastructure tend to position themselves against Vehicular Cycling, viewing it is a discredited philosophy and a lost cause. But from where I stand, this battle manufactures an unnecessary and ultimately damaging dichotomy.

While I have experienced the benefits of cycling infrastructure firsthand, I nonetheless find the principles of Vehicular Cycling indispensable in environments where said infrastructure is unavailable or imperfect - or when I choose to operate a bicycle on the open road for other reasons. I do not agree with John Forester on every point, but I value much of his advice on riding in traffic. I would encourage cyclists of all persuasions to keep an open mind and give Effective Cycling a read.

48 comments:

  1. Given Forester's age, it's likely that the latest edition of Effective Cycling will be the last.

    An earlier edition of his work was invaluable to me, and many other cyclists of my generation. It came along at a time when there were few cycling resources available in the US, but even with the plethora of material on the Internet, his work still is relevant.

    I think that if his philosophy of vehicular cycling were more widely adopted, it would bring more respect to cycling than all of the misguided attempts at creating infrastructure we have seen. That said, I think the philosophy of vehicular cycling would also do more to bring about safe and useful infrastructure instead of the Bike Paths To Nowhere and worse that we see too often.

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  2. This post will open the storm gates!

    The way I see it is this: John Forester's VC advice works moderately well as a coping mechanism for dealing with traffic. However, his boneheaded stance that VC is the highest standard has held back cycling's widespread adoption in the States and elsewhere. I keep my own well-worn copy of his book at the ready, but have to grit my teeth every time I read that "Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles." Really?! Tell that to the cyclists (including me) hit by cars!

    http://examinedspoke.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/forty-years-later/

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    1. I absolutely agree. Forester's approach to managing yourself in traffic will keep you alive. But he helped inspire a movement of people who argue against infrastructure for cycling ("useful idiots" for the car companies one might posit.)

      In my town, the only organized voices that have spoken against bike lanes have been the local business association and certain cycling groups.

      Only 3% of the population are hardy enough and brave enough to ride a long commute without infrastructure. It is time for cycling to become more than a domain for the very hardiest riders.

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    2. It does give new riders an ability to cope with their fear. But it does so by appealing to a "My balls are biggest philosophy". Will it keep you alive? Forester loves to claim that the evidence supports him but if you read the studies he references (when he bothers to) they don't support his bolder assertions like taking the whole lane. In fact, the usually don't say anything about it at all. Forester is a master at appealing to peoples general poor risk assessment ability (hey, mine suck too!) and avoiding actual empirical evidence.

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  3. Cycling like a vehicle was the only option when I started cycling in the 1950s. So-called cycling infrastructure began to come along maybe 35-40 years ago. Much of it has always been well-intended, but misguided. I live in a medium sized Canadian city (pop. around 70 thousand). It has many kilometres of cycle path - most of it a long way from the steets you need to ride to get anywhere in town. And some of it is disasterously poor design, forcing dangerous crosses of side streets and rail tracks. I feel much safer riding the shoulder of the arterials, even the four lane highway. Then the cyclist is part of traffic that crosses side streets with vehicle stop lines and stop-lights. Unfortunately, the nearby presence of cycle paths may make some motor vehicle drivers regard the cyclist as being out of place on the shoulder of the road. In the past (in Seattle) I was even stopped and told I had to use a provided cycle path - by a police officer who agreed the path was more dangerous than the shoulder(!)

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  4. Spot-on. A briefer (and free!) version of the basic principles of vehicular cycling can be found in John S. Allen's Bicycling Street Smarts, which John has kindly made available online. He even has a version for countries where traffic drives on the left!

    I've been reading John Forester's intemperate attacks on bicycle infrastructure on and off since the mid-90s (first on rec.bicycles.misc, and now on the Bicycle Driving group). I was sympathetic to them in the 90s, when I was living in Berlin, where cyclists were obliged to use separate infrastructure where it existed, even though much of the cycling infrastructure was poorly planned and in bad condition. I'm less so now. Even then, though, I thought Forester was unnecessarily alienating potential allies by bandying words and phrases such as "incompetent" (to describe cyclists who can't or won't ride in traffic) and "cyclist inferiority complex."

    Jeff Mapes has a judicious overview of the Vehicular Cycling movement in his Pedaling Revolution.

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  5. "...this battle manufactures an unnecessary and ultimately damaging dichotomy."

    And that about captures the essence. Most of us ride wherever we ride and Forester is at his best when describing what to do in given circumstances. He is at his worst when describing psychobabble motivations.

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  6. The UK equivalent of John Forrester is John Franklin, who wrote a similar vehicular cycling handbook called Cyclecraft.

    Extreme proponents of the Vehicular Cycling philosophy are against bicycling infrastructure of any kind, believing that separated paths and bike lanes are not in the best interest of cyclists. Often they will actively fight against infrastructure, making it a point to attend town meetings and speak out against it. Conversely, those who favour infrastructure position themselves against Vehicular Cycling, viewing it is a discredited philosophy and a lost cause.

    I have encountered a few of the extreme VC proponents to which you refer, although they are very few in number. I have yet to meet anyone who takes issue with the techniques of VC as a coping mechanism for cycling on roads whose design and users do not take cycling into account whatsoever. I am a vehicular cyclist myself out of necessity. However, as a solution in itself, the research consensus shows VC inherently inferior to high quality infrastructure (such as in The Netherlands) in terms of objective safety, subjective safety and participation in utility cycling.

    So, I will join you in paying tribute to Effective Cycling and its cousin Cyclecraft for they have helped many people gain the skills they need to keep cycling safely in hostile conditions. However, I strongly feel that we need to prevent VC-as-a-philosophy from holding back the cause of cycling for the average person by being used as an excuse to oppose, in the USA and the UK, the kind of high-quality segregated infrastructure which has such an impressive track record in The Netherlands.

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  7. I view Effective Cycling as being like a good set of rules for how to live with cancer or some other chronic illness. Invaluable if you have cancer, but really, better not to have cancer in the first place.

    I make that harsh comparison because EC has been nearly useless at increasing ride share. It's been out for 37 years (first edition appeared in 1975, but the ideas were out there before -- I raced and trained around 1972-1974, and they were known then, at least in that crowd) and if it was going to work, I think it should have by now. All the uptick I've seen in the last decade is I think a result of more infrastructure and some amount of increased political, environmental, and health awareness. The main reason for the failure is (caricaturing, again) that EC is "cycling for Spock" -- if you only pay attention to the numbers, and not to your panic at having cars whoosh past from behind, then you can do it. If you cannot get past the cars whooshing by, then you'll never start, and you may not let your kids (who are more able to get over the panic -- at least I was) do it much either.

    And in practice most people do not pay attention to the numbers, because if they did, in places like Cambridge and Somerville, they simply would not drive. The trips are too short, the traffic too thick, the parking too crappy, and the health costs are catastrophic (that is what the numbers tell you -- it's probably 10x more dangerous not to bike, than it is to bike).

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  8. Right on! I have spent many years fighting for more accommodating bicycle infrastructure in Los Angeles, but have also benefited greatly from EF. People who trash it are basically arguing that I should have spent most of the last 45 years in a car rather than on a bike as I have. Without EF to get us early (re)adopters out on the street, the rest would not be happening in the US.

    It helped build the constituency, and it is still absolutely necessary in many parts of the country if you actually want to ride to wherever you need to go, rather than arranging urban recreational rides that follow the little infrastructure there is. EF gives you real freedom to ride any road, any time, without waiting for turgid city administrations to get around to building something.

    And while we're at it: all those fixie punx people love to diss are a huge help too. Politicians are well aware that they vote or will soon grow up to vote. There are far more fixie punx in LA than there are dressy sorts on upright cruisers--furthermore, they put in lots of miles and are highly visible.

    We have a long way to go, and EF will still be necessary for practical cycling here for quite a while. After all, it took the Netherlands thirty years to work up to what they are now.

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  9. I wish more vehicular cyclists thought about Forrester's teachings as you do- as a tool that should be combined with other tools to make us safer on the road. I can say from experience that it's disheartening to attend city hall meetings where many people rally for bike lanes and cycle tracks, and VC-ers scream for NO bike infrastructure. It makes bike advocates look disjointed from the outside, and then our message gets lost. Thanks for starting smart conversation about diverse topics, V!

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  10. Wasn't John Forester kicked out of the League of American bicyclists because of his staunch opposition to any and all bike paths? He was President of the LAB during the 1980s. If he toned down his rhetoric a little, I think people would still respect him. His book does have some good ideas, but it is too one sided for modern times.

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  11. Vehicular cycling is what we all do anyway. Forester tried to reduce common sense and observed behavior to a system. When that book came out in 1976 nearly all riders outside of Palo Alto shrugged and dismissed it. We knew what was in there.

    The lasting effect has been on new and fearful riders. Forester gives them permission to do what they already want to do. Permission in a fat bound volume is different than if I tell you, sure, go ride a bike.

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  12. I love bike lanes and it's a shame that VC'ers do not. But why throw the baby out with the bath water? I appreciate Effective Cycling for much the same reasons you do. We all find ourselves riding in traffic at some point or another.

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    1. Where did you ever get this idea? I am a flaming VCer and am also supportive of infrastructure. I have never met one of those mythical VCers who allegedly hate all bike lanes.

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    2. Dallas's bike coordinator for many years was one of those flaming VCers who hates infrastructure. His proudest accomplishment was tearing out the last mile of bike lane in all of Dallas before he was fired. The whole infuriating story is at:

      http://www.dallasobserver.com/2009-11-26/news/dallas-former-bike-czar-tells-newbie-riders-to-go-play-in-traffic/

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    3. this nut is trotted out repeatedly by those who smear VC cyclists. do you or caroline personally know a VC cyclist who hates bike lanes or are you perhaps just letting your prejudice show?

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    4. John Forester actively fought against bike lanes and paths when he lived in Palo Alto. Some of that story can be found in Mapes's book, "Cycling Revolution."

      I find it interesting to note that Stanford University, within minutes of Palo Alto, has a wonderful set of Dutch-style bicycle paths around its campus. I used them extensively when I was there in the 1980s, as did most student. The center of campus is closed off to motor vehicles. Forester may have used the Stanford paths in his safety "experiments." I never thought about it much, then, as I came from a town without paths, too, but I do remember having to think about traffic whenever I left campus for a haircut or to pick up a new CD. Riding on campus was a lot easier.

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    5. If you visit John Forester's own web site, you will see that he continues to actively oppose all bicycle infrastructure as well as all organizations that advocate for bicycle infrastructure. http://www.johnforester.com/

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    6. As it turns out, yes, I do know several anti-infrastructure VC nutjobs, and in Seattle and Portland, no less. Crazy is everywhere, just in different proportions. ;-)

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    7. in my experience, many if not most VC cyclists support well planned infrastructure. most of us are simply trying to get from point A to B safely. stereotyping us is not helpful.

      in fact, it seems to me that those advocating for separated infrastructure are taking steadily more extreme positions. in pdx there has been criticism of cyclists taking the lane on commercial thoroughfares from so-called cycling advocates. in the netherlands and denmark infrastructure is built on arterials and major commercial thoroughfares while here is the usa the tendency has been to shunt cyclists out of the way. i refuse to be a second class road user.

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  13. I first began biking for transportation in the late 70's, when I was in my teens, and VC was very helpful in teaching me to transition from riding as a kid to riding as an adult on real streets.

    Having said that, though, I agree with many other posters that Forester's (and other extreme VCers') staunch opposition to bicycle infrastructure is short-sighted and ignorant. I'll go further, even - I think that Forester and other VCer's are engaging in politics that can actually harm cycling in the US. (Although the fact that they are relatively ineffective mitigates this somewhat.)

    Cycling cannot and shouldn't be reserved for the 1% of the population who are "competent" cyclists. We need far more regular cyclists than that, and very different types of cyclists. We need out of shape cyclists who can barely ride 5 miles, but who would be willing to ride 2 miles to the store if they could avoid jockeying with traffic. We need cyclists in the 60+ age bracket who took up the activity last year. We need kids who can safely ride places on their bikes so they will grow up to be the next bike-riding generation.

    VC remains an important tool for all transportation cyclists, and Forester deserves much credit for popularizing it. But I think it's important to realize that there are better ways to make cycling safe and effective, and that these involve segregated cycling facilities.

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  14. You propose separating JFs politics from his practical teachings. Personally I am not sure that's possible. I read the book a decade ago, but would not support the author by buying the new edition.

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    1. there is no need to buy the book, all the info is available online freely

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  15. I read Effective Cycling in about 1979, when I was working for the transportation division of one of America's premier cycling cities. I have kept it on the shelf near my Sutherland Manual pretty much ever since. That book gave me very specific tools I had not previously enunciated, and it has substantially informed my street cycling techniques and strategies ever since.

    I'm not taking a position that Forester was 100% right about everything, but he suceeded in advancing the discussion. He succeeded in legitimizing bicycle transportation engineering, which had typically been only a casual and amateurish afterthought. Where municipalities today have the ability and space to construct separate bike infrastructure, and choose to do so, I hope that the concerns Forester raised continue to help refine and improve that infrastructure, so that bicycle traffic can flow as efficiently as possible. Where I am able to, I will continue to flow with traffic, taking my place in the row of cars where conditions call for it, making eye contact as I signal, remaining visible, remaining predictable, and so on.

    Forester made a huge contribution to bicycle transportation engineering. One doesn't have to agree completely with him to understand how profound that contribution was. I'm very grateful to him.

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    1. There's really no need for Forester when it comes to planning bike infrastructure. You can read just about everything you need to know on David Hembrow's blog "A View From The Cycle Path".

      The problem with John Forester's teachings is that he's so uncompromising. Sure, he's got quite a few points about how to survive in a bike-unfriendly environment, but in some cases he's plain and simple wrong. "Taking the lane" should certainly not allways be done where he recommends it.

      The man certainly loves cycling, but on the whole, I tend to believe that he's done more harm than good.

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    2. Your post lacks both geographic and historic context. A quick look at Hembrow's blog, which I am sure is valuable, leads me to conclude that it addresses conditions that are not typically found in the US, and Hembrow was nought but a glimmer in his mamma's eye when Forester wrote his book.

      Give the man some credit.

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    3. Hembrow addresses "all those excuses". Here: http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2011/02/all-those-myths-and-excuses-in-one-post.html. A quick look is not allways enough :-)

      And I can tell you that Forester is as stubborn as ever.

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  16. The so-called VC'ers fear that the creation of infrastructure will limit cyclists' rights to use the roads, as it does in a number of European countries. This is not an unreasonable concern and I share it despite generally favoring infrastructure.

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    1. I'm absolutely certain that the Dutch model is the safest for all traffic: Divide it after weight, speed and direction. It has worked: 40 years ago, their number of traffic fatalities per million km. were equal to the American. Today, it's only 50%.

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  17. Cyclists fare best when there's lots of us.

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  18. Oh, if I could give a penny for the comments you're receiving for this post!

    I read all of EC cover to cover too. And I will go out and admit that I don't think there is anyone in the entire world who has studied JF as much as I have. That being said...

    I think the vast majority of the book is fine and filled with good info and really is targeted to the road cyclist who wants to both improve performance and comfort (nebulous as the usage of that word may be) while road cycling (not cycling for transportation).

    The part (in the book)which I am most annoyed with is the politics section and his detailing of specific strategies to fight infrastructure which his...uh...followers followers to the letter. I went down the list one time and was pretty impressed with the devotion with which they followed the guidelines. It urges fighting it based on the idea of getting the decision makers to question the analysis of the proponents (criticism, as you know - is extremely easy and nearly always is the trump card in public debates), getting decision makers to fear lawsuits which many of his supporters have threatened to file (often with success). They've raised all sorts of boogeyman dangers while simultaneously hiding their real agenda - a desire to ride fast in an attempt to aspire to be good road cyclists (even, a racer?).

    The book, I think is geared for the sort of trips that you're starting to do more of and for the rider who has a bit of a diy streak in them and rides bikes designed for long, hard trips. Unfortunately, it has entered and (annoyingly) stayed within the discourse on how we can best mitigate some of the nuisances that has arisen from an auto-centric society. Urban environments are growing and knowing how to allocate land use efficiently and equitably should be a focus. Instead, we have an annoying distraction personified by JF and his loyal followers. I know why: he has a legacy to preserve and the tiny politics chapter is what he is now known by - whether he likes it or not. The rest of the book material has given Sheldon Brown much deserved adulation...too bad, JF isn't known for that stuff.

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  19. Perhaps a few words about what American cycling was like when Effective Cycling came out would be in order.

    Forester was writing from and about the Bay Area. Almost not part of America at all. On the mainland adult cycling was transgressive. There were many bike shops that did not want adult customers, except as purchasers of bikes for their children. If a cyclist was hit by a car it was the cyclist's fault, evidence and egregious circumstances were not considered. Any cyclist mad enough to appear in public in kit was either viewed as an hallucination or a homosexual. A flaming in-your-face homosexual who deserved what he got. Which was most often beer bottles thrown out the windows of passing cars. Foolery with guns occurred too often. Riders got to know the sound of a car that was aiming to hit. If someone inquired about women's cycling my response was to ask which woman they were referring to. Possibly you know one I don't know?

    Cycling in the 70s was for children, university precincts, and immigrants. My earliest forays into racing were stymied by not knowing Flemish, Italian or German. Adults who rode were often thought to be mentally defective. God help you if you met a policeman.

    Infrastructure for cycling was unknown. Examples from Amsterdam or Copenhagen might as well have been from Mars. When the odd municipal initiative occurred, even if it was Bay Area, it was a certainty whatever was constructed would be a mess.

    We rode anyway. Bicycles are fun. They are addictive. They are a good thing. We rode as vehicles because there was no choice. Those of us who rode were all pretty damn competent. It was a prerequisite. None of us even thought of explaining to outsiders what we were doing or why, but Forester did.

    Phil Miller's comment is enormously on target. Only in the past few years have I had the sense that motorists actually see me with any frequency. It is still amazing to realize that cars now sometimes yield. In all seriousness if a driver forty years back saw an adult cyclist they did not quite believe that apparition was real. If you think you're seeing pink elephants one way to deal with that is to drive your car into the elephant to make it go away. Motorists now know for sure that we are there. Because there are a lot of us.

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    1. I was there back then too. I lived in Davis, CA during the school year and in Knoxville, TN during the summer. The difference for a cyclist? What WASN'T different?

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    2. Maybe my experience is peculiar, but I was biking in Florida before any edition of EC was ever in print, and we had a fair number of local races, and at least one century per year, plus a regular time-trial series in the winter not far from where I lived. The ideas were out there. There was no question, either from most law enforcement or from any of us, that we belonged in the street, and the the right-hand wheel position was the best place to be. We knew about visibility, we knew about eye contact, we did the whole same-rules thing. We did get some crap from rednecks, but frankly, some of us were rednecks, and we could drawl the drawl as well as any of them (I heard of at least one guy with a gun holster strapped to his stem). Only seriously obnoxious crap came from my peers, i.e., boneheaded teenage boys, and there's still remnants of that today.

      The stories I hear of California at the same time sound startlingly worse, which surprises me quite a lot, because Florida was kinda backwards. You combine rednecks with old people looking for a warm tax haven (no income tax, low taxes on mobile homes), you don't get progressive.

      The biggest difference for me, now, is that cars don't stink. Back then, if a car didn't pass you in a hurry and you got a lung-full of exhaust, you would just about throw up from all the CO that you inhaled.

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    3. Davis had bike lanes, bike trails everywhere - both on campus and all around town. In 1970. In fact, well before I arrived. Signs greeting you into town said, "Davis, home of 30,000 people and 30,000 bicycles."
      This should NOT be generalized to all of California. Davis was a little utopia community that demonstrated how life could be. Los Angeles (terrible smog back then) was not. San Francisco (wheel eating abandoned cable car tracks) was not.

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  20. Effective Cycling was originally published by the MIT Press. I worked there in the late 80s and provided copies for all my cycling friends. I am not a VC fundamentalist, but I benefited enormously from his instructions on how to change lanes, behave at an intersection, turn into a one-way or two-way street. He had run the statistics and was able to identify the situations in which accidents happened most frequently and explain how they could be avoided. It is his research underwrites the standard safety maneuvers taught to any beginner.

    I also learned from him how to use my gears to cycle efficiently, how to eat to avoid bonk and how to do some simple bike repairs. As to infrastructure--I'm for anything that works.

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  21. I used to be opposed to bike lanes (let alone bike paths, a whole other issue) because typically they're alongside parking lanes and right in the "door zone", and I felt that it encouraged a false sense of security among inexperienced riders, while riders who knew about car doors would end up riding to the left of the bike lane half the time anyway. But as we've gotten more and more of them around the Boston area, I've decided that even if that may still be the case, in practice the bike lane still creates a little more space, a buffer zone between traffic and parked cars.
    That said, I spent two years in Germany in a smallish, modern city where most of the infrastructure is relatively new and in good condition. But the bike lanes were on the sidewalk. They were a royal pain for someone like me who was commuting ~8 mi from a suburb because they were slow, and I found myself frequently taking longer routes that allowed me to use faster roads and avoid the sidewalk bike lanes. But I can't deny that they probably were better for the kids on their way to school and the Omas and Opas (grandmas and grandpas) on their way to the grocery store. So although I hated using them myself, I suspect that their prevalence was indirectly a contributing factor in the good behavior of drivers toward cyclists which I very much appreciated.

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    1. I think the sidewalk bike lanes are a cop-out. I tried some in Berlin and didn't like them. There needs to be a kerb between the cyclists and pedestrians, otherwise pedestrians come to find cylists a nuisance, which is really quite sad.

      I believe cycle paths are compulsory in Germany (as they are here in Sweden) which is really annoying given their poor quality. It also makes motorists more aggressive. I find most Swedish motorists are kind and polite, but they don't like it when I'm not on the crappy bike path.

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  22. I like his ideas on how to ride in traffic, which I learned by doing and by learning how to drive - after, a bicycle is now considered a vehicle in Massachusetts.

    I am agnostic on the vehicular cycling vs bicycling infrastructure debate outside of the city. I am happy to have the infrastructure inside the city. I find Mr. Forester's website overpowering.

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  23. The reasons many VC cyclists oppose infrastructure are mostly two-fold:
    1) They actually do little to nothing to improve safety and therefore give a false sense of security to beginning bicyclsits. They may decrease safety for bicyclists who know how to bicycle in a VC manner; and
    2)There is some worry cyclists will eventually be restricted to streets with facilities. This may make VC cyclists less safe and ( more importantly IMO) make it harder to use a bicycle for transportation.

    I actually agree with the first statement, unsure about the second. But I do know that many beginning ( and even advanced) bicyclists feel that bicycling is more acceptable and they get less hostile reactions from motorists on streets with facilities.

    So maybe, even if the facilites make cyclists a less less safe, they are worth it. I'm not sure yet.

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    1. Actually, even crappy bike infrastructure (like what you can find from, say, London on Youtube) seems to increase safety. The thing is, Forester has repeated his 35 years old findings, that on streets and roads without bike lanes, intersections are where most accidents happen, for so long that most people now believe him. And he's right about the number of accidents, but the majority of fatalities are between intersections. foresters response: "There are fates that are worse than death". Oh well...

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    2. Sorry Peter, Forester has misled you along with many others. Cycle facilities make cycling safer and more attractive. The hard data prove Forester to be wrong.

      The Netherlands has a very high rate of cycling, people of all ages and abilities ride bikes every day, there's tons of cycle infrastructure, and yet it has the best cycling safety record too. The whole country is living proof that infrastructure works, it increases the amount of cycling and improves the safety of cyclists. (It also reduces traffic jams!)

      Your irrational fears of being banned from the roads are a separate issue which should be fought on its own terms!

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  24. How about this mix of VC and infrastructure? A quick round of Amsterdam's center:
    http://schlijper.nl/120710-00-amsterdam-city-center-tour.photo

    No opposition at all. VC where there is no infrastructure.

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    1. Indeed. VC will work splendidly where speed limits are very low. And as the Dutch generally practice "twenty is plenty" in city centres and residential areas, well... :-)

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  25. God bless John Forrester and his book. I rode in Boston, Somerville and Cambridge for years without any major incidents because of his sound advice. My only accident was going down a steep hill headed toward Winter Hill, when a young child, crying, "I'm Superman!" launched himself into my path. My brakes saved Superman from injury but I flew off the bike. No injuries.

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  26. Criticizing Forester is in bad form, like criticizing Lincoln, because he didn't free the slaves on his first day in office. Or criticizing Franklin, because he didn't discover the General Theory of Relativity. We need historical perspective.

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