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20 years later, John Forester’s ‘Effective Cycling’ to be re-published

Posted by on April 25th, 2012 at 12:34 pm

New cover of Effective Cycling
(MIT Press)

A book by the man who coined the termed “vehicular cycling” is set to be re-published by MIT Press on May 18th (which is Bike to Work Day). In 1993, John Forester’s Effective Cycling aimed to explain his perspective on how people should operate bicycles. That book, and Forester himself, had a profound impact on cycling in the 1990s and the new edition of the book will hit shelves as cities across America clamor to install the type of separated, protected bike infrastructure Forester abhors.

On his personal website, Forester urges visitors to, “Fight for Your Right to Cycle Properly!” telling them, “The right of cyclists to cycle properly and safely is disappearing. If you don’t fight to preserve it, it will disappear.”

Portland author Jeff Mapes wrote about Forester in his excellent book Pedaling Revolution. After visiting Forester in his Lemon Grove, California home, Mapes wrote that Forester, “fought bike lanes, European-style cycletracks, and just about any form of traffic calming”, and “saw nothing wrong with sprawl and an auto-dependent lifestyle.” Others in the bike world have been far less kind in their characterizations of Forester.

Here’s an excerpt about the new edition from the PR department at MIT Press (emphasis mine):

“… John Forester emphasizes that cyclists should consider themselves drivers of vehicles in traffic. That means obeying the rules of the road, because when all drivers obey the same rules, they don’t have collisions. Forester explains why cyclists should not be afraid to cycle in traffic, and he urges them to resist being shunted off into government-sponsored bike paths as if they were incompetent children. Cyclists fare best, he says, when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.”

As it seems the vast majority of today’s bike planners and advocates are moving toward a vision completely different than the one Forester espouses, it’ll be interesting to see how a new edition of this book is received. While “green lanes” and cycle tracks are the buzzwords these days in bike planning circles, I suppose Forester would like the widespread adoption of shared-lane markings (a.k.a. “sharrows”).

Interestingly, MIT Press is also coming out with City Cycling, a new book by noted researcher John Pucher who argues via academic research and other writing for separated bike infrastructure. In fact, Pucher and Forester have had some interesting public debates about this issue in the past.

I’ve got a copy of Forester’s new book in the mail. Perhaps I’ll wait for the Pucher book and then do a dual review.

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NF
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NF

Does Forester advocate for splitting travel lanes, as the person in the cover photo appears to be doing? (Perhaps she’s changing lanes… it’s hard to tell).

Rol
Guest
Rol

Douchular cycling, is what Bike Snob might call it. In theory, Forester is right though: we’re simply slow-moving vehicles and there are existing rules for how to treat that. But that includes traveling on the right-hand side, so why not put a lane there? Also, some of us ARE incompetent children, namely the children.

joey
Guest
joey

Vehicular cycling will never get kids and older folks using bikes regularly. It’s for strong, confident riders only.

Paul
Guest
Paul

Learn why you too should decry sidewalks and crosswalks in my latest book: Effective Walking. And coming soon, Effective Walking for Seniors: Taking the Lane on your Local High-Speed Arterial.

Thanks John!

mark ginsberg
Guest
mark ginsberg

As others have pointed out, simply look at what works to figure out what will work. Want a city with VC only, i.e. no bike specific infrastructure, well, try some of the American Cities with really low ridership and look at that, no bike stuff. But then look at cities with higher ridership and we see more bike “stuff”.
Vehicular cycling seems like a good idea, but it only works for a few cyclists, and presumes that others just need to buck up. My 7 year old son and my 71 year old mother can’t ride in the places I might. Mr. Forester ignores this issue.
Taking the lane has value, but it is not the end all be all for all times.
MG

Eli
Guest
Eli

I’d read the original back-to-back and had done the whole LAB cycling training. It made sense at the time, when given a choice between limited, dangerous, incompetently designed trails and on-street facilities.

Then I moved to Holland. My strongest memory was realizing everyday how John Forester had hoodwinked our entire country into dangerous infrastructure that denied the actualization of joy and freedom that I saw each day: children gaining freedom of mobility, moms with 3 kids on a single bike, and seniors having healthy lives.

This book belongs in the dustbin of history as the failed ideology that it is.

BURR
Guest
BURR

John is also on the speakers bureau of the American Dream Coalition which advocates for greater ‘automobility’ and the suburban lifestyle.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

I was following the rules of the road and behaving as a vehicle long before Forester published his book, long before I heard the term “vehicular cycling”, and long before we had very many bike lanes.

And now I’m glad we have them. I sure as ******* **** would never “take the lane” on a Murray Blvd without bike lanes, with road-raging suburbanites in BMWs and Dodge Durangos riding my rear wheel until they can pull around and race up to 50mph again. If Beaverton didn’t have bike lanes, I would be driving to work a lot more often

Unlike Forester, I’ve never seen bike facilities and vehicular cycling as natural enemies.

CaptainKarm
Guest
CaptainKarm

I wonder if Forester “vehicularly cycles” still, at his age. I read not. I want to be able to ride until I drop @ age 100 or so, like in Europe. Somehow, mingling with cell-talking drunk American drivers doesn’t sound like the way to get there.

JAT in Seattle
Guest
JAT in Seattle

There are some reasonable nuanced responses here (Naturally; BP is a reasonable nuanced place) I cannot understand the vehement knee-jerk response that Vehicular Cycling inspires among some (“hoodwinked our entire country into dangerous infrastructure that denied the actualization of joy and freedom…” for instance,… Come now!)

Forrester’s fundamental ideas revolve around smart defensive lane placement, predictable traffic behavior, and the expectation that other road users should respect and accommodate your right to the road. He never told your grandmother to ride on the freeway.

9watts
Guest
9watts

One wonders what Forester’s goals are – to inspire more people to bike, or to feel equal to cars on the road? Personally I’d like both, but as folks are pointing out the two may not always overlap so we may have to choose, or pursue a campaign whereby we focus on one of these and look forward to achieving the other (by increasing our numbers, for instance).

Atbman
Guest

When I bought ym copy, sometime in the late 90s, I too found I was cycling vehicularly and agree with that part of his philosophy. However, I’m afraid that his blanket rejection of bike facilities, no matter how well designed, is wrong.

If you have a city where they’re built to the same standard as Dutch or Danish ones, woudl you prefer to ride on the road? It’s unlikely, but, given the USA’s autocentric cast of mind, he may well be right when he says that there would be the risk of losing the right to ride on the road where such facilities exist but are of a dangerous design.

Does “separate but equal” ring a bell?

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

I was an ardent proponent of vehicular cycling because if I took the lane and was completely visible, only a sociopath would hit me…and then I got hit by a sociopath, because it turns out they exist.

beck the biker
Guest
beck the biker

Effective cycling is the canon of an ideologue, filled with rancorous screed and a smattering of inferiority laden techniques amidst all the bluster about being equal to vehicles.

It’s amazing Mr. Forester was able to convince MIT press to reissue a tome of such muddled, insulting doggerel about bicycling as transportation. It’s dogmatic, filled with insults and denigrations of those with progressive planning beliefs as ‘incompetents’, and yet the book smacks with undertones of Mr. Foresters’ own existing lack of traffic savvy.

A select quote from the 1983 edition that highlights Mr. Foresters’ own shrouded inferiorities and inabilities to safely share the road with faster traffic in a competent ‘vehicular method’….. the instructions are from a sections on changing lanes on roads where traffic moves no more than 15mph faster than the bicyclist, pg 311 in the 83 edition.

“NEVER ride at the center of a high-speed lane unless you are going the speed of traffic. Always ride at one edge or the other, to give cars room to pass you.” and in a section a little bit later on, still about changing lanes …”If you find that you have miscalculated and cars are catching up to you, get on a LANE LINE and ride it straight. the cars will wizz by you on each side.”

….Mr. Forester book instructs bicyclists how NOT to take the lane. the book is filled with psychobabble and drivel about supposed superiorities of traffic operation that are then readily disproved in the text.

The book is sham science with instructions to ‘never take the lane’ when traveling slower than traffic and to ride like a road sneak so as to not interfere with traffic flow.

I consider Effective Cycling a fraud.

Mr. Forester’s involvement with the american dream coalition hints at his collusion with the auto lobby and perhaps indicates his own furtive interest in restricting ridership in america.

Joe Adamski
Guest
Joe Adamski

Foresters ‘take no prisoners’ approach scares/annoys/repels many, but like a street evangelist, he BELIEVES. JF despises all separated infrastructure, regards it as heresy. That said, EC has been a remarkable source of information on how to cycle the streets safely, and ( dare I say it..) effectively. I have been on the receiving end of JFs scorn on several message boards so I doubt I would ever buy him a beer.. but for that one aspect, EC is an excellent source.

Syzlak
Guest
Syzlak

I think Forester should either advocate better bicycle facility design or slower car speeds in cities. Both of these are better solutions than the one he puts forward “We’re only getting dangerous bike facilities, fck it, lets forget them and pretend we’re cars.” That’s similar to the belief that we shouldn’t install crosswalks because motorists won’t yield to them and thus give pedestrians a false sense of security. “Pedestrians are safest when they are crossing like their lives depend on it”

I find it interesting that he denounces facilities that are so simple they treat bicyclists like children– sounds like an excellent bikeway if it is that simple to use and that forgiving of people who are not able-bodied and fearless. I wonder what he thinks of Enrique Penalosa’s belief that the mark of a great city is one in which a child can ride safely anywhere by bike.

And regarding the cover, that may be “effective cycling” but it sure as hell doesn’t look fun or popular– where are all the other bicyclists? I think his book should be retitled “How to survive in a sea of cars in a city that doesn’t value cycling as a form of transportation worthy of its own quality infrastructure”

beelnite
Guest
beelnite

It would work if all motor vehicles had electronic, GPS activated governor’s and were unable to travel over 20 mph within the City limits.

Um…

Paul Souders
Guest

In one respect Forester is correct: bike/ped facilities make their users second class citizens by pushing them to the margins. He just gets the solution backwards. Instead of eliminating the margins, let’s push the margins all the way into the middle.

I look forward to a gentle stroll (or pedal) down the five-lane Broadway Woonerf. People in cars are welcome to use it too, as long as they maintain the principles I outline in my new book, “Pedestrian Motoring.”

beck the biker
Guest
beck the biker

Elliot
I had no idea that Forester advocated for things like lane-splitting and not taking the lane. If this is the case, it’s not really “vehicular” cycling at all. Does he recommend riding on the left side and running stop signs too?
Recommended 0

Even the picture on the cover of the new edition is evocative of a certain hesitance to ‘take the lane’…..

“stay out of the way of cars, keep clear, keep cities designed for cars” appears to be the furtive message hidden in EC.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

I will see what new insight Mr. Forrester’s next book has to say…as a transportation planner who had to advocate and plan in the 1990s, his first book set back urbane transportation design by at least 10 years in this country – even in the great bike cities it was tough to talk about any bike facility without the ‘Forresters’ or Forrester influenced engineers coming undone.

Sure it works for him and the then dominant cycling species (A+ male riders over the age of 45…until they want to “age in the saddle”) but it has not worked well for more novice and vulnerable rider with the level of traffic (speed and volume) now common on many streets vs. back in the 1970s.

I guess the best thing we can hope for is to read the book at the library and hope it does not sell well for MIT to run a second printing.

Marty Weirick
Guest
Marty Weirick

I met Forrester at the 1980 League of American Wheelmen (now League of American Bicyclists) 100th anniversary convention in Newport News, RI. My guess is that he was about 45 – 50 years old then. An yes, he road a lot back in the day. According to Wikipedia, Forrester was born in ’29, so he is about 83 years old. I believe I met him one other time at a LAW rally, and may have attended one of his lectures on Effective Cycling. One thing I remember was that he was very opinionated and confident about himself and his views. That all makes some sense when I read in the Wiki article that he claimed to be an engineer, although his degree from UC Berkley was in English…..

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

As a young male cyclist I lived in Seattle, and I suppose I didn’t terribly mind the lack of infrastructure. Or at least I saw it as unavoidable given the city’s terrain constraints. Or maybe was just used to VC because that’s what I’d grown up with.

But as a middle-aged cyclist with a family, and having lived in Portland for a decade and a half, every time I’m there now I realize how much work is to be done there. It is improving, and kudos to folks like Eli who are making it happen. I do agree that Forester and his minions set us back a decade or more.

cycler
Guest

In Boston, we had the extreme misfortune of having a Forresterite in charge of “bike programs.” This resulted in major infrastructure being put in place, most notably the 30 acre linear greenway over the Big Dig without any scrap of bicycle specific infrastructure. Boston was regularly on Bicycle Magazine’s “worst” list

When the “current” (recently retired) bike Czar started putting in infrastructure right and left, lo and behold, bikers started coming out of the woodwork, and mode share has increased dramatically.

I believe that this is the greatest proof of infrastructure’s success- it increases the number of people who ride, without a % change in injury.

Ian Cooper
Guest
Ian Cooper

John Forester’s book has a lot of very good advice for cyclists. It’s a great pity that it also includes so much of his patented arrogance and condescension. It’s so sad that the British method of road cycling – a method that British cyclists have used very successfully for 100 years – has been presented to the American public by such an antagonistic author. I think John’s attitude has played a large part in the fact that cycling advocacy is in the poor state it’s in today. Most people can’t separate the good advice in his book from the contempt with which John Forester presents it, so they become alienated and refuse to learn (or even countenance) what I think are invaluable lessons of the British (integrated) method of cycling.

This book needs two things:

1. a good editor who will separate John’s rhetoric from the message he’s trying to convey.

2. to be rewritten and published under a pseudonym.

If it got those two things, I think it might actually be able to serve a purpose other than splitting the cycling community.

Alternatively, if people want the advice without the sarcasm, they might be better served by looking for ‘Cyclecraft’ by John Franklin (Britain’s major integrated cycling author) or ‘Bicycling Street Smarts’ by John Allen. Neither book goes into as much depth as Forester’s book, and Franklin’s book falls into the ‘need for speed’ flaw that Forester’s book also has, but they get their points across in a much more respectful way.

Antload
Guest
Antload

A funny and telling anecdote about Forrester is that he used to eschew using rear view mirrors. “Just swivel your head with frequent shoulder checks for better views and to communicate your intentions (paraphrase).” Then he got a little older and his neck lost flexibility. He adopted mirrors. Nice indication of an inability to empathize with people dissimilar to him. He became those people he couldn’t empathize with and he changed his tune. I wonder what would happen if he had a stroke that relegated him to a trike that he had marginal control of…he might decide that bike lanes are kinda cool.

Bottom line: Forrester seems to have no empathy for the beginner, the “interested but concerned”. Thus, we are forced to take his ideology with a fat grain of salt.

peejay
Guest
peejay

Reducing urban speed limits is always a part of a good transportation policy for so many reasons, and makes “vehicular” cycling possible for more riders. Unfortunately, to be effective — that is, with high compliance — there is a lot of engineering to be done to those streets to make it just too annoying for drivers to go faster.

So, yes, a lower speed limit is part of the mix, but it’s not cheap. And the benefits have to be well articulated for it to be politically viable.

Jessica Roberts
Guest
Jessica Roberts

I would ardently like to see mandatory sidepath laws (http://john-s-allen.com/blog/?p=4216) repealed, in large part because of people who want to take the lane at all times, on all kinds of facilities (Roger Geller’s “Strong and Fearless”).

Guess what, if you’re that kind of bicyclist, the last place I want you is in my bike facility, terrorizing seniors, women, and children! Not to mention that letting people choose if they want to use the cycletrack or take the lane will undermine the (thankfully fading) power of VC advocacy against bike facilites.

In other words, don’t want to ride in bike facilites? Then don’t…but stop trying to stop those of us who are trying to make things better for people who are “interested but concerned.”

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

Read between the lines. Look at all of the clues. Lots of evidence has been presented in the comments to this story. “Vehicular Cycling” is actually a plot to prevent spending on cycling facilities and suppress cycling modal share, as a way of maintaining automotive dominance.

I’m sure that the City Club will use “this famous and important work” as evidence that no addition money needs to be spent for cycling infrastructure.

Sure, you have to ride that way sometimes, but the absolutist approach espoused by Forrester will only work in that perfect parallel universe where all road users are calm, caring, and equally at risk of physical harm from a collision.

Ian Cooper
Guest
Ian Cooper

Antload
A funny and telling anecdote about Forrester is that he used to eschew using rear view mirrors. “Just swivel your head with frequent shoulder checks for better views and to communicate your intentions (paraphrase).” Then he got a little older and his neck lost flexibility. He adopted mirrors.

Sadly, the LAB still holds Forester’s old ‘contempt for mirrors’ viewpoint. When I was taking the LAB LCI course last year, I was told I had to look behind me rather than use a mirror. Quite difficult for me, as I have two slipped discs in my neck. I managed it – barely. If my neck injuries had been worse, there would have been no way to look back.

John Forester, sadly, allows his personal biases to get in the way of what I see as a compelling message that could (if it had a good PR firm, rather than a contempt-filled asshat pushing it) revolutionize cycling worldwide.

Peter Koonce
Guest
Peter Koonce

There was a Letter to the Editor from Forester in the ITE Journal last October:
http://koonceportland.blogspot.com/2011/10/traffic-engineers-dismissing.html

Traffic engineers often get a bad wrap for our designs and it is deserved in many cases, yet there are a few of us that worked toward a collective response to this “old way” of thinking: http://koonceportland.blogspot.com/2011/12/offering-new-transportation-engineering.html

JAT in Seattle
Guest
JAT in Seattle

Eventually every bikeway ends and probably not at your destination. At some point we’re all “vehicular”. All the name calling and teeth gnashing doesn’t change that fact.

It’s great that in the last twenty years (in some pockets of the US) the political conditions have shifted toward better bike facility design, but as with the buffered bike lane on SW Stark or the poll placement on the Broadway bridge, sometimes it’s still just paint and shoe-horned in marginalized scraps.

My advice: don’t buy the book; be prepared to tell all who cite it as an excuse not to fund infrastructure specifically why Forester is wrong and outdated. But if the word vehicular galls you and you cannot help but launch into an ad hominem screed, then I suggest next time a motorist yells at you to get off the road,… You probably should do it.

Mickey
Guest
Mickey

This book was published before widespread use of cell phones and the type of riding Forrester advocated worked well in an environment where drivers were more attentive and adults riding bicycles was a subculture activity. Personally I am not a fan of bicycle infrastructure (the flaw of elitism), but I will concede that there is a place for it; my fear is that with increased mode share and infrastructure spending comes scrutiny and regulation, this is a “be careful what you wish for” situation, at some point it seems inevitable that the hammer is going to fall. The more bicycles demand the rights of cars and consumers want their bikes to be physically like cars (electric assist, stereos, passengers, mating bikes with wheelbarrows, etc…) it seems inevitable that we are going to get all of the social controls that go along with automobiles: insurance, licensing, registration, weight restrictions, commercial vehicle regulation for bike based businesses, etc…

Rick
Guest
Rick

Actually, the strong and confident segment is much less than 10%. About 1/2 of 1%, IIRC, here in Portland. But you are correct, this is who can actually make it work. Forester’s crowd will say that anybody can learn, and they are also correct.

BUT…Nobody who wants to ride a bike but is afraid of auto traffic is going to take the initiative to get out there and “learn” how to be strong and confident in auto traffic. They will just limi their riding to recreational trails.

And we see the evidence of this everywhere– where bike-specific infrastructure has been built, there is much higher ridership, with riders of all ages and skill levels represented. Where infrastructure has not been built, we see much lower levels of ridership, and only the strong and confident risers represented.

Ian Cooper
Guest
Ian Cooper

This notion of ‘strong and confident’ riders being the only supporters of VC is a straw man. I support VC, yet I’m not a strong rider. I tootle along at between 8 and 10mph.

I support VC because it’s the only cycling philosophy that is actively against my being forced onto separate infrastructure. As a Maryland resident, I don’t have the legal right to ride on the road if a bike lane exists on that road – I have to use the bike lane – that means I don’t have the legal right to determine for myself what lane position is safest – the government does that for me and uses the force of law to me comply. As long as the LAB and other so-called ‘bicycle advocates’ sit idly by and accept government regulation of my right to the road, I will never support the LAB or anyone who seeks to install bicycle facilities.

I can’t afford to support infrastructure, because my experience has shown me that if infrastructure gets installed, they will force me to use it. Forced use of bicycle infrastructure is currently law in 18 states, including Oregon. It is also law in all 50 states on federal land. While I could (until the federal land law passed a few weeks ago) understand people in non-mandatory-use states supporting cycling infrastructure, cycling advocates who live in states where infrastructure use is mandatory should be ashamed of themselves for supporting such infrastructure. Such support is anti-cyclist and works to destroy cycling.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

I’ll concede that Forester does make some good points in his recent letter about turning movements being the greatest danger to cyclists, and that poorly designed cycletracks might elevate that danger. But I’m glad we’re building them and experimenting with them to see what works.

beck the biker
Guest
beck the biker

Unclear why Ian suggests cyclists in New York City, San Francisco, Portland or Eugene should be up in arms about bicycle infrastructure. only seven states have mandatory bike lane laws.

A recently released study from John Pucher et al. positively correlates greater bicycle infrastructure with higher levels of bicycle commuting.

“bicycle infrastructure is bad” is a great feint, one of the hallmarks of dogmatic vehicularity that denies proven, positive attributes seen in effective planning for bike traffic.

Populist planning for bike traffic thru development of a bicycle network and better bridge access virtually guarantees a city greater, safer ridership. Study after study shows this, with very impressive indexed accident rate declines in cities that have boosted ridership thru the installation of bicycle facility networks.

For a man who has committed to print his cycling advice to not get in the way of faster traffic when changing lanes, i’m amazed john forester’s ‘diatribe disguised as method’ ever gained ground in the bicycling community.

Ian Cooper
Guest
Ian Cooper

beck the biker
Unclear why Ian suggests cyclists in New York City, San Francisco, Portland or Eugene should be up in arms about bicycle infrastructure. only seven states have mandatory bike lane laws.

I didn’t say ‘mandatory bike lane use’ – I said ‘mandatory infrastructure use’. While only seven states have mandatory bike lane use laws, 18 states have mandatory infrastructure use laws – that’s mandatory use of bike lanes, bike paths or shoulders.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Repeating what I typed yesterday [looks like it got edited out somehow]…as a transportation planner and bike advocate back in the early 1990s…Mr. Forrester’s first book really energized the active A+ type riders (fit 40-65 year old white male cyclists) and really set back the development of urbane cyclist facilities for most cities in the US by at least 10 years – even with ISTEA$ – and longer for less bike friendly places.

I would say the maximum bike commute mode split such advocacy generates is limited to 2% [and not the 10% mentioned earlier in a comment]. If that is cool with a community’s leadership (and its traffic branch) then it may be difficult for the young to develop the bike transport skill set and for those A+ riders to ‘age in the saddle’ vs. retiring to the couch by 70.

I will seek out Mr. Forrester’s book – too see if he has anything useful to say. [MIT feel free to send me another copy to review c/o this website.]

Ian Cooper
Guest
Ian Cooper

Todd Boulanger
…as a transportation planner and bike advocate back in the early 1990s…Mr. Forrester’s first book really energized the active A+ type riders (fit 40-65 year old white male cyclists)

It energized me, and I’m an F- type rider, because I was glad to see that, even in America, people were using what I’d grown up with in the UK. This idea that VC is only for the super-fit bearded aging 2% is, frankly, nonsense. In England in the 1970s, VC was how everyone rode, including grandmothers, pregnant women and everyone else. We called it ‘cycling’. It could be done at any speed between 6 and 30mph.

It’s no wonder that transportation planners are anti-VC, now is it? I mean Heaven forbid that anyone should jeopardize these folks’ bread and butter by suggesting that there’s a way to use a bicycle without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars laying down concrete ribbons and pretty colored lanes.

Ian Cooper
Guest
Ian Cooper

wsbob
Jonathan Gordon …excellent point. Not a single person objecting to the so called sidepath law in their comments to this thread has claimed to have been issued a citation for not riding in a bike lane.

Yet it has happened. Heck, people have been cited (and tased, beaten up and arrested) for riding on the road in places where there was no bike lane or path, and where it was perfectly legal to ride in the road. Police don’t need a reason to cite people for riding in the road, but adding mandatory bike lane use can only encourage such abuse.

Ian Cooper
Guest
Ian Cooper

wsbob
Not a single person objecting to the so called sidepath law in their comments to this thread has claimed to have been issued a citation for not riding in a bike lane.

And maybe I’m alone in this, but I prefer to ride LEGALLY. I prefer not to break the law simply because a law is so stupid that it forces me risk my life on half-baked bike lanes like the infamous ‘Stupidest bike lane in America’, which is half a mile from my house, and which I’m legally required to use if I cycle up that street.

David Feldman
Guest
David Feldman

Mickey
This book was published before widespread use of cell phones and the type of riding Forrester advocated worked well in an environment where drivers were more attentive and adults riding bicycles was a subculture activity. Personally I am not a fan of bicycle infrastructure (the flaw of elitism), but I will concede that there is a place for it; my fear is that with increased mode share and infrastructure spending comes scrutiny and regulation, this is a “be careful what you wish for” situation, at some point it seems inevitable that the hammer is going to fall. The more bicycles demand the rights of cars and consumers want their bikes to be physically like cars (electric assist, stereos, passengers, mating bikes with wheelbarrows, etc…) it seems inevitable that we are going to get all of the social controls that go along with automobiles: insurance, licensing, registration, weight restrictions, commercial vehicle regulation for bike based businesses, etc…

Recommended 1

Another thing–I started my cycling where and when Forester re-started his–California, late 1960’s. His outdated disdain for cycling facilities could stem from a long memory of some really, really terrible ones hastily built in the early 1970-‘s. Example: the path in the Isla Vista neighborhood north of Santa Barbara(Hollister Ave.?) that very suddenly tracked riders onto the wrong side of a high-speed road. Example: the early iteration of Terwilligar Blvd. south of Barbur with concrete ridges separating the bike lane from the street and the bike lane running through the blind spots of every exiting driveway on that street.
Yep, a quaint relic from a bygone era when drivers were actually human.

Brian
Guest
Brian

Others have said this, but I’d just like to agree: this is a case of a good message with a bad messenger. The chapter on lane positioning in Effective Cycling is by far the best advice you can get about how to stay safe on the road. It is remarkably clear and lucid, and the techniques Forester lays out there will always be relevant, no matter how much infrastructure we build (as others have noted, even in the Netherlands people end up using those same techniques).

Unfortunately, the rest of the book is either useful only to sporting cyclists, or outright hostile to the interests of everyday transportation cyclists. Forester had an excellent grasp of the conditions in the present (early 1980s, not 1990s — the book was published in 1984) in his particular place (California), but a remarkable inability to imagine a future that might be different from the present. I still don’t understand why (as he has repeatedly said) he doesn’t care about how many people ride bikes. If you think it’s a good thing, wouldn’t you want more people to do it?

Fred
Guest

As I said elsewhere, please read the original source, the Ken Cross study, which Forrester said “proves everything I have been saying all along.”

It’s one of my life goals to get the whole EC movement to back away from Ken Cross as it actually contradicts EC. There’s no scientific basis for EC, and thus, according to Forrester’s own standard, is superstition:

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=ken%20cross%20study%20pdf&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCMQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fntl.bts.gov%2Flib%2F25000%2F25400%2F25439%2FDOT-HS-803-315.pdf&ei=5TKcT427GMqO2wWM7oX3Dg&usg=AFQjCNFKIZfIKX2Jhz5MwKSpKMRXBm8tPA&cad=rja

Paul Glassen
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Paul Glassen

I support the idea of cycling like a vehicle. That was the only way when I started cycling the roads 50+ year ago. Cycling infrastructure started appearing 35 or 40 years ago. Much of it seems well intended but misguided. I live in a Canadian town (pop. about 70 thousand) with many kilometres of cycle paths – mostly far from the streets you need to travel to get anywhere in town. Some are downright dangerous the way they force you to cross side streets and rail tracks. I feel safer riding the shoulder of the highway.