Splendid Cycles

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 April 25, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    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).

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    • Carl April 25, 2012 at 4:57 pm

      It’s common for authors to have no say in what goes on the cover of their book. I’m guessing that JF is PISSED about the lane position depicted in that picture (not to mention the conspicuous absence of day-glo).

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  • Rol April 25, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    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.

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  • joey April 25, 2012 at 12:44 pm

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

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    • Alan 1.0 April 25, 2012 at 10:44 pm

      If I’m in the middle of the pack, it’s a slow ride; I’m not fast! I’m not young but I was taught the basic “vehicular” traffic rules which I still use today back when I was eight years old, at the public school “bike rodeo.” By ten I frequently rode from home to and around the business district of town and other destinations, in the street. If I’m lucky enough to be pedaling at a ripe old age, I expect I’ll follow pretty much the same set of rules. I’m in favor of more well-designed bike infrastructure, but it is physically impossible to overlay enough of it onto the existing fabric of roads to completely do away with learning to ride in a street.

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      • Dan September 5, 2014 at 6:53 am

        I completely agree, I live in the South where there are few bike lanes and my City has no greenways longer than one mile and they go NO WHERE, usually dead end or loop. My ony choice sometimes, if I want to ride to work, is to ride in the road. I hate they have 40 MPH speed limits posted as cars usually aren’t able to go this fast and pedestrians have to run to cross arterial roads. However, I adapt to the world I live in and even if the political will exists, which it doesn’t yet, it would take 20 years to repave all the roads to have separated, buffered cycle tracks. Since even Portland can’t do this properly downtown or everywhere, I HAVE to vehicular cycle at times, not because I want to, because I HAVE to. Oddly, it feels much safer than the sidewalk and at intersections, feels much safer than a bike lane (I have had drivers right turn in front of me at intersections when I was in the bike lane, this doesn’t happen if I am in the road).

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    • Pete April 29, 2012 at 8:41 pm

      I agree, to a degree. There are definitely elements of vehicular cycling – and even the core of its philosophy – that all bicycle riders should understand. One of them is consistent and predictable riding… what do you do when the bike lane disappears? While the installation of bike lanes has been shown to increase ridership (at least there’s usually a statistical correlation), few places that I’ve ridden have been able to link north-south-east-west thoroughly by trail/lane. If you ride a bike on the road you won’t be able to avoid coexisting with auto traffic, so you may as well learn to signal, center in the lane, and develop confidence in forcing traffic to properly route behind/around you – young, athletic, fast, or not. While I’m not young I am athletic and fast, and have plenty of confidence (and predictability) while riding in the lane, but it did take time (and mistakes, fortunately not harmful) to get that way. And yes, having bike lanes available absolutely incentivized me to ride/commute more.

      My point is, while lanes encourage ridership, they don’t necessarily encourage confidence. I encourage everyone to read Forrester’s lessons with an open mind – everything helps!

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  • Paul April 25, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    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!

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  • mark ginsberg April 25, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    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.

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    • Art Fuldodger April 25, 2012 at 4:51 pm

      Well said, Mark. Some good ideas in EC, but it’s just not gonna resonate with the (potential) cycling masses.

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  • Eli April 25, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    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.

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    • BURR April 25, 2012 at 1:20 pm

      You hit the nail on the head when you described Effective Cycling as an ideology. There are certainly elements of effective cycling that are useful to cyclists, but John’s complete inflexibility and unwillingness to compromise at all on the usefulness and applicability of bicycle-specific infrastructure clearly define him as an ideologue.

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    • El Biciclero April 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm

      “It made sense at the time, when given a choice between limited, dangerous, incompetently designed trails and on-street facilities.”

      …And that time is now. Still. These are the only kinds of facilities most areas will ever see. I’ll become a fan of “infrastructure” the second I’m not bound by (Oregon) law to use it. Even here in Portland, bike infrastructure is usually one (or both) of two things: overly lame or overly complicated. Lame means it is a dog-leash and stroller-strewn, 5-ft.-wide MUP, or a “cycle track” that hides cyclists behind parked cars on what becomes a de-facto extension of the sidewalk (complete with loitering pedestrians) until they are shunted back out into traffic at the point where the “facility” ends (much to the surprise of drivers). Complicated seems to be the contortions we go through in places like Broadway at Williams where–in efforts to keep bikes to the far right At All Costs–we have installed bike-specific signals that drivers and cyclists alike are confused by, requiring additional visual pollution to “clarify”, MAX track crossings such as on Burnside where the I-205 MUP crosses, goofy markings for a bike lane on Stark Street that drivers can’t figure out (or just don’t care), a proposed plan for N. Williams Ave. that looks like a story board for a video game…

      This is the track record that gives me 0% confidence that anything usable will ever be designed or built in the United States of America. It’s my new favorite bike meme: I’m not going to be a bird who begs to be put in a cage so the cat can’t get me.

      Repeal ORS 814.420, and I’ll wholeheartedly endorse any complicated, lame, deathtrap, hurdle-filled, mixed-use, inefficient infrastructure anybody wants to come up with. Better yet, let somebody–anybody–design and build (in the U.S., mind you) infrastructure that makes sense and is efficient and safe, and change and/or enforce the law to better protect cyclists who use such facilities, and sure, I’d probably love it. I do not believe that will happen in my lifetime.

      I know in your later comment you expose the flaw in calling all infrastructure harmful based on existing examples of some infrastructure that is actually harmful–but look around at what tends to get built here, and how long we’ve already had to do it better. When did Amsterdam or Copenhagen start installing well-designed infrastructure, 40 years ago? And how much of that kind of infrastructure (and the protective laws to match) do we have in the U.S.? It does not give me one whit of confidence that vehicular techniques will ever be unnecessary.

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      • mark ginsberg April 25, 2012 at 3:08 pm

        it is not all or nothing, your post makes it sound as tho you want none of what is being done until some changes happen. But Vehicular cycing as a whole fails in the lack of flexibility and all or nothing/us vs them where it is the VC folks versus pro planners and cyclist who do want bike lanes and cyclepaths. It is a shame, b/c each has it;s place and I’d rather work with VC folks b/c we have more in common than our differences.

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        • are April 25, 2012 at 6:47 pm

          vehicular cycling is a manner of handling yourself on the street. john forester’s personal dislike of various sidepath treatments and traffic calming measures is his personal dogma, which has very little to do with vehicular cycling. most of what we are being handed in terms of infrastructure — even in portland, the copenamsterhagendam of the northwest — is more dangerous than taking the lane. but it makes the willing but unable, or whatever the catchphrase is, “feel” safer, and over time we get a safety in numbers effect. maybe.

          in fairness to forester, what he is afraid of is a future where everyone is forced to share a mixed use environment in which someone trying to get somewhere at twenty plus mph is out of luck. i also foresee this future, but i am learning to be comfortable with it, as long as it also applies to the few passenger automobiles still trawling the streets.

          in the meantime, i will assert my right to mix it up with traffic, rather than be relegated to the sidepath.

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        • El Biciclero April 26, 2012 at 9:36 am

          I’m not saying “all or nothing”, the State of Oregon does that for me by forcing me onto sidepaths whenever they exist, in whatever ill-conceived form they might take (as long as they meet current “Engineering Standards”, whatever that means). Sure, there are exceptions to the mandatory sidepath law, but I stretch those every day in the interest of better safety and smoother traffic flow (for everyone!) just on my way home from work.

          You are correct that each (VC vs. separated paths) has its place. I love well-placed bike lanes that help drivers keep a straight line while passing me, yet allow me to merge over when somebody parks there, or I need to make a left, or keep from leapfrogging a bus making frequent stops on a one-way (this one is actually illegal, but I find it faster and safer…see what I mean?), or avoid being right-hooked by drivers, etc.

          Even in Pucher’s rebuttal to Forester’s “study” (also linked from Jonathan’s post), he states that separated infrastructure per se will not be sufficient. He outlines a policy that seems to promote optional use of facilities, as well as creating streets where so-called “vehicular cycling” is planned for and accommodated.

          I’ll be honest, what I fear is this: being forced into a gauntlet of oblivious pedestrians, garbage cans, broken glass, illegal parkers, and any number of other obstacles–with no way of escape because I have curbs on both sides of me or parked cars on one side and a sidewalk curb on the other. A gauntlet that hides me from drivers until I reach an intersection where I either must stop in deference to the almighty car (even though drivers traveling parallel to me don’t have to stop), or take my chances that some signal or sign or pavement marking will provide enough impetus for drivers to look before they pull into the path from the side or make a right turn, etc. Show me where (in the U.S.) any infrastructure has been built that eliminates–or even mitigates–these problems, and I’ll say, “let’s build it here”. Heck, if we could even enforce safe passing laws and issue parking tickets for parking in bike lanes (along the same fine schedule as parking in a handicap parking space), or up the legal ante for drivers that kill via inattention rather than assuming the victim must have “come out of nowhere”, I’d be happier.

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          • mark ginsberg April 26, 2012 at 10:03 am

            Respectfully, your reply again comes across as all or nothing.
            There is a big difference between an MUP and a painted bicycle lane, and each has strengths and each has weaknesses.

            Additionally blaming 814.420 and the phrase “mandatory sidepath” always seem to me to be red herrings. I’ve long argued that 814.420(2) makes use of the bike lanes optional, and now the list of reasons to not be in the bike lane under 814.420(3) means leaving the bike lane is a-ok.

            No one is forced to use a mandatory side path, this is an over simplification of the law as an excuse to not participate in the process. I’ve written and passed laws that affect cyclists. If 814.420 calls to you so strongly, I’d encourage YOU personally to get involved to to the thing you wish would happen.

            I’d also encourage you to identify yourself by real name, and to be involved in Portland ongoing planning efforts.

            I can list many many times city, county, and even occasionally state listened to what cyclist wanted in planning and building stuff. Is it all perfect, heck no.
            Is the cycling infrastructure used more? yup.

            Mark Ginsberg

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            • El Biciclero April 26, 2012 at 11:12 am

              Well, I guess we should agree on what “all” and “nothing” mean. As I’ve said, I don’t care what kind of infrastructure anybody wants to build–MUP, door-zone bike lane, narrow cycle track gauntlet, OR some kind of super-duper, Dutch-style, safe-‘n’-separated, stress-free bike freeway–I don’t want to be forced by law to use it, or ignored by law if I don’t. I think I mentioned that I will certainly use bike lanes where they exist and are well-routed. I’ll even use the occasional MUP when I don’t really have anywhere to be and feel like having a good bike mosey.

              I suppose you make a fair point about ORS 814.420 being somewhat of a red herring (heh–I don’t really want to try to argue with a lawyer about the law…), but even with all the exceptions, it sticks in my craw, so to speak, as a reminder of “where I belong” when I’m on my bike, and it gives drivers an “excuse” (in their minds) to bully me if I’m not “where I belong”. What happens if one of those drivers “accidentally” bumps me as I’m preparing (well in advance) for a left turn? Will the “preparing to make a left turn” exception hold up if I was doing it four blocks ahead of time? Five blocks ahead of time…?

              I do have a sneaking suspicion that “all”, as it pertains to separated cycleways, is going to have to include some legal and infrastructure tweaks that drivers will not like, such as stopping well in advance of intersections and banning right turns on red in some locations (which we already do at bike boxes, but those instructions appear to be routinely ignored and rarely enforced). Perhaps some non-85th-percentile speed limits will need to be enforced (key word: enforced). The SMIDSY (Sorry, Mate, I Didn’t See You) defense will have to be banished. Separate signal timings for cars and bikes (lengthening waits at some intersections) might have to be adopted. Stricter liability laws and consequences for injuring or killing so-called “vulnerable road users” might need to be passed, and so on.

              I agree that “nothing” (i.e., strict VC-only) clearly doesn’t work for a large portion of cyclists and potential cyclists–shoot, it doesn’t even work for me in some places–but we must carefully, ever so carefully scrutinize designs for “infrastructure” and be fully aware of all the assumptions being made about their functionality prior to installing them and expecting every single cyclist to use them.

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              • wsbob April 26, 2012 at 11:45 am

                El Biciclero …you’re all over the place in your assumptions about what Oregon law with respect to use of bike lanes obliges, making it very hard to know which specific point about the law you take issue with.

                The law seems to allow road user’s on bikes to leave the bike lane and ride the main travel lane, for nearly every type of condition or circumstance in the bike lane that would pose a danger to persons riding a bike. Bike lanes are a refuge, rather than a place of confinement.

                I’m not sure why Oregon laws relating to use of the bike lane came about in the first place. Whatever reasons they were seems to be among the kind of things that are very hard to track down, a bit like how Idaho ever managed to pass its law with regards to people on bikes stopping at stop signs; ask around…nobody really knows.

                I’m guessing that basically what Oregon law with regards to use of bike lanes may have arisen from, is that some state residents and legislators may have been worried that for whatever reason, certain people on bikes might decide to deliberately, absentmindedly, or arbitrarily take the main lane purely for the purpose of slowing down main lane traffic.

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              • El Biciclero April 26, 2012 at 12:43 pm

                I don’t think I’m “all over the place”. Here are my assumptions:
                * Bicyclists must use a “sidepath”, if it exists, unless they are operating under one of the many exceptions listed under section 2 or 3.
                * Portland bike lanes have all been subjected to the public hearing that deems them “safe for use at reasonable speeds”, rendering them non-optional except under the exceptions listed in section 3. I know Mark Ginsberg disagrees with this one, but I would be interested to know his opinion about this quote from BikePortland’s coverage of a case in which he participated in 2006:

                “Geller testified (and the judge agreed) that the public participation in drafting the 1996 Bicycle Master Plan was adequate to qualify as a hearing that covers the entire bike network without requiring hearings for each segment.”

                * The definition of “hazard” is open to interpretation, and “potential hazard” is not mentioned in the statute, leaving behaviors such as merging into the through lane to avoid potential right hooks (the statute only mentions bike lanes that are to the right of a lane from which drivers must turn right, not a lane from which they will probably turn right), cycling outside the bike lane to avoid potential opening doors, riding outside the bike lane to make oneself more visible to drivers showing an intent to enter the roadway from the right, riding in the left lane of a one-way to avoid bus traffic that is entering and leaving the bike lane on the right, etc. all open to interpretation as to whether they are legal or not, and put the burden of proof, such as it may be, on the cyclist to show that there was indeed some hazard being avoided. The situations I mention might be shown to be “hazardous conditions”, even though no immediate empirical hazard actually existed, but I shouldn’t have to worry about hiring a lawyer to show such–they shouldn’t be offenses to begin with.

                Here’s another thing: All of the exceptions listed under this statute allow a cyclist to leave a bike lane for the purpose of passing, turning, avoiding hazards, etc. One issue I have with separated facilities is that they can very well be un-leave-able, due to being penned in between curbs and parked cars. I admit it is my own FUD, but cycletracks feel like cages/traps/prison yards to me. Again, it’s nice that the cat can’t get you when you’re in a cage, but it can be pretty restrictive.

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              • wsbob April 26, 2012 at 7:37 pm

                El Biciclero…It seems you’re worrying excessively about hypothetical scenarios involving interpretations of http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/814.420 by police officers; scenarios that have not been shown by people in their comments here, to have been made and applied by police officers.

                If you know of anyone locally having received a citation for violation of 814.420 while in compliance with (2) or (3) of that law, tell us about it. There may have been some, but I just don’t recall anyone posting to bikeportland about having received a citation for not riding in the bike lane, having left it to avoid hazardous material or conditions there.

                I can understand your uneasiness over barrier separated cycle paths that physically make it difficult for someone on a bike to easily leave the path between exit points, that aren’t cleaned frequently. Farmington Rd’s path out in Beaverton is an example. Keeping such paths clean is definitely a routine chore in need of tending to regularly. It will be take some planning and budgeting to figure out how to cover that job as more such cycle tracks are created. Currently though, separated type cycle track such as Farmington Rd’s seem to represent a very, very small percent of total bike lane infrastructure.

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              • El Biciclero May 1, 2012 at 10:38 am

                “If you know of anyone locally having received a citation for violation of 814.420 while in compliance with (2) or (3) of that law, tell us about it.”

                I linked to and quoted from one above. I’m not necessarily worried about being stopped and cited for “failure to use bike lane or path” as a so-called primary offense, BUT, in the event that a driver runs over me because I was passing through an intersection two lanes over from the bike lane, and that driver has only trained him/herself to look for bikes in the bike lane (because that’s where they’re supposed to be, right?), whose “fault” is that going to be? The driver’s for failing to yield to traffic already in the road, or mine for failure to use a bike lane or path. Sure I can claim that I was preparing for a left turn three blocks ahead of time, but my guess is that it won’t fly. I was very nearly left-hooked by a driver while I was in this very position. My attempt to ride as far left as practicable (on a one-way–Watson Ave. in Beaverton) while preparing to make a left turn (onto 5th) nearly got me run over because a driver wasn’t paying attention (I was even “taking the lane”–he turned left into a driveway from the right lane just as he pulled parallel to me). The fault would be clear-cut if I had been driving a motor vehicle and he had run into me while making an improper left turn, but on my bike? If my evasive maneuvers (dodging onto the sidewalk) had failed and he had run over me, what do you think his insurance company would have claimed? The bicyclist was not in The Bike Lane. At least I had my helmet on….

                I guess I’m less worried about the legal oppression of being forced into crappy infrastructure than I am about the complete loss of legal protection if I am not in one that is “present”. In any crash case involving a cyclist not traveling within the white lines, it also appears incumbent upon the victim of the crash to prove he/she was doing something legal at the time, or else forfeit all compensation for injuries and damage, plus pay fines and perhaps even be compelled to compensate the driver for scratching their paint and causing them “mental anguish”.

                There is also the social aspect of drivers and everybody expecting cyclists to be “somewhere else”. Drivers already like to tell cyclists to “get on the sidewalk!” Do you think they will calm down and tolerate cyclists in the road if there is a MUP right next to it? Right now, they have the law on their side if they want to mess with cyclists who refuse to use dangerous or slow “infrastructure”. So sure, there are legal technicalities that allow me to disregard any infrastructure that may exist, but the repercussions should, you know, anything, ahem, “happen” (wink, wink) while I’m outside the bike lane could be terrible.

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      • spare_wheel April 25, 2012 at 3:41 pm

        the interesting thing about denmark is that despite a massive cycle-track building program over the past decade cycling mode share has barely budged.

        could it be that paint on the road and cycle tracks have about the same effect on mode share? maybe if portland dared to carve some space for bikes on direct routes and major arterials (as in denmark and holland) we might actually find out.

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        • cycler April 26, 2012 at 7:45 am

          The interesting thing about America, is that despite a massive highway building program over the past decade, car mode share has hardly budged.

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          • 9watts April 26, 2012 at 7:50 am

            Ha ha. That’s a good one.

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          • Antload April 26, 2012 at 8:17 am


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      • Jonathan Gordon April 26, 2012 at 10:41 am

        I’m curious: How many people have ever been cited under ORS 814.420? While I’m not a fan of the law, I’m not under the impression that it gets pressed into use terribly often.

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        • wsbob April 26, 2012 at 7:07 pm

          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. As Ginsberg earlier pointed out, 814.420(3) details a wide range of reasons that justify leaving a bike lane.

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          • are April 26, 2012 at 8:48 pm

            the problem is putting such a tool in the hands of the police. they will use it when they are ready.

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    • Chris I April 25, 2012 at 3:31 pm

      I was going to say something similar. I spent two days in Copenhagen, and that was enough for my to know that Forester should be considered legally insane. You will not get more than 10% modal share by relying on vehicular cycling infrastructure.

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      • Alan 1.0 April 25, 2012 at 10:36 pm

        My brief riding experiences in three Dutch cities gave me the same wonderful impression of good bike facilities, but I also saw that not all destinations are reachable by bike lane. Especially in core urban areas, many destinations did not have bike lanes to the front door. Instead one rides just as in Portland, in the same street as cars, and following the same rules. Yes, “strict liability” and other cultural biases favor the bike (and ped), but the rules are still “vehicular” for bikes in the streets. My point is neither for or against bikeways or VC, but instead is that both bikeways and vehicular biking are normal and necessary parts of a complete urban transportation network.

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        • 9watts April 25, 2012 at 10:40 pm

          “Yes, “strict liability” and other cultural biases favor the bike (and ped), but the rules are still “vehicular” for bikes in the streets.”
          would you say that 30km/h speed limits had something to do with the fact that this worked as well as it did? That was my experience returning briefly to Europe for the first time since so much of this bike infrastructure sprang up and the speed limits were reduced.

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          • Alan 1.0 April 25, 2012 at 11:07 pm

            Yes, absolutely the lower urban speeds in Dutch cities are a factor in better/safer/more attractive biking on streets. (That was in my mind when I suggested a 15mph limit in the “no bikes on sidewalks” zone of downtown Portland, in the SW Stark thread.) But even on faster boulevards, drivers there pay better attention to bikes (subjectively), so there are multiple factors in play.

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            • Barbara April 26, 2012 at 12:28 pm

              But even the ” faster boulevards” are limited to 50 kmh/30 mph at least in Germany. There is a uniform speed limit in all cities, plus reductions to 30 kmh in residential areas, not the constant speed changes that confuse drivers here. And you can’t go 45 mph like you can here on streets like Barbur.

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        • Eli April 25, 2012 at 10:45 pm

          Admittedly I’ve biked thousands of miles of transportation cycling in Holland, but they were mostly in a few cities, so I’m not an expert. And I don’t know where you biked.

          But I presume that the streets you biked on were ones that were designed in ways that make them safe for bicyclists (bike lane or not), right?

          As in: the traffic was probably calmed to 20-25 miles an hour, the intersections were all daylighted (and probably simplified enough that it drivers could focus on looking in one direction when turning), and a zillion other things I can’t remember anymore?

          I remember the one time in Holland where I got lost and started biking on a street that reminded me of the kind of typical high-speed arterial street that Seattle paints its bike lanes (or sharrows) onto. Drivers started yelling at me and pointing. Not to chew me out — but to warn me that a road like that was much too dangerous for bicycles, and that I should use a different street nearby that I hadn’t seen that was much safer for people on bicycles.

          That’s the difference.

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          • Richard Risemberg April 26, 2012 at 9:21 am

            And if you have to get somewhere on that street, what do you do?

            Frankly, in most of the US the choice is vehicular cycling or give up and drive.

            I’ve been a vehicular cyclist for fifty years. I’ve also spent thousands of hours advocating for Northern European style bicycle infrastructure in Los Angeles, because I know most people approach urban transportation too casually to want to learn VC techniques. However, if you want full access, and you don’t want Northern European levels of taxation I myself am all for it, but the vast majority of Americans are emphatically not), then you will have to employ vehicular cycling at some point, or…give up and drive.

            I’ve ridden in Portland, and enjoyed the infrastructure when it went where I was going…but I still had to ride in traffic much of the time.

            As someone said earlier, forester’s techniques are valuable even if his dogma is not.

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        • Eli April 25, 2012 at 10:53 pm

          Just to be sure, nobody’s arguing against riding on streets or following traffic rules.

          The objectionable idea is John Forester’s ideology that it’s exclusively the bicyclist’s job to learn how to ride on existing, unimproved high-speed streets and make life-or-death decisions in order to get around one’s neighborhood.

          (As an aside, I remember my first week in Holland when I started asking local people how I would handle all the different situations I learned in Street Skills/Road 1 — right-hooks, navigating buses, complex intersections.

          They just looked really confused, and said they’d never heard about or seen these things, and they didn’t know what to tell me. I learned very quickly that the roads themselves are designed to prevent these dangerous situations from occurring in the first place.)

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          • Alan 1.0 April 25, 2012 at 11:57 pm

            “But I presume that the streets you biked on were ones that were designed in ways that make them safe for bicyclists (bike lane or not), right?”

            Sort of, because bike-friendly design is pervasive, there, and not an afterthought, but on some streets I rode (I’m thinking of Groningen) I didn’t notice any of the normal traffic-calming, bike/ped-specific things we commonly think about. And yet I was not harried, honked at, cut off, tailgated or otherwise made to feel out-of-place. As 9watts noted, speeds were mostly low (but some 30-40kph roads) but–good as that is–I think it still only accounts for part of the whole picture. Your anecdotes of Dutch people’s reaction to your riding and your questions bear out those complex cultural differences.

            “Just to be sure, nobody’s arguing against riding on streets or following traffic rules.

            “The objectionable idea is John Forester’s ideology that it’s exclusively the bicyclist’s job to learn how to ride on existing, unimproved high-speed streets and make life-or-death decisions in order to get around one’s neighborhood.”

            I understand the feelings against Forester’s dogmatic approach and I’m not promoting it as ideology, nor am I deprecating ways to make streets safer for all, including mixed modes. Still, learning the rules of the road is a bicyclist’s responsibility (and a motorist’s, and pedestrians). And I do think there are people arguing against riding on streets…not you, Eli, nor anyone else in particular here, but there are vocal forces who do not want bikes on many public roads. Even here there are those who would seem to have me believe that a significant segment of riders will only take up biking when they have dedicated bikeways door-to-door on their trip. With isolated exceptions, that is physically impossible for large parts of our road system (both urban and rural) and will be for a very long time to come. To the extent that they are not just using that as an excuse, I would like to make it easier for that segment to start biking, but I also feel that they should be shown that there are safe ways to travel in streets and that they can learn them and build their skills to where they can handle much more than many of them originally claim. By not learning to ride a bicycle as a vehicle on public roads, those people are losing their opportunity to enjoy a public resource and all the attendant benefits. AND, by their insistence that bikes only operate on bikeways, they are eroding my rights to that public resource, too.

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        • David April 26, 2012 at 5:24 am

          Alan, you’ve misunderstood what makes those city centre streets in the Netherlands feel different for cycling. It’s no accident, and it’s not because Dutch drivers behave any differently from those elsewhere. Rather, these streets are specifically designed to exclude motor vehicles so that conflict is avoided.

          Strict liability is rarely talked about in the Netherlands. It doesn’t have a snappy name as it does in English, and it is almost completely irrelevant.

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          • Alan 1.0 April 26, 2012 at 9:42 am

            Perhaps I do not “misunderstand” but simply have a different perspective or experience than you, or perhaps my point was not clear (which is primarily that neither ALL BIKEWAYS nor ALL VEHICULAR CYCLING [not necessarily in Forester’s dogmatic definition] offer the advantages of using an optimal mix of both strategies, either for riders in general or for the urban planner, and secondarily that there are cultural differences beyond infrastructure). Your blog pieces cite specific Dutch street designs which improve cycling; I have no argument about those and I agree they are widely and successfully implemented. Not all Dutch roads are like those quiet streets, there are some of them which are car-oriented, busy and lack many if not all of those obvious design features (though none I encountered are anywhere near as bike-hostile as many USA suburban arterials). And yet when I rode on them I was given more space and courtesy than I have been in US cities. Go figure.

            (As a tangential point of discussion, Dutch cities based on medeival street patterns offer a very different canvas for overlaying bikeways than do rigid grid-based cities. Heirarchy and scale are compressed in the grid.)

            When I first arrived in Groningen, walking from the train station with my Dutch friend, he made a point to explain to me about strict liability. He did not use that term, he simply said that if a car hits a bike or pedestrian it is the driver’s fault, but yes, Dutch do talk about it, and they do practice it. My intent in using the term, and particularly in encasing it in quotation marks, however, was not about topics of Dutch conversation but instead is about CULTURAL BIAS (as opposed to infrastructure design). I hope that using a buzz phrase as short-cut jargon in a quick post can be taken in context.

            I agree that “It’s no accident,” in both senses. 🙂

            (BTW, great blog, thanks!)

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  • BURR April 25, 2012 at 12:55 pm

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

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  • GlowBoy April 25, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    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.

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  • CaptainKarm April 25, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    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.

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    • David April 26, 2012 at 6:18 am

      This seems rather strange. A cycling advocate who thinks he is too old to ride a bike ? It’s sad that he has had to stop.

      I didn’t know that John had stopped cycling when I wrote last year about how vehicular cycling doesn’t help elderly people to take the lane, and that not having to do this is why older people keep cycling in the Netherlands.

      I assume everyone here is aware that there is no age at which the Dutch stop cycling. Over 65s make a quarter of all their journeys by bike, and they account for 12% of the total distance covered by bike.

      Over 75s don’t ride as much as younger people, but as an average over the whole country they make about 0.3 cycle journeys per day, or about 2 per week.

      One of our neighbours is 85. She is , a couple of years older than John Forester and still cycles on a daily basis to get shopping or meet her similarly friends (who are much the same age). This is normal in a place where Vehicular Cycling isn’t the only way of cycling.

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  • JAT in Seattle April 25, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    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.

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    • Eli April 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm

      Having just dedicated hundreds of hours of volunteer time this past year working on nudging Seattle to rewrite its Bike Master Plan around inclusive bike facilities, I have to admit I think my comment is pretty toned down compared to how I really feel. 😉

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOykE33L-WI touches on how Seattle is finally moving past a John Forester-esque bike master plan. I can’t wait.

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  • 9watts April 25, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    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).

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    • BURR April 26, 2012 at 11:18 am

      I believe that Forester’s original motivation was to fight a proposed California mandatory sidepath law and get California to define bicycles as vehicles.

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      • Pete April 29, 2012 at 8:56 pm

        Now if he could only get them to pass the 3′ passing law… 😉

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        • are April 30, 2012 at 12:36 pm

          a three foot passing law is one of the many things forester opposes, reasoning that existing safe passing distance laws already cover the situation, and that three feet is an arbitrary number that might be too close at high speeds, but more to his point nominally precludes closer passing at very low speeds that is actually safe.

          would note that the overtaking statute in oregon has the effect of creating an exception to the more general safe passing distance statute that arguably works against bicyclists.

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  • Atbman April 25, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    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?

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    • Eli April 25, 2012 at 1:44 pm

      That’s exactly the thing. The underlying fault in his argument is that he confounds the harm of badly designed bike infrastructure with all bike infrastructure.

      His arguments are only true if you believe that Americans are intrinsically incompetent at bike facility design, and in perpetuity, just because his community Northern California (where I also lived at the time) had some badly designed early facilities.

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      • Rick April 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm

        Forester and his followers raise some valid objections to poor infrastructure design. But rather than advocate for and contribute to the design of safer infrastructure, they simply reject all infrastructure out of hand. It’s more about ideology than it is about unsafe infrastructure. Especially, as you note, when the primary evidence Forester bases his arguments on is 1 poorly designed Palo Alto bike path in the early 70s.

        One argument Forester’s followers never make is that Forester has acknowledged that one of the primary motivations for opposing bike lanes is that he wanted to ride fast, and didn’t want slower cyclists “in his way.”

        And miraculously, in cities with no bike infrastructure, there are no slower cyclists in his or anybody else’s way.

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  • Kevin April 25, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    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.

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    • spare_wheel April 25, 2012 at 3:46 pm

      Anecdote and F.U.D.

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      • Opus the Poet April 26, 2012 at 9:32 pm

        well, make that 2 anecdotes. I was vehicularly assaulted in 2001 when a psycho decided I needed to get off his road, so he made a U-turn through the next cut-through in the median to get on my side of the road, acclerated to about 60 MPH (police report stated “between 45 and 65 MPH with best guess @ 60 MPH at time of impact”) and ran me over from behind in spite of the fact that we were the only two vehicles on the road in either direction for over a quarter of a mile.

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        • spare_wheel April 27, 2012 at 9:14 pm

          where the heck did i say that vehicular assault does not happen? my point was the anecdotal bike scare stores do nothing for cycling. whats the lesson here? never take the lane because you will instantly be flattened by a sociopathic psycho?

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  • beck the biker April 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    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.

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    • Elliot April 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm

      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?

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    • Chris I April 25, 2012 at 3:35 pm

      Does this guy even ride a bike? Is there photo evidence anywhere?

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      • Rick April 25, 2012 at 3:51 pm

        According to Forester, his riding days are behind him. And the photos prove it.

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    • are April 25, 2012 at 6:59 pm

      so, beck, what exactly is your recommendation on making lane changes in a situation in which motor traffic is moving faster than you are? don’t do it? wait for the copenhagen box on the corner? you leave out the part where he says “negotiate with the overtaking driver.” we are talking about lane changes here, in preparation for a left turn. okay, so he overstates the case when he says “play the road sneak and move left only if there is a gap in traffic long enough that you won’t affect any vehicles.” in practice, this simply means a gap long enough that an overtaking motorist won’t have to hit the emergency brake.

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      • Chris I April 26, 2012 at 8:11 am

        Would you expect a 8 year old child to make these lane changes you recommend? I do it all the time heading east on Hawthorne so I can turn left on 7th, but I’m pretty sure about 80% of the people in the Portland would be too afraid to attempt this with even a moderate amount of auto traffic.

        This is precisely the problem. His book works for about 10% of the population: the “fearless and confident”. We will not get significant modal share with this approach. We need things like Copenhagen left boxes and cycle tracks, but we should also allow vehicular cyclists to mix with traffic, even when these facilities are present.

        It would be interesting to hear Foster explain why he can’t ride his bike as a vehicular cyclist anymore. Health or safety? Or both?

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        • are April 26, 2012 at 5:11 pm

          listen. i understand that the future of all this sidepath infrastructure is to make it possible for eight year olds to get around. no, i do not expect an eight year old to go out and play in traffic. forester accepts the situation on hawthorne as a fact of life and says don’t change it, learn to work with it. pucher and friends say build something even an eight year old can use. the best designs they offer have unresolved conflicts at intersections. an eight year old could still get killed. the completely separated infrastructure is a very long distance in the future, probably at roughly the same time automobiles are disappearing. and in the meantime, unless we repeal the mandatory sidepath laws, i will be forbidden to make the maneuvers described.

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        • El Biciclero May 1, 2012 at 12:28 pm

          Let an 8-year-old out by themselves these days and you’ll be suspected of child neglect regardless of whether they are riding a bike or not.

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  • Joe Adamski April 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    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.

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  • Syzlak April 25, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    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”

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  • beelnite April 25, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    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.


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  • Paul Souders April 25, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    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.”

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  • beck the biker April 25, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    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?
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    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.

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  • Todd Boulanger April 25, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    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.

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    • Eli April 25, 2012 at 8:56 pm

      Yes. Certainly in my own city (Seattle), we can see the damage done by John Forester towards making a city where everyone can bike, by preventing any alternatives to pure “vehicular cycling for athletic men” from taking shape:


      As I’m not a “strong and confident” cyclist, the outcome of this lost decade or two of building bike infrastructure around John Forester’s ideology is that I personally have extremely limited freedom of mobility in my city. If we’d started building inclusive facilities 5 years ago that were open to everyone, I wouldn’t have to wait for a stinky bus each day to go on trips that I could do in minutes on a bike.

      (As an aside, if anyone’s curious, here’s what Dr. Staunton presented which was apparently controversial enough to contribute to someone being fired back then: http://ugreenways.org/media/Staunton_2006.pdf

      Nowadays we’d mostly just call it common sense.)

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  • Marty Weirick April 25, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    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…..

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  • GlowBoy April 25, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    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.

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  • cycler April 26, 2012 at 7:58 am

    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.

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    • 9watts April 26, 2012 at 8:04 am

      Not to disagree with you about the importance of infrastructure, but I wonder if reducing speed limits in town/in the city to 20 mph wouldn’t have a comparable effect at a fraction of the cost. Both would/will be even better, but the speed limits could in theory be put in place immediately.

      As for which is more difficult to institute politically…

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      • peejay April 26, 2012 at 9:02 am

        I replied to this, but my comment got thrown into the general thread for some reason.

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  • Ian Cooper April 26, 2012 at 8:12 am

    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.

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    • are April 26, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      there are several by dave glowacz, robert hurst, others

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  • Antload April 26, 2012 at 8:30 am

    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.

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  • peejay April 26, 2012 at 8:49 am

    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.

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  • Jessica Roberts April 26, 2012 at 8:51 am

    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.”

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  • dwainedibbly April 26, 2012 at 8:58 am

    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.

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    • wsbob April 26, 2012 at 10:59 am

      “…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. …” dwainedibbly

      That’s a kind of funny thing to write, but I doubt CC would use it as you suggest; though with the widespread publicity and notoriety Forester’s book has received over the years and currently, no doubt, people in the club and those serving on the study group will likely have heard of the book and its perspective on biking in traffic.

      Most likely, they’ll feel compelled to consider validity of vehicular cycling to the transportation objectives Portland residents and the city hold.

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  • Ian Cooper April 26, 2012 at 9:00 am

    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.

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    • andy May 7, 2012 at 6:46 am

      Ian – sorry you got this kind of response; the League doesn’t have a “position” on mirrors. What you got was the personal opinion of one of our instructors and should have been identified as such. Our education program has been known to be rather dogmatic – for all the reasons identified in this discussion; it is based on Forester’s work – and “anti-facility”, but that’s not the case, or shouldn’t be the case any more. Our instructors should be teaching people how to ride safely in all the situations they might find themselves, including on trails, in bike lanes, and in mixed traffic. And your use of a mirror in the class should have been the opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of mirrors rather than saying they are bad. We’re working on it.

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  • Peter Koonce April 26, 2012 at 9:11 am

    There was a Letter to the Editor from Forester in the ITE Journal last October:

    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

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    • Greg July 28, 2012 at 11:09 am

      Have you ridden Dutch infrastructure? They do have signals at pretty much all important intersections that mitigate the turning issues. (Mostly by having a separate phase for the bikes. You do need that stuff. It’s not optional.

      Cargo cult cyclepaths (separate infrastructure that just dumps you out at the intersection to crash into cars that can’t see you until it’s too late) aren’t a good idea. They may look pretty but they’re just like airplanes made of thatch – traveling in them is hazardous to your health.

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  • JAT in Seattle April 26, 2012 at 9:12 am

    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.

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  • Mickey April 26, 2012 at 9:55 am

    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…

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  • Rick April 26, 2012 at 10:59 am

    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.

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    • Mickey April 26, 2012 at 11:45 am

      You can create strong and confident riders through investment in recreational cycling, it is pretty universal that the people I ride with that are dedicated lifelong cyclists who ride a lot all got passionate about bikes through BMX.
      It is frustrating to be a daily rider and see so much money spent on attracting casual riders, who seem very fickle vs. spending money on creating more strong and confident riders, through investment in the NWTA, or building a free skills park in town, Valmont in Boulder was built for a million dollars.

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  • Ian Cooper April 26, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    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.

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  • GlowBoy April 26, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    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.

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    • spare_wheel April 29, 2012 at 6:41 pm

      “and that poorly designed cycletracks might elevate that danger”

      this is why i refuse to use the broadway or cully cycle track. those things are like death traps for fast cyclists.

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      • El Biciclero May 1, 2012 at 5:56 pm

        “…those things are like death traps for fast cyclists.”

        …and that’s the other bone of contention between infrastructure proponents and “VC” advocates. It seems that the majority of infrastructure is designed to be safe at speeds around 10mph. Those of us who have a normal bicycling speed of 15 – 20 mph recognize this and are therefore leery of gauntlet-style cycletraps–er, tracks. Those that want separated infrastructure really, really bad probably don’t have any desire to travel above about 12 mph, and wonder why us “spandex-clad Lance wannabes” are so hung up on speed and they don’t know why we can’t just relax and take twice as long to get everywhere. “Fast” cyclists like you and me are the next most evil thing after car drivers.

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        • Greg July 28, 2012 at 11:00 am

          Which BTW is very much *not* what Dutch standard infrastructure is. I’m usually humming along at 15+ mph on the street here in the NW and in Holland was often getting passed by the cyclists there (turns out riding every day of your life doesn’t make you slow. Odd how that works out :-).

          Dutch standard cyclepaths are *wide clean and smooth* – I wish we could transport this whole argument to Groningen and I think a lot of folks would realize two things:

          * great dedicated cycle infrastructure rocks completely (we should totally build and maintain lots!)
          * there is (to a first approximation) no great dedicated cycle infrastructure in the US

          Merely “good” cycle infrastructure can also be useful. But the pros and cons of that are complicated and we need to embrace that complexity and realize both the benefits and hazards of that stuff. For starters, suicide slot bike lanes kill folks regularly in the NW – fixing that should be a priority. Our MUPs are designed for very low capacity use – they work fine only when almost nobody is using them – if they get crowded folks start crashing (which is fine for suburban rail trails – but not urban congested paths).

          The good news is that there is a lot of room for improvement here 😉

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  • beck the biker April 26, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    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.

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    • are April 26, 2012 at 5:13 pm

      oregon is one state that does have a mandatory sidepath law

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  • Ian Cooper April 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    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.

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  • Todd Boulanger April 26, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    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.]

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  • Ian Cooper April 26, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    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.

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    • Todd Boulanger May 1, 2012 at 10:18 am

      I understand your reaction to my comment. I am not saying that VC practices should not be used…only that the VC proponents [then] would often fight the establishment of other types of bike facilities and practices that are now more common in the US. Yes, I too use VC skills when cycling in areas with a poor quality of cycling facilities.

      Perhaps we rode by each other back then…I was riding my sweet blue Raleigh Chopper 3 speed in the Kensington area of the City in the 70’s.

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  • Ian Cooper April 26, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    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.

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    • wsbob April 27, 2012 at 10:39 am

      Instances where police have felt compelled to issue citations for people not riding in the bike lane are apparently very isolated. Over at bikeforums, occasionally there is mention of an occasion where it’s happened, but it seems to be very rare, rather than common or routine.

      I don’t recall ever reading an account within the Portland area of an incident where someone riding a bike on a main lane of a road that included a bike lane or that had a cycle track or MUP near it, and felt compelled to ride the main lane for safety or any of the other reasons for not riding in the bike lane as covered in Oregon’s bike lane law, was issued a citation for not riding in the bike lane.

      If any such incidents have occurred that people know of, they ought to consider describing them in some detail here, so readers would be able to look at some possibly important information as to how Oregon’s bike lane law ORS 814.420 is working.

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        • wsbob April 28, 2012 at 1:04 am

          are…thanks for searching out that 2006 bikeportland story on the citation Jeff Smith received for not riding in the bike lane. I had to read the story and excerpts from Smith’s case before the court several times before I could get what the judge, DA, Smith’s lawyer and Smith were exactly talking about.

          Smith left the bike lane entering the main lane to proceed to make a left turn, which as the story you linked to explains, is a legal departure from the bike lane according to 814.420 (2)(B). Unfortunately, the story doesn’t report whether upon being stopped by the police, Smith explained to the officer, his legal reason for leaving the bike lane. If the officer fully understood the law, and Smith did tell him why he left the bike lane, that leaves a question of why the officer went ahead and wrote the citation. At any rate, the judge decided Smith wasn’t guilty.

          Anyone else know about someone having received a citation for not riding in the bike lane? Perhaps something for recent than 2006.

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          • Alan 1.0 April 28, 2012 at 11:17 am

            What value do you see in a law which is so unclear that even lawyers suggest that it be ignored? Is it a good practice to keep such laws on the books? Does 814.420 help or hinder the safe interaction of bicyclists and drivers?

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            • wsbob April 28, 2012 at 12:53 pm

              I don’t think the law is particularly unclear. Are lawyers suggesting the bike law be ignored? If they are, that doesn’t sound like very good advice.

              The wording of the law allows road users on bikes a wide range of legitimate reasons to leave the bike lane and travel on main travel lanes. There seems to be a problem though, in many people not being familiar with conditions provided to leave the bike lane as specified in the law. The answer to that is probably discussion occurring more commonly about what the law says.

              The curious thing to me about the court case reported in the story pulled up by commenter ‘are’, was that the judge and the lawyers seemed to have gotten lost in figuring out why the officer’s issuance of the citation wasn’t valid. It says clearly in the the law that leaving the bike lane to make a left turn is allowed.

              The judge though, seemed to get caught up in asking whether such a move was ‘safe and reasonable’ (because of what the expert witness Geller said through his being introduced by the prosecutor and cross examined by the defense.), even though the cop apparently didn’t write the ticket for an unsafe traffic maneuver.

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              • Alan 1.0 April 28, 2012 at 1:58 pm

                I don’t think the law is particularly unclear.

                Will you grant the grace that Ian, are, El Biciclero and myself, just in this thread, do find it problematic? Note that several rational reasons for that concern have also been posted.

                Are lawyers suggesting the bike law be ignored? If they are, that doesn’t sound like very good advice.

                He’s welcome to quibble with my paraphrasing, but in this very thread mark ginsberg says as much.

                I won’t belabor the issue further, you’re welcome to have the last word, but I will leave with this pointer to Dan Gutierrez‘ “US States with Equitable Bicycling Laws” as evidence that the problem is widespread and recognized by many people who advocate for bicyclists rights:


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              • wsbob May 1, 2012 at 11:27 am

                Alan…let Ginsberg speak for himself, but my reading of his comment that you included the link to in your comment, is that he is absolutely not telling people as road users on bikes to ignore the bike lane law. In his comment, he’s explaining to readers that the bike lane law includes conditions that allow road users on bikes to leave the bike lane and use the main lane.

                About use of the road and its bike lanes, this is one of the things people need to understand as they ride in traffic on bikes.

                Your link to Dan Gutierrez’ “US States with Equitable Bicycling Laws, didn’t lead to what I expect is an article with that title.

                I certainly do recognize that the bike lane law, not unlike a number of other laws over time, has the potential to be abused in different ways by different parties. Related to application of the bike lane law, if someone knows of examples of that happening, they should freely speak up about them if they’re so inclined. By lack of examples being cited, there seems to be very few instances of the bike lane law being abused by the police to arbitrarily issue citations.

                You’ll notice the comment just below this one I’m writing, that ‘are’ left responding to some of the earlier discussion about the citation Jeff Smith received back in ’06 for leaving the bike lane on the west off ramp of the Hawthorne. He explains that Smith’s reasons for leaving the bike lane was to make a left turn some 2-3 blocks in advance of the departure from the bike lane. Maybe I missed it, but I don’t think it was explained in Maus’s original article that this is why Smith left the bike lane, or that he explained this to the officer that stopped him.

                Personally, if that is the reason Smith left the bike lane, it seems a reasonable maneuver to me, one I’d likely use myself if traffic conditions obliged it. If it’s done properly…signaling and transitioning from lane to lane with sufficient notice to other people on the road, an officer would have no legal reason to object.

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              • El Biciclero May 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm

                Any law that requires a cyclist who makes a rational and safe maneuver–one that any other road user would make without thinking about it–to hire a lawyer and go to trial to defend said maneuver shows that A) the law is biased against bicyclists, and B) the law that is biased against bicyclists is so ambiguous as to require a trial to figure out whether a trivial traffic infraction was actually committed. ORS 814.420 is a bad AND poorly written law.

                Also, attempting to explain to a police officer why he is wrong for stopping you doesn’t usually turn out so well.

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              • wsbob May 1, 2012 at 6:25 pm

                What cyclist, maneuver, lawyer, trial might you be referring to? If you’re speaking of general cyclists compliance with Oregon’s bike lane law, you’d probably be not well advised to assume most people riding bikes in traffic transition back and forth from bike lanes to main travel lanes in “…a rational and safe maneuver–one that any other road user would make without thinking about it. …”. There are some very erratic road users out there, that don’t maneuver back and forth across lanes in a safe and rational maneuver.

                Maybe though, even though you didn’t say so in your comment, you’re thinking specifically about the court case from 2006 that ‘are’ cited…a bikeportland story having reported on, the case we’ve been discussing that involved the citation that city worker Jeff Smith on his bike received for leaving the bike lane.

                That story did not report discussion in the court hearing before the judge having to do with why Smith left the bike lane, if any such discussion even did occur in that hearing. The story seems to report that the judge decided to vote ‘not guilty’ on information provided by the prosecution about the general question having to do with whether the bike lane in question met the number (2) part of the law that requires bike lanes’ safety be reviewed by a public hearing of sorts. The number (2) part of the law is vague and might be improved with review and rewriting, but the rest of the law, including (3), the part citing important situations where people on bikes are entitled to leave the bike lane and ride the main travel lanes doesn’t seem to be.

                About responding to a police office during a traffic stop: The times I’ve been stopped, they’ve asked questions which I try to answer simply and truthfully as possible. I have no idea what Jeff Smith said to the police officer when he was stopped for leaving the bike lane. Had it been me in a similar situation, I would simply have said: ‘ I left the bike lane on the right side of the street to transition across the lanes of the street for a left turn route change up ahead. My understanding, is that the law allows me to do that.’.

                What did Smith actually say? Even though its an old incident, it would be good to know.

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              • wsbob May 1, 2012 at 6:33 pm

                Whoops! I’ll modify part of what I said here: “… most people riding bikes in traffic transition back and forth from bike lanes to main travel lanes in “…a rational and safe maneuver …”.

                I’ll change that to say many people riding bikes to ride in traffic in a rational and safe manner, but as with road users of all mode types, there are plenty of exceptions. There wasn’t anything in the bikeportland story on Jeff Smith’s case that reported the officer characterizing how Smith was riding his bike.

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              • El Biciclero May 2, 2012 at 9:54 am

                Assuming Jonathan’s article from 2006 was accurate, Jeff Smith was cited for failure to use a bike lane. Part of the defense’s line of questioning was whether it was reasonable to “prepare for a left turn” well ahead of time (I believe this was the testimony prosecutors–prosecutors for crying out loud!–wanted to have thrown out). That line of questioning leads me to believe that either Jeff was indeed preparing to make a left turn, or it at least could be plausibly argued that he was. The judge’s ultimate decision was that in this case (because he didn’t want to “dismantle” the whole “bike lane system”–interesting language…), Mr. Smith had been riding in a rational and safe manner, and he found Smith “Not Guilty”. The article also mentions a Dat Nguyen who was scheduled to go on trial for the same offense, but his case was dismissed without trial.

                These excerpts tell me a few things:
                – Jeff Smith was cited for riding in a rational and safe manner, just not in a “present” bike lane.
                – The law was confusing enough that he was issued a citation for doing something legal.
                – The law was further confusing enough that defense lawyers, prosecutors, expert witnesses, and a judge had to be called in to argue about whether an offense had been committed. If I understand correctly, it’s usually just the issuing officer and the judge.
                – There was more than one person that same day who was scheduled to go on trial for the same offense, so Jeff Smith’s case is not unique.

                They also make me ask a few things:
                – Since when to DAs get involved in technical traffic violation cases?
                – What is the “bike lane system”, and how would it be “dismantled” if the judge had not been careful to be so specific in his ruling? Surely he doesn’t mean that all bike lane stripes would be sandblasted away as a result of a less careful decision, so what is it?
                – Were the police officer and prosecutors really so confused about traffic law that they couldn’t tell whether Mr. Smith and Mr. Nguyen were operating legally, or is this a case of authorities seeing something they didn’t like (cyclists riding in the car lane–cheeky bastards!) and attempting to make a case against them just to show them who’s boss?

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              • wsbob May 2, 2012 at 7:03 pm

                El Biciclero re; your May 2, 2012 at 9:54 am post: As I said before, except for the public hearing part of the bike lane law 814.20, I don’t think the law is confusing. Reading about the court hearing of Jeff Smith’s case, it seems to be true though that back in ’06, some of the legal people…maybe the cop and the DA’s didn’t understand what the law required and what it provided for.

                Assume Jeff Smith departed from the bike lane into the main travel lanes in advance of a left turn he intended to make, properly indicating so with signals: Assume also that this is what the officer observed Smith doing. If the officer knew the bike lane law and that it legally provided for leaving the bike lane to transition across the streets lanes of travel to make a left turn, this raises the question of why the officer wrote the citation.

                The DA’s didn’t need to get into the ‘safe and reasonable’ criteria that bike lanes are required to meet by the so called public hearing…which is just a departmental sign off by an inspector after the inspector has supposedly made certain the bike lane meets specs. All they needed to check for is whether leaving the bike lane to make a left turn is legal…which it is…as spelled out in the text of the law, plain as day. Simple.

                Unless Smith didn’t really leave the bike lane to prepare for making a left turn, or for some of the other conditions for leaving the bike lane provided for in the bike lane law, the DA’s never had a case to begin with.

                At any rate, nice discussion. I think people traveling the road by all modes need to have a fairly solid understanding of the law relating to travel by bike on roads with bike lanes. There seems to be far too much incorrect assumption about what the bike lane law requires and what it provides for.

                Maybe bikeportland could whip up and post a little fun tutorial about situations the bike lane law allows people to leave the bike lane for, and also how to leave it safely and skillfully. Lot of artists out there that could probably make it interesting with drawings and whatnot.

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          • are April 28, 2012 at 1:21 pm

            but he did it two or three blocks in advance of the actual left turn. you and i, as experienced vehicular cyclists might readily understand why this makes sense. a lot of motorists do not, and the law creates a situation in which law enforcement can (and in this case did) harass the cyclist.

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            • are May 2, 2012 at 11:40 am

              to clarify, since there seems to be some confusion about where i am getting the “two or three blocks” idea, the story did state that smith was on SW main betw. hawthorne and first,
              which would seem to suggest that he was westbound coming off the hawthorne bridge and preparing to turn left onto main. so okay, that could only be two blocks, not three, but the point being that in that situation you gotta merge left early or you are cooked. the judge understood that, at least after roger explained it to him. and the business about not wanting to “dismantle” the entire sidepath system probably had something to do with this whole PBoT designates it therefore it is presumptively safe thing.

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  • Ian Cooper April 26, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    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.

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  • David Feldman April 27, 2012 at 8:51 am

    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…

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    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.

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    • Dan September 5, 2014 at 6:56 am

      The City of Nashville, in a “rush” to pretend to be bike friendly, has stressed quantity over quality of bike lanes, and I saw some there that were 2-3 feet wide and looked extremely unsafe. Where I live, bike lanes are typically 4 feet wide and feel comfortable in the few places they exist, although my suburb has no law or fine against cars parking in the bike lanes.

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  • Brian April 27, 2012 at 9:58 am

    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?

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    • spare_wheel April 28, 2012 at 10:12 am

      “this is a case of a good message with a bad messenger”


      i believe that the majority of VC riders support cycling infrastructure.

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      • Antload April 28, 2012 at 10:29 am

        I’m part of that group you speak of. I like applying VC to “the last half mile” or “riding in Detroit” or “the more direct route”. I also love green boxes and cycle tracks when they happen to be on my route.

        I never travel without my bike and I predict that I’ll still be visiting places full of auto-centrism in the year 2020. I’ll still be packing my VC SKILLS because I refuse to drive motorized couches.

        Can we please have bike education programs that gracefully combine the survivability-enhancing elements of VC with respect for well-designed bicycle-specific treatments and facilities?

        Enough artificial dichotomy already.

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        • are April 28, 2012 at 10:54 am

          most bike lanes are too narrow and poorly placed, in door zones or inside right hooks. green boxes work only when everyone arrives during the red signal phase, and otherwise function to confuse the driver who would be turning right but cannot understand why the vehicular cyclist is behind her rather than coming up on her right.

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          • spare_wheel April 28, 2012 at 3:35 pm

            in retrospect…i should have said that i support well-designed infrastructure.

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  • Fred April 28, 2012 at 11:18 am

    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:


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    • are May 1, 2012 at 12:35 pm

      you are linking to a three hundred page study for DOT that gives at least a superficial appearance of being pretty rigorous. could you outline your objections?

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  • Paul Glassen July 10, 2012 at 1:05 am

    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.

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