John Forester, M.S., P.E.
Cycling Transportation Engineer
Consulting Engineer, Expert Witness & Educator in
Effective Cycling, Bicycles, Highways & Bikeways, Traffic Laws
7585 Church St., Lemon Grove, CA 91945-2306
619-644-5481, forester @ johnforester.com
Since 1944, American society has disapproved of lawful, competent cycling. It was then that bicycles were removed from the class of vehicles and became "devices" whose riders became subject to three discriminatory laws prohibiting cyclists from exercising the full rights of drivers of vehicles. These laws prohibited cycling away from the edge of the roadway, from riding outside of bike lanes, or for using the roadway at all if a path usable by bicycles was nearby. The bikeway system was devised by motorists to provide the physical enforcement of these laws that, motorists think, make bicycling safe by keeping "their" roads clear of bicycles. The environmentalists were suckered into this bogus safety argument and now demand bikeways to make bicycle transportation safe and popular. With the government spending more and more money on bikeway programs, lawful and competent cyclists are being more and more limited to operating on bikeways that are unsuitable for lawful and competent cycling. As long as bikeways are tied to the three discriminatory laws, bikeway promotion is carrying out the motorists' intent of discriminating against cyclists for their own convenience.
Most of the rest of this website explains the advantages of lawful, competent cycling and the engineering and safety defects inherent in doing anything else. That is all support for what must be done now, fighting for repeal of the three discriminatory anti-cyclist traffic laws. Vehicular cyclists and bikeway cyclists must join forces to reform the national policy for bicycle transportation so that it serves cyclists rather than serving the convenience of motorists.
The rights and duties of drivers of vehicles enable traffic to flow safely and efficiently. But motorists, for their own convenience, denied cyclists important rights, thus making cyclists second-class road users, trespassers subject to discrimination by police and harassment by motorists, and unable to take advantage of the safety and efficiency of obeying the standard traffic rules. Repealing the restrictive laws that deny cyclists the full rights of drivers of vehicles is the most important task for those cyclists who recognize the value of obeying the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles. Because these rules violate both traffic-engineering and legal principles there are reasonable arguments for repealing them. Repeal discussion
When you do it right, cycling is enjoyable. The enjoyment of cycling is the most important reason for doing it. For some people, it is economical transportation, or a way to exercise for health, or competitive racing, or provides the means of entering areas from which motor traffic is excluded, or transportation that doesn't use petroleum, but, in today's U.S.A., if you don't enjoy cycling you won't long continue doing it. Like any other activity, if you do it wrong you will find it unpleasant and unsatisfactory. The important thing is to cycle properly so that you do enjoy it.
How many ways are there to enjoy cycling? Well, there is motoring out into the country to find a deserted road or a rail-trail, so you can cycle without, so you think, any worries at all. That seems to be the most prevalent hope about cycling. If you stay in town, most people hope for a bikeway to keep you away from traffic, to make cycling safe, again so you can cycle with few worries. The supposed lack of safe places to ride is the most frequent reason people give for not cycling, and, therefore, for not getting the enjoyment that cycling would give them. Does that make sense? To tell the truth, it does not make sense, not when you know the facts and feel the enjoyment of cycling properly. When you cycle properly in traffic, you find the traffic no more annoying than if you were motoring; indeed, if congestion is bad, you are less delayed when cycling than when motoring.
There are many skills associated with cycling, some having to do with the bicycle itself, others with the match between you and your bicycle, others explaining how to ride with least fatigue, others with how to handle the environmental conditions of heat and cold, rain, darkness, winds, and hills. Several books provide instruction in these skills, although I think that the most comprehensive is my Effective Cycling (The MIT Press).
However, most people are most concerned about what they consider to be the dangers of motor traffic. Staying away from traffic is how they describe safe cycling, and if you cannot stay away from it you have to fight it, which makes cycling worrisome and dangerous, so they say. Fighting with cars would be utterly foolish, but that's not what you do. Instead of fighting with cars, you cooperate with other drivers, so that you all get home safely. Participating in, cooperating with the traffic system, obeying the same rules of the road as other drivers, acknowledging their rights while claiming your own, that's the key to safe and confident cycling in traffic. Vehicular cycling, so named because you are acting as the driver of a vehicle, just as the traffic laws require, is faster and more enjoyable, so that the plain joy of cycling overrides the annoyance of even heavy traffic.
That is the guiding principle that cyclists should recognize and government and society should obey. But government does its best to prevent cyclists from recognizing this principle. Motorists fear that competent cyclists would delay them.
|Cycling advocacy is for cyclists.||Bicycle advocacy is not cycling advocacy.|
|Bikeways neither make cycling much safer nor reduce the skill required. They probably do the reverse.||Government knows that bikeways don't make cycling safer, but it uses the public superstition that they do.|
|The government's bicycle program is designed by superstition for the convenience of motorists.||Cyclists react to the government's bicycle and bikeway programs.|
|The government's bicycle design standard encourages riding at night without lights.||The government's bicycle design standard is based on engineering incompetence.|
|Proper traffic laws treat cyclists as drivers of vehicles.||Government bike planners mix cyclists with pedestrians.|
|Effective Cycling is safer, faster, and better.||Teaching Effective Cycling to all ages|
Changing the erroneous American policy regarding bicycle transportation has proved to be a very difficult task. Three things have been accomplished. Some of the most dangerous bikeway designs have been removed from the approved standards. This has been accomplished by demonstrating that the policy not only has no scientific support but contradicts known traffic-engineering knowledge. We have a confrontation between technological knowledge and public opinion. So far, public opinion has won, thus endangering cyclists and making bicycle transportation less useful.
In the context of American society, any organization that attempts to change American policy and practice regarding bicycle transportation has to start with a core of cyclists who operate lawfully and competently, in accordance with the rights and duties of drivers of vehicles. This core demonstrates the possibility and practicality, contrary to American belief, of such lawful and competent operation. Any organization that represents cyclists must advocate the best policies for its cyclist members. The League of American Bicyclists pretends to be that organization. Since "Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles", LAB should be advocating for lawful, competent cyclists. However, LAB has been taken over by the bicycle sellers and the bikeway promoters to obey their interests instead of cyclists' interests. The resulting mismanagement has become so blatant that the long-needed reforms seem possible. See The League Must Be Reformed
The greatest defect in American bicycling is the predominance of incompetent, unlawful, fearful, and superstitious cycling behaviors and beliefs among the population, both bicycling and general, and the corresponding paucity of lawful, competent, and confident cyclists. Any organization of lawful, competent cyclists that intends to advocate for their interests has to have programs to inform, encourage, educate, and train existing and prospective members about the core principles of the organization. In America, the only source of training lawful, competent cyclists is an instructional program run by and for vehicular cyclists. For a few years, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the League did this through its Effective Cycling Program, but it ceased to provide proper instruction and training once the bikeway advocates took over. The core of such a program is the training and certification of Effective Cycling Instructors.
The Effective Cycling Instructor's Manual that was developed then but later discarded has now been modernized and is available for download and study.
Also available is the manual for intermediate level instruction, Effective Cycling at the Intermediate Level.
Any organization that expects to change American policy and practice regarding bicycle transportation must present a clear and encouraging message. See Mission Statement
Any organization that expects to change American policy regarding bicycle transportation must develop its strategy around this public opinion. See Bicycle Politics
Any organization that expects to change American policy and practice regarding bicycle transportation must be organized so that it can apply the strategy with the greatest probability of success. See Bicycle Transportation Engineering Organization.
For John Forester's articles on cycling subjects: Articles
For John Forester's books on cycling and cyclist education: Bicycle books by John Forester
John Forester's personal history of American cycling since 1940: Cycling History
This is a .pdf file. I will be making additions until I think it sufficiently complete.
John Forester acts as a consultant and expert witness in bicycle accident cases.
For information about John Forester's professional services: Consult
For information about the controversy with James M. Green: Green
Republished Papers: Some published papers in bicycle transportation that are no longer available from the original sources are republished here.
National Safety Council: Study of Bicycle Accidents and Usage among Young Adults
John Forester has also written about maritime subjects: Maritime Articles
John Forester' E-Mail address is: forester @ johnforester.com
Index page last changed: 12-Dec-13
There is another John Forester who teaches at Cornell University: www.crp.cornell.edu/forester