This is a short history of how American society, American governments, and the American bicycle manufacturing industry got themselves involved in cycling by imposing their non-cycling and anti-cycling and anti-motoring views upon cyclists.
For decades before 1970, American bicycles had been imitation-motorcycle toys used by children, except for the few imported real bicycles used by the few adult cyclists. The typical view of American cycling was short-distance play by children, an activity that was rarely seen as a traffic problem, just so long as the children kept out of the way of cars, as they were instructed to do by the “bike-safety” programs of the time. This playing about with bicycles produced many injuries, though mostly minor ones; by one evaluation, bicycles were the most dangerous consumer product. The bicycle sales volume trend line ran a bit above the population growth line as Kenneth Cross wrote in 1978: “owing to the increased affluence of most families, an increasing proportion of the juvenile population has been provided a bicycle at an early age.”
That changed drastically in 1970; in two years, sales were twice what they had been. Moreover, the new sales were ten-speed bicycles, capable of providing real transportation, which were being used by a somewhat older population as young people continued to cycle beyond the former age range. Cross lists some causes, but today we can recognize additional demographic causes, such as recent suburbanization, educational changes, and social unrest. The American motoring public, particularly in California, was suddenly, from one summer to the next, confronted with bicycle traffic on roads on which they could remember none. The American motoring public determined to solve this bicycle traffic and safety problem.
This determination acted along two paths: make bicycles safe and make bicycling safe. Both paths proceeded according to the existing views of the American public. The Consumer Product Safety Commission of the United States required that bicycles be redesigned to become really and truly safe toys for use by children, at least as far as a two-wheeled single-track vehicle can be safe. The state governments, with California taking the lead, produced designs for bikeways that implemented the “bike-safety for children” instruction to stay out of the way of cars.
Naturally, any safety campaign ought to be based on accident data, and studies were started to gather the data relevant to these activities. However, so sure were the American public and American government of what they thought that they knew about bicycles and bicycling, that they implemented these safety programs before receiving the results of the studies and they continued even after the studies showed their underlying assumptions were invalid.
The safe-bicycle activity came to a screeching halt. Adult cyclists discovered that they would be prohibited from buying the good and excellent foreign bicycles they wanted, and the American bicycle manufacturers discovered that they wanted to serve that market, too. So the bicycle regulation, despite being authorized as applying only to “toys or other articles intended for use by children”, became modified to allow the sale of real bicycles as well as toy bicycles. Because the CPSC's engineers were utterly incompetent, many of the requirements have nothing to do with safety, and some were so absurd that judges repealed them. The regulation's sole remaining significant characteristic is its statement that it is safe to ride a bicycle at night without a headlight. This dangerous statement has been, and still is, vigorously defended by the bicycle manufacturers, thus serving as a reminder that regulations intended to control businesses for the safety of the public often become protectors of industry to the danger of the public. Furthermore, when the accident studies were completed, they showed that only about 3 percent of the injuries to cyclists could be attributed to defective bicycle design. Therefore, the regulation of design can have only an insignificant safety benefit.
The safe-cycling bikeway activity did not come to as happy an end as the bicycle design regulation (except, of course, for the required nighttime danger equipment), but persists to this day as the government’s major activity concerning the bicycle traffic problem. The California bikeway committees so strongly believed that car-bike collision statistics would support their program that they commissioned the first such study from Ken Cross and held a meeting for him to present his results. When Cross’s results completely disproved the bikeway superstition, they suppressed his study. My copy is reproduced on my website, johnforester.com, as Cross’s study number one.
Shortly thereafter, the federal government entered the safe-cycling bikeway campaign. Like California and like its Consumer Product Safety Commission, the federal offices (Federal Highway Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) produced their bikeway designs before receiving the results of the nationwide study of car-bike collisions they had commissioned from Ken Cross, as his second study. Since Ken Cross's second study also disproved the bikeway safety hypothesis, the federal government, like California, ignored the accident study it had commissioned.
The accident statistics, once gathered, utterly disproved the concepts that either the bicycle design regulation or the bikeway design standards and program could make any significant reduction in the accident rate for cyclists. That fact failed to dissuade the governments from carrying out their desires regarding cyclists. Neither the public nor the government had any special desire regarding the design of bicycles, so they largely let that regulation be modified into insignificance. That is, except for the failure to require a headlamp when cycling at night, which absence the industry has fiercely defended despite pleas from cyclists. However, in this matter the states defied the federal government and continue to require the use of a headlamp when cycling at night, but the whole business of proper nighttime protective equipment is a tangle, a can of worms.
In the matter of cycling on the roadways, the American public and the American government had the very definite concept that persons riding bicycles were incapable of obeying the traffic laws for drivers of vehicles and should be relegated to bikeways wherever possible. As I say, they implemented this superstition by preparing standard designs for bikeways and then by building such bikeways. This bikeway superstition suited motorists for it implemented the long-standing bike-safety teaching that cyclists' prime duty is to stay out of the possible path of motorists. That implementing this superstition would not significantly reduce accidents to cyclists, and might increase them, and would certainly do far less than teaching cyclists to obey the traffic laws for drivers of vehicles, meant nothing when compared to the reduction of worry in the minds of superstitious motorists who didn't like the thought of being delayed at any time.
The first of these bikeway standard designs was Bikeway Planning Criteria and Guidelines, April 1972. Its cover states: Requested by Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 26 [of both houses of the California Legislature], prepared by Institute of Transportation and Traffic Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of California, Los Angeles, UCLA-ENG-7224, issued by State of California, Business and Transportation Agency, Department of Public Works, Division of Highways. Its title page states, in addition to that on the cover, Final Report, Contract no. ST CAL - Div Hwys 13945 - A13424, "A Study of Bicycle Pathway Effectiveness"; Principal Investigator: H. W. Case, Professor & Associate Director, ITTE. Co-Principal Investigator: S. F. Hulbert, Research Psychologist; Project Consultant: Gary Fisher, PhD.; U. C. Davis Coordinator: M. R. Ramey, Professor, Engineering, U. C. Davis; Authors: G. Fisher, S. Hulbert, M. R. Ramey, S. Fass, D. Gonzales, A. Horowitz, J. Kefauver, B. Kobritz, W. Lum, M. Millar, C. Nicodemus, A. Ravindranath, D. Stenson, E. Weller. Prepared for: State of California - Business and Transportation Agency, Department of Public Works, Division of Highways, [by] Institute of Transportation and Traffic Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of California, Los Angeles. There follow lists of Faculty Advisors (9) and Graduate Student Staff Members (22), mostly in Engineering, some in Urban Planning, 3 in Psychology, and 1 in Zoology.
In 1971 the California Legislature had decided to do something about what it saw as the increasing number of bicycles on the road. It decided to get them off the roads as much as possible. As its first step, it ordered BPC&G from UCLA. Its second step was to establish a California Statewide Bicycle Committee to work out the recommended wording of traffic laws that would require cyclists to use the bikeways specified by BPC&G.
BPC&G essentially recommends a system combining fully-separated bicycle paths and sidepaths, derived from Dutch and German sources. Its opening discussion of roadway bikeways is: "Incorporating the bikeway on the roadway provides more possibilities than with the sidewalk, however requires more careful consideration as the conflicts both from parked cars and motor vehicles pose more serious consequences to the cyclist. Thus, the parking density, turnover rate, volume of traffic on the outside lane, traffic mix, speed and anticipated bike volume are major determiners of the feasibility of sharing the roadway (Class III) or separating the bicycle by varying degrees from the motor vehicle (Class II)."
This, California's first try, contained designs that are horrendously dangerous for cyclists. As we all know, the sidepath system cannot be made safe for cyclists unless cyclists are slowed to pedestrian speed and afflicted with many delays. We in California had just gone through the case of Palo Alto vs Forester, in which I was prosecuted for riding on the roadway instead of on the sidewalk and for making a vehicular-style left turn from a bike-laned street. During the court trial I made the city recognize the danger into which the city had placed me. I tested Palo Alto's sidepaths for two rides, to determine whether it was safe to travel at the same speed, and with the same right of way, that I would have cycling on the roadway. These rides required all my bike-handling skill and traffic knowledge to dodge around cars on average every 0.7 miles. I had nearly been killed trying to make a left turn from a sidepath, saving myself only by turning 180 degrees to go head-on into a platoon of cars coming at me. Following this near crash, I terminated the test because it was too dangerous to continue. As soon as the legal proceedings were all over, Palo Alto repealed its mandatory bikeway ordinance. Californian governments recognized that if they implemented the system described in the UCLA standard, they would be deluged by personal injury lawsuits and would be held liable.
Although I was the official bicyclist representative, the only one permitted by the State on the California Statewide Bicycle Committee, I was never told of the plan to make bikeways mandatory in California or of the existence of the bikeway standard. I discovered this document through my own researches about the end of 1972. After discovering it, I led the opposition and we killed that proposal on the grounds that its designs were very dangerous for cyclists.
A second set of bikeway standards that were never inflicted on cyclists came from the Federal Highway Administration. These are Safety and Locational Criteria for Bicycle Facilities, prepared for the Offices of Research and Development, Federal Highway Administration, Department of Transportation, February 1976, under Contract DOT-FH-11-8132, by DeLeeuw, Cather & Company, D. T. Smith, Jr. author. There are 3 volumes, designated FHWA-RD-75-112, -113, -114. 112 is the Final Report, containing the research data. 113 is User Manual Volume 1: Bicycle Facility Location Criteria. 114 is User Manual Volume 2: Design and Safety Criteria.
The FHWA tried to support its bikeway standard by conducting its own research studies instead of relying on surveys of Dutch and German literature. Its investigation, under Dan Smith of Deleeuw, Cather Co, assisted by several academics, performed several research studies, which were reported in the Final Report volume and formed the basis of the two user manuals. That process determined that the federal bikeway standard had to stand or fall based on the quality of the published research that supported it. That research was incompetently done. Pages 31 to 35 of -112 state "Findings: Bicycles and motor vehicles are not compatible [according to speed differences]. ... Figure 3 presents a comparison of typical motor vehicle and bicycle speed distributions on separated paths. The figure shows that 90 percent of all bicyclists travel slower than virtually all motorists under free flow conditions ... " Figure 3 shows that median bicyclist speed is 13.5 mph less than median motorist speed. However, it also shows that the speed range for motorists is 20 mph. Obviously, if a speed difference of 13.5 mph makes cyclists incompatible with motorists, then a speed difference of 20 mph between motorists makes motorists incompatible with motorists. Page 39 of -112 describes measuring the lateral separation between two cyclists riding as a coordinated pair and then uses that as the basis for predicting the lateral separation a fast cyclist would allow when overtaking an unknown slow cyclist. Then there's the attempt (pgs 24-27) to calculate the extent to which bikelanes reduce car-bike collisions, by comparing bikelaned and normal streets in Davis. The calculation states that bikelanes reduce car-bike collisions by 51 percent. A subsidiary part of the calculation states that bikelanes reduce driveway-rideout-collisions by 87 percent. Page 25 states "This is a reasonable expectation as ... " Consider that the bikelane may prevent a right-turning cyclist from colliding with motor traffic from his left, but the left-turning cyclist still must cross motor traffic from both left and right. Just on the basis of equal probabilities, one would assume that the reduction would be only 33 percent. In fact, the calculation method is unique, never replicated, its analysis of collision types contains errors, and when standard statistical error ranges are applied, it proves that bikelanes may either decrease or increase errors. Furthermore, it ignores the great difference in Davis between the bikelaned and the normal streets.
I reviewed the FHWA report according to standard scientific criteria and declared it to be worthless and misleading. The two user manuals, while printed (I have copies), were never officially issued for use. So far as I know, there was no other adverse report published. The results of this project were never implemented; the project was just dropped.
Because California had been forced to discard its UCLA bikeway standards before implementing them, California started a new set, this time through a new committee, the California Bicycle Facilities Committee. I was thought either too dangerous or too unpleasant, or both, so John Finley Scott was accepted as the cyclist representative. However, as the president of the California Association of Bicycling Organizations I attended meetings and prepared several versions of the standards as they developed, each time to influence the course of development. I probably did more writing than anybody else did. The Committee members were: Rick Knapp, Chairman, CALTRANS; Richard Blunden, League of American Wheelmen; Merick Chaffee, California Department of Parks and Recreation; David Pelz, League of California Cities; Richard Rademacher, California Highway Patrol; James Ray, California Traffic Control Devices Committee; Lloyd Roberts, County Supervisors Association of California; John Scott, California Association of Bicycling Organizations.
While we cyclists opposed the purpose of the committee, we had little success in that opposition. In fact, the leader of the California Senate, James Mills, considered by many to be a good friend of bicycling, sent his representative to inform the committee that the state government would impose bikeways regardless of what the committee did. What John Finley and I did appears more in what you have never seen than in what you do see. Getting the bikelane moved to the left of a right-turn-only lane is one of the few such positive successes. That was not easy. The Chairman in charge, Rick Knapp of CALTRANS, kept saying that he hated having moving traffic on both sides of him, and apparently would rather brave the right-turning-traffic crossing his path, until we persuaded him of the danger of that position. Many of the proposed bikeway design features were extremely dangerous for cyclists. Whenever John Finley and I could make the case that the danger of a design feature was so obvious that a personal injury lawsuit would likely result in putting liability on the government, that design feature was deleted.
Remember, it was not possible for there to be no bikeways built. The chief politicians, motivated by whatever motivated them, had declared that, whatever the Committee did, California would be building bikeways. If we helped, they might be better bikeways than if we did not help. Understand, that is why I have always written that bikeways were imposed on cyclists by government against the opposition of cyclists. That is the fact of the matter. The committee produced Planning and Design Criteria for Bikeways in California, 1976 (second edition, June 30, 1978), approved by Adriana Gianturco, Director of Transportation, Department of Transportation, Business and Transportation Agency, State of California.
The California standards were copied and adopted by both the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the Federal Highway Administration as the AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities. Why did they do this? The answer is very simple. California's first try at a bikeway standard had been killed by my criticism that it was far too dangerous for cyclists. The FHWA's first try was in jeopardy because I had criticized as incompetent and inaccurate the research on which it was based. On the other hand, the second California try had survived intensive criticism by both me and by John Finley Scott. The governments figured out that all the parts had been eliminated that would have been so dangerous to cyclists that governments would get hit with big liability bills. In other words, John Finley and I had provided, at our own cost, the expertise that made the bikeway standard largely liability-proof.
It has been suggested that the bikeway designers intended from the first to entice well-informed vehicular cyclists into participating in order to determine the degree of danger to which they could subject cyclists. That doesn't fit the facts. Those involved in bikeway design and traffic law were utterly astonished to discover that there were people, conservative, law-abiding people at that, who held different ideas about bicycle traffic operations than they had. For them, the basic law that cyclists have the rights and duties of drivers of vehicles was not a basic law from which only minor and well-justified exceptions should be permitted. Rather, they thought it to be necessary only to cover the unspecified instances after all the obviously better laws for cyclists had been stated. Later on, once we had demonstrated that there was an organization of cyclists, they had to follow the standard rule that those being regulated had to be accredited, even if only to the proportion of one in nine members of the committee writing the regulation.
Therefore, what you see today does not so much reflect what cyclists managed to get into the standards, which was very little, but, rather, bikeway designs that are not nearly as dangerous for cyclists as they would have been if cyclists had not so powerfully and so consistently opposed the bikeway system. The bikeway system was never designed to reduce accidents to cyclists. In fact, whenever I introduced that subject, it was rejected as incompatible with the bikeway principle. The bikeway system was designed to produce as great a separation as possible between bicycle traffic and same-direction motor traffic. It is patently obvious that such a system is most convenient for motorists. As a result of the bike-safety propaganda published by motorists for the last seventy years, most people mistakenly believe that such separation is the prime necessity for cyclist safety. That was proved a superstition as soon as the first statistically sound studies of car-bike collisions were published, by Ken Cross in August 1974 based on a California sample, for the California Office of Traffic Safety, and again by Ken Cross, based on a national sample, for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in September 1976. Separation of cyclists from same-direction motor traffic cannot make cycling significantly safer; indeed, when not done with the greatest care and in strictly limited circumstances, it increases the probability of car-bike collisions and increases the skill required by the cyclist to avoid them.
Notice that throughout this discussion, there has been no mention of reducing accidents to cyclists, of making cycling safer. That was never the consideration, and whenever I raised that issue it was dismissed. The only issue was clearing cyclists out of motorists' way without making traffic patterns so dangerous that government would be sued. As long as government thought that it had a standard that cleared cyclists out of motorists' way without making government liable for injuries so caused, it went ahead with the standard. That situation has not changed an iota, despite the little changes in the standard.
Our governments' (from federal to local) persistence over thirty years in imposing a bicycle transportation bikeway program that not only is contradicted by the scientific knowledge about bicycling accidents but whose only perceivable benefit is the convenience of motorists, is a scientific scandal that ought to be a political one as well. For this scandalous state of affairs we have to thank both the self-interested motorists who thought up the system and the foolish environmentalists whose superstition convinces them that the bikeway program is an anti-motoring program.
Traffic operates according to certain principles that are based on the physical capabilities and limitations of vehicles and on the mental, perceptual, and physical characteristics of humans. Through experience, traffic law has come to be written to agree with these principles, and highway design has come to be based on them also, because trying to operate contrary to them causes collisions and other troubles. Therefore, traffic law should be considered to be the best available statement in legal form of those principles. Any revision of traffic laws needs to be considered extremely carefully, lest it contradict one of the principles and cause collisions and other troubles. Certainly, no part of traffic law should contradict any other part. The same goes for changes in highway design; highways have become designed according to the principles of traffic operation. Bicycle traffic is included within normal traffic law by providing that bicyclists have the rights and duties of other drivers of vehicles. That inclusion presumes that bicyclists are able to obey the normal traffic laws for drivers of vehicles. That bicyclists can do so has been the evidence through the years.
Bikeways are based on two superstitions. The first is that the prime danger to cyclists is same-direction motor traffic, so that cyclists' prime duty is to stay out of its way. That view suits motorists just fine, but the accident statistics prove it false. The second superstition is that cyclists are incapable of operating as drivers of vehicles, in accordance with the traffic principles. That has been proved false by both experience and experiment. However, Americans have been raised to believe these superstitions, and because the government's program for bicycle transportation is based on these superstitions, while the government does not proclaim that these superstitions are true, it does nothing to discredit them. The only people who have demonstrated the falsity of these superstitions (aside from the neutral task of collecting accident statistics) are the vehicular cyclists. However, scientific validity does not rest on majority opinion; the disproofs of these two superstitions are as sound as any principle in social science and as most in technology.
Bikeways and bikeway traffic laws tell both cyclists and motorists to operate in ways contradictory to normal traffic operations. Thereby, they cause confusion, create difficulties, and send drivers into collisions. The government's bikeway program also encourages people to believe in the two superstitions, and thereby jeopardize the legal and social status of cyclists, and to consider, falsely, that vehicular cyclists are reckless scofflaws instead of careful and lawful cyclists.
It has been suggested that the early American bikeway systems were attempts to oppose the dominance of motoring and that their designers worked from the Dutch and German models. That view is not supported by the evidence. Rather, the early American bikeway systems expressed the dominance of motoring by kicking cyclists off the roadways, just as the Dutch and German systems did. The first bikeway system in America, so it is said, was in Homestead, Florida. Nobody now seems to know much about it. The second was in Davis, CA. There the motivation was explicit. The motoring majority wanted to ensure that their streets would not be plugged up by bicycles when the new University of California campus was started. An anti-motoring professor and an anti-motoring faculty wife (Sommer and Lott) then assisted. The third set of bikeways was in Palo Alto, CA. There the motives were more complex. The bikeway promoters called themselves the residentialist party. Their motive was primarily anti-motor-traffic (particularly on their residential streets) and partly bike-safety. However, when the matter came before the Legislature and the rest of government, only the motorists were involved. Furthermore, there was no question of these groups getting together and trying to find an alternative to roadway cycling, possibly the Dutch sidepath model. Why? None of these people knew of the Dutch system. Even after the UCLA professors used Dutch and German sources for their bikeway standards, nobody else had any real knowledge of those systems. While Bikeway Planning Criteria and Guidelines was printed, it was not issued. The praise for the Dutch system came later, with the environmentalists.
The bikeway standards and the program for implementing them were created by motoring organizations (see the casts of characters listed above). Their only real effect was to clear roadways for the convenience of motorists, and they were opposed by cyclists. During this same period, the dominance of motoring created an anti-motoring opposition. The California highway system was denounced as the Concrete Octopus, and anti-traffic organizations of residents appeared in some communities. The bikeway designers, who had no experience in real cycling, acted as if the prime danger to cyclists was same-direction motor traffic. We cyclists knew that this was not so, even before the statistical studies proved our knowledge, and we also knew that designing a system to avoid interactions with same-direction motor traffic complicated and made more dangerous all the other interactions with motor traffic. The bikeway designers used the bike-safety argument to justify their actions; whether or not they believed their arguments is unknown and immaterial. Once the bikeway plans that had been designed by motorists became public knowledge, a host of anti-motorists jumped on the bikeway bandwagon in the belief that bikeways were an effective anti-motoring tool that would reduce motoring. These persons claimed that there was such an unsatisfied desire to travel by bicycle that, once bikeways made cycling safe, a large proportion of motorists would convert to cycling for transportationally and socially significant proportions of trips. In general, these persons referred to themselves as environmentalists, although different members referred to many different aspects of the environment and of society.
These environmentalists and their arguments have, ever after, provided the political cover for motorists. By using this cover, motorists have been able to escape ever being held responsible for creating a system whose only real observable effect has been to kick cyclist off the roadways for the convenience of motorists. The passion of the environmentalists is so strong that they have been able to maintain their claim despite the fact that every part of it has been proved false.
With support and advocacy from environmentalists, bikeways were built in many parts of the nation, using a mix of finances from different governmental sources. California may have been the leading state in this movement. In the 1970s, California State Senator Nicholas Petris had produced the California Bikeways Act (or some such name), not much different from the bikeway portions of ISTEA fifteen years later. As I have written many times, the motoring establishment produced the first formal bikeway standards to suit motorists. Presumably, those who thought this up figured that they would spend motorists' money to build bikeways where they felt that bicycle traffic was most troublesome, but they didn't put a lot of money behind the bikeway project. However, when the anti-motorists achieved significant political power, the motoring establishment that enacted highway funding legislation realized that bikeways provided them with a unique opportunity to provide a sop to the anti-motorists while carrying out their own desire regarding bicycle traffic. The alliance between the militant motorists and the anti-motoring faithful produced the utterly anti-cyclist, cyclist-inferiority, bikeway-cycling program that has been imposed on us.
The League of American Wheelmen had been resurrected in 1963 (having died twice before), as an organization by and for cyclists who felt little need for any political agenda. These cyclists were vehicular cyclists, although at that time they had no need for such a description. They obeyed the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles, and that was that. The idea that they would be endangered by government was far from their notice. They knew that children were taught differently, but that was not their concern. The short episode with BMA (see next paragraph) made no changes. However recognition of the dangers of bikeways and of the no-headlamp aspect of the bicycle design regulation percolated into the membership. I was a director from 1976 through 1983, and president in 1979-80. I spent much of my presidential effort over the bikeway and headlamp issues, about which there developed intense controversy. The end result might be expressed as good bikeways are a good addition to the road system, while good reflectors are a good addition to the headlamp. (Whatever good means in this sentence.) I was unable to persuade the majority that the scientific defects of bikeway theory and of reflector theory rendered them dangerous to proper cycling and jeopardized cyclists' rights.
My presidency apparently galvanized the anti-motoring bikeway advocates. By questionable political means, they took control of LAW in 1983. However, their plans for a much larger and politically powerful LAW fell through because the membership decreased instead of increasing. They were expelled a few years later when their grandiose plans bankrupted LAW. Then, LAW, now renamed League of American Bicyclists, gently expressed a compromise of vehicular cycling policy with bikeway advocacy. This persisted until the changes in the federal government that are described below.
From quite early in the bike boom, some persons in the bicycle manufacturing industry thought that bikeways would encourage bicycle sales. In the 1960s, the Schwinn Bicycle Company (the only large American manufacturer that included first-class bicycles in its product mix, the Schwinn Paramount line), assisted in the refounding of the League of American Wheelmen, and, somewhat later, talked about some bikeways in its Chicago area. A few years later the Huffy Bicycle Company produced a 16mm film titled Bikeways for Better Living, and the Bicycle Manufacturers Association (which did not include Schwinn) was employing one Bob Cleckner to talk up bikeways, among other things. This was a low-budget effort supported by the manufacturers of cheap bicycles, often called toy bicycles. The BMA devoted most of its effort in this period to advocating high tariffs to protect its members from foreign competition, and to promoting its standard BMA/6 and the federal bicycle design regulation that sprang from that. Its motive for the standard and the regulation was partly to distinguish its products from the foreign cheap competition and partly to head off any requirement that bicycles be equipped with headlamps. In support of this effort, BMA subsidized Morgan Groves as executive director of the League of American Wheelmen. Groves succeeded in preventing the LAW from establishing legal standing to oppose the bicycle design regulation, but he failed in persuading purchasers of BMA-built bicycles to become members. He was ousted by the members in 1975.
The anti-motoring advocates achieved a significant political victory in 1991, with the passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Equity Act. This act established the practice of diverting some revenues from motorists to other modes, such as rail, bus, bicycle, and even transportational aesthetics. The bicycle funds were directed to "lanes, paths, or shoulders for use by bicyclists", and required that these be incorporated into each local transportation plan, thus assuring that all the bicycle funds were spent on bikeways. Up to this time, the bicycle industry was not particularly interested. However, by 1993, Dick Burke (father of current Trek CEO John Burke), learned how much money ISTEA made available for bicycle facilities. Therefore, he led the previously-uninterested industry executives to the idea that advocacy of bikeways would produce results that would sell bicycles. He launched the Bicycle Industry Organization as the first industry organization intended to lobby for bicycle facilities money.
TEA was renewed as TEA-21 in 1996, with more money for bikeways. Bike industry executives were motivated by a speech by their propagandist, Charlie Gandy, that ends with a rousing shout of "No Trails, No sales." In 1998, Mike Greehan (currently an appointed LAB director) successfully launches Bikes Belong as another industry-financed bikeway lobbying organization. He intends that Bikes Belong will become the voice of bicycle advocacy, proclaiming all facilities all the time. By 2003, Bikes Belong has succeeded in its ambition, by taking over LAB, so that it can claim to politicians that it is the voice of American cyclists, and to run the organization so that no other policy is ever discussed. The environmentalist bikeway advocates, this time in the form of professional fitness advocates, with their outside funds, obtained equal part in LAB's management.
As a result, there is now no formal national organization of vehicular cyclists able to present its views to government with any credible standing, and, equally, there is no formal organization in which vehicular cyclists can discuss their activity.
An outline of the bikeway controversy has been given above. This has never been either a scientific or a gentlemanly controversy. It has been expressed in terms of derision, satire, sneering, denigration, even of hate. Why this is so should be obvious. The controversy has been caused by the attempt of our society to discriminate against vehicular cyclists, a small and unimportant minority of roadway users, by using arguments that, while sounding scientific, are utterly contradicted by the scientific knowledge available. Our society used these scientific-sounding excuses because it knows that simple imposition of the motoring majority's will would be rejected as legally untenable and politically inexcusable. Unfortunately, another faction entered the debate with even more emotion. The dominance of motoring had developed an ideologically passionate anti-motoring opposition. This anti-motoring opposition should have lined up with the vehicular cyclists, who represent the most practical alternative to motor transportation. But they did not do so. The combined fear and hatred of motoring held by the anti-motorists prevented them from seeing the logic of joining the vehicular cyclists. The members of this opposition, not being vehicular cyclists, believed the motoring majority's view of cycling and accepted its arguments. Therefore, instead of opposing the motorists in the bikeway controversy, they chose to support motorists' discrimination against vehicular cycling in the belief that discriminating against vehicular cycling was doing good for cyclists and would, therefore, decrease motoring. The passionate intensity with which the anti-motorists support the motorists' plan to discriminate against vehicular cyclists both gave political cover to the militant motorists and has soured the bikeway debate with a most unpleasant emotionalism. When passionate irrationality is the main support for the powerful majority's legally untenable discrimination, the methods available to the victims, beside the reasonable scientific discussion that the discriminators refuse to honor, are ridicule, denigration, sneering, and the like, all used to expose the emotional irrationalities of the opposition, to weaken their hold upon the rest of society. When people find that their emotional irrationalities are exposed for all to see, they don't take kindly to their treatment.
I wrote just above that the discriminators have refused to honor reasonable scientific debate. The American bikeway controversy was started by government in 1972, although it had its roots in 1937 in England, when cyclists turned back sidepath proposals. The first statement of the scientific support for vehicular-cycling admitted to the transportation journals, despite many previous attempts, was my article The Bicycle Transportation Controversy, in Transportation Quarterly, Spring 2001. The editors accepted this article only because of the response of one of their bikeway advocating contributors, John Pucher. I criticized his article in email discussions, and he responded with two flat statements. The first flat statement was that his arguments were entirely correct, ignoring the fact that they were unacceptable by the standard scientific principle that correlation does not demonstrate causation. The second, expressed in an emotional fashion, was that there had never been any scientific support for the vehicular-cycling view. Given that, the editors could hardly reject an article giving the history of the scientific support for the vehicular-cycling view.
Part of the controversy is likely to ease. Bikeway building has not reduced motoring to any significant extent, either in America or anywhere else in the world. Motoring is overtaking cycling wherever they compete. Anti-motoring bikeway advocates base their hopes on two expectations. The first is that private-car motoring is far less useful than its current preponderance indicates. The second is that there is a large number of dissatisfied motorists who would much rather cycle than drive. Certainly, the environmental activists believe these, and have published them so widely that most people either assume them to be true or think that they are the socially-correct beliefs, and answer questions in that light. However, despite what people say, when they come to choose their mode of transportation, they make evident their understanding that the private motor vehicle provides their best choice in most situations. Indeed, one can understand their answers to transportation questions as being the answers that they wish others would obey instead of themselves. Acknowledgement of these facts is seeping into public consciousness, thereby weakening the hold of the anti-motoring bikeway activists upon public opinion.
I have described the bikeway controversy in the preceding sections. While that remains the primary controversy, there is another within the basic vehicular-cycling community that concerns how best to conduct the primary bikeway controversy. That is, the argument that the plain bitterness of the bikeway controversy has driven into the bikeway advocacy camp many persons who would otherwise have supported the vehicular-cycling view. As they see it, had I not used the bitterness that I have used, many more cyclists would have joined the vehicular-cycling side. It appears that the people who object to conducting the controversy in bitter terms are what one might call rational environmentalists. That is, they believe that cycling is an environmentally beneficial form of transportation that should be encouraged, while also recognizing that vehicular cycling is the best method for cycling by those who choose to do it. That is my position also. These people do not like my demonstrations that so many of the environmentalists' arguments are foolish and scientifically incorrect. They do not like demonstrations that another of their anti-motoring hopes, that of mass transit, are also foolish. (I have studied transit twice as long as I have studied bicycle transportation.) They also do not like my arguments that the failure of the hoped-for big switch from motoring to cycling demonstrates the utility of motoring in modern cities and modern life. They do not like the thought that these demonstrate that bicycle transportation will be no more than a very minor roadway activity conducted by the small proportion of people who choose to cycle because they enjoy cycling.
Those are certainly reasons to cause one to question my tactics. However, I think that the strongest factor in their opposition is that they have failed to recognize the blatant assertion of political power by means of lying propaganda that the bikeway advocates have always employed. They have failed to recognize that the whole bikeway program was designed by motorists for the convenience of motorists, and that the environmental groups, with whom they have some common opinions, have been suckered into doing the motorists' bidding. They have thought that this controversy could be settled by reasonable discussion, when those on the other side know that if they submitted to reasonable discussion they would be thrown out of court, but have the political power to prevent such a discussion. In any case, there's been much water under the bridge. Had there been some earlier understanding of the situation with alternate methods proposed, another course might have been followed. But might have been is only might have been.
The above describes how we got to the present. What next? So far, while we have utterly discredited the bikeway superstition according to scientific standards, and we have prevented its worst dangers, we have not stopped the bikeway program. We might be slowing it by emphasizing that it does not produce the transportational and societal change that was predicted for it. However, those changes were merely the excuses for the militant motorist design of kicking cyclists off roadways, which still continues, in fact stronger than before, strengthened by the political success of the bikeway superstition. How should that be handled?