John Forester, MS, PE

Cycling Transportation Engineer

7585 Church St, Lemon Grove, CA 91945-2306

619-644-5481  forester at

home                 consulting


1 Curriculum Vitae

1.1 Historical Perspective

I am the founder of cycling transportation engineering. Evaluating that achievement requires an understanding of the situation before I started work in that field in 1972.

In 1972 cycling science had been an intellectual backwater for decades, particularly in the U.S. where adult cycling had practically disappeared before 1920.

While mechanical details of the European bicycle had been improved over the decades, little thought had been given to how the machine should be used. In Europe, the hard-won cycling knowledge that most people had possessed before the post-WW II motorization was dying out, while in the U.S. simple-minded superstitions passed for knowledge, except, to some extent, among the few adult cyclists.

1.2 Government Fears a Bicycle Problem

However, by 1970 the baby boom and sub-urbanization, among other changes, had greatly increased the number of cyclists and had aroused governmental concern about the so-called bicycle problem. Bicycles were considered to be bothdangerous toys and dangerous causes of traffic congestion and delay. Different arms of government set out to solve what they considered to be the bicycle problems. The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission declared that every bicycle in America was a "toy or other article intended for use by children" and proceeded to regulate bicycles as dangerous toys rather than as vehicles for business or pleasure. The government of California, and later the U.S. government and other states, tried to get bicycles off the roads and onto bikeways to the the greatest practical extent.

The CPSC's bicycle regulation was founded on many errors: the anti-business superstition that most of the injuries to cyclists were caused by defective bicycle design, the concept that all bicycles should be designed for use and maintenance by children, the notion that efficient operation was of negligible importance to cyclists, and just plain engineering ignorance and incompetence. The result specified a bicycle that was certainly unsaleable to adults, probably unusable, and if used would be dangerous.

The bikeway effort was founded on similar errors but supported by a much more powerful superstition. The superstition held that the cyclist who rode in traffic would either delay the cars, which was Sin, or would be squashed, which was Death, and the wages of Sin are Death. The highway establishment found that this was a very convenient dogma; it exonerated motorists while frightening cyclists off the roads. It became the basis for American bike-safety education and thereby strengthened its grip upon the beliefs of the public.

Misled by this superstition, both the highway establishment and the general public foresaw roads plugged with hordes of new cyclists, delaying motorists and causing accidents. Since prohibiting cycling was politically impossible, and particularly impossible when the justification was to let motorists drive fast, their answer was to provide bikeways adjacent to the most important roads and then prohibit cycling on those roads under the guise of bike-safety. The errors are numerous: cyclists rarely delay motorists and nobody had measured the delay, car-bike collisions were only a small part of accidents to cyclists, cars hitting cyclists from behind were only a very small portion of car-bike collisions, the cyclists who used important roads were not ignorant children but adults who knew how to ride in traffic, and the like. The bikeway solution to the largely-imaginary bicycle problem produced designs that could not be practically implemented in urban areas and, if implemented, were inherently more dangerous than normal roads.

1.3 Scientific and Engineering Solutions

As a fourth-generation British cyclist who had lived in America since 1940, I recognized these disasters at their inception. I knew how bicycles ought to operate and how cyclists ought to ride. I had been trained to ride properly and had read the discussions of bikeways in the British cycling press of the 1930s and 1940s. I knew that cyclists ought to use the same methods as other drivers and that bikeways were worse than roads.

At first I thought that I would only have to supply the cycling knowledge that the rest of the cycling world took for granted. However, I discovered that Americans refused to believe even simple facts, such as the cyclist's ability to look over his shoulder to observe traffic behind. Therefore, I set out to establish a scientific basis for cycling transportation and to publish this in two forms, one which would teach proper cycling technique to cyclists and one which would explain the engineering information to those who ought to be using it. This work can be summarized as follows:

1.3.1 Vehicular Traffic Cycling Technique

I described the differences between the proper cycling technique, which I named the vehicular style because it was similar to driving a car, and the American style, which I named the cyclist-inferiority style because it assumed that the bicycle and cyclist were inferior to the car and motorist.

1.3.2 Engineering Analysis of Driving Task

I analyzed the bicycle-driving task according to recognized traffic-engineering principles and the human-engineering and task-organizational principles of industrial engineering. This showed that the bicycle-driving task was so similar to the motor-vehicle-driving task that both drivers should act in similar ways and according to the same laws.

1.3.3 Analysis of Traffic Accident Statistics

By analyzing traffic accident statistics I showed that adopting the vehicular style of cycling would be the most effective strategy for reducing the traffic accidents of American cyclists. I also showed that those groups of cyclists whose members were most likely to use the vehicular cycling style had an accident rate only 20% of that for other groups.

1.3.4 Engineering Comparison of Highway & Bikeway Designs

By analyzing and comparing bikeway and highway designs and the traffic maneuvers appropriate to each, I showed that modern, well- designed streets and highways provided easier cycling with less skill at a lower accident rate than any practical urban bikeway system.

1.3.5 Analysis of Traffic Accidents Caused by Darkness

By analyzing the traffic accidents caused by darkness I showed the vital importance of bicycle headlamps and the grossly dangerous characteristics of the all-reflector system required by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

1.3.6 Tests of Bicycle Braking Systems

By experiment and analysis I showed the proper tests for bicycle braking systems, and showed that coaster brakes burned out on hills, contrary to the CPSC's assumption.

1.3.7 Forester v Consumer Product Safety Commission

By a combination of engineering and legal analysis and by the results of my suit against the CPSC, I showed that there is practically no basis for many of the CPSC's requirements for bicycles, and that some of them are dangerous.

1.3.8 Bicycle Traffic Laws Compared to Traffic-Engineering Knowledge

I analyzed traffic laws and their history to show that the special laws that restrict cyclists had been enacted through superstition without any knowledge of what ought to be done, and that these laws generally contradicted traffic engineer ing knowledge.

1.3.9 Adult Effective Cycling Course

I developed a training course for adult cyclists (Effective Cycling) in which even beginners learn vehicular-cycling and other club cycling skills in less than 30 class hours, instead of the years postulated by the cyclist-inferiority believers.

1.3.10 Effective Cycling Course for Children

I developed a training course in which child cyclists learn to ride in traffic better than average adults in 15 class hours (Intermediate and Elementary Effective Cycling courses).

1.3.11 Simple Formulation of Traffic Operating Principles

The basis for the success with children is my simplification of the instructions for driving in traffic. I developed 5 basic principles that even children can understand and obey but which fulfill nearly all needs of even adult drivers.

1.3.12 Cyclist-Inferiority Psychology

My experience with large numbers of people, both professionals and laymen, who continue to strongly believe the cyclist-inferiority precepts of "bike-safety" education long after those have been discredited, led me to investigate the sociology and psychology of such problems. I developed the theory of the cyclist-inferiority complex to explain how fear prevents people from accepting new concepts that challenge the basis of that fear, even when the new concepts have overwhelming scientific support.

1.3.13 Theory of the Tension-Spoked Wheel

I became convinced of the inaccuracy of previous theories of how the tension-spoked wheel carries its load. By a simple experiment I demonstrated and published the now-accepted theory that the load is carried by the reduction in tension of the spokes adjacent to the road surface.

1.3.14 Exercise Physiology of Fast, Long-Distance Cycling

I became convinced of the inability of current theories in exercise physiology to explain cyclists' endurance and the proper technique of endurance cycling events. By combining cycling knowledge with well-accepted physiological principles I produced the first theory that explains the facts. Later experimental results by others have supported this theory.

1.3.15 Publishing Summary

My development of cycling transportation engineering resulted in many articles and conference papers, which are well-summarized in my books Effective Cycling, Effective Cycling Instructor's Manual, Cycling Transportation Engineering and its successor Bicycle Transportation. Winning public acceptance of the scientifically-established vehicular-cycling principle requires well-considered social and political actions. I have been the nation's leader in this combined scientific and political strategy, earning membership in the most important engineering committees and winning cycling's highest political offices.

1.4 Education:

B.A., English Lit, University of California, Berkeley, 1951

Certificate in Industrial Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, 1956

M.S., Production Management, California State University, Long Beach, 1964

Registered Industrial Engineer in California

1.5 Awards:

Cycling Literature Award, MAUDEP Bicycling Conference, 1975

Dr. Paul Dudley White Award, for contributions to cycling, League of American Bicyclists, 1996

1.6 Experience:

1955-1972: Industrial engineering and standards engineering for machine manufacturing and aerospace firms, ending as manager of industrial engineering for a high-tech manufacturing corporation.

1963-1968: Lecturer and assistant professor in statistics, especially statistical decision theory, California State Universities at Long Beach and Fullerton.

1972 Established the profession of cycling transportation engineering.

1973 Chairman, adult cycling subcommittee, California Department of Education Traffic Safety Task Force

1974-1975 Sole cyclist representative, California Legislature's Statewide Bicycle Committee

1974-1976 President, California Association of Bicycling Organizations

1975 Developed the Effective Cycling Course.

1976-1977 Advisor, California DOT Bicycle Facilities Committee

1976 Developed and taught the first professional-level seminar in cycling transportation engineering, for the University of California Institute for Transportation Studies

1977-1983 Bicycling Committee of the Transportation Research Board, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences

1977- Organized and operated national Effective Cycling instructor training and qualification program

1978-1984 Director and Vice-President, League of American Wheelmen

1979-1980 President, League of American Wheelmen

1985 Founder, Effective Cycling League

1.7 Papers & Conferences

Presented papers at the following conferences:

MAUDEP Bicycle/Pedestrian Conferences; 1972-77

Third International Automotive Safety Congress; 1974

California Transportation and Public Works Conference; 1975

CPSC/NHTSA Bicycle Safety Education Conference; 1977

Transportation Research Board Bikeway Debate; 1977

Transportation Research Board Bicycling Committee; 1980, 1982

ProBike Bicycle Program Administrators' Conferences; 1980, 82, 84, 86, 89, 91

Institute of Transportation Engineers Conference; 1988

League of American Wheelmen-ProBike North West Bicycle Program Administrators' Conference; 1992

Velo Mondiale, Velo City, Pro-Bike Conference, Montreal, 1992

1.8 Major Publications;

Statistical Selection of Business Strategies; (Irwin) 1968

Effective Cycling; 1975 (sixth ed., The M.I.T. Press, 1992)

Effective Cycling Instructor's Manual; 1977 (fourth ed., Custom Cycle Fitments, 1986)

Cycling Transportation Engineering Handbook; 1977

Effects of Bikelane System Design Upon Cyclists' Traffic Errors; 1978

Policy On Nighttime Protective Equipment; League of American Wheelmen; 1979

Intermediate-Level Cyclist Training Program: Objectives, Techniques and Results; 1981

Elementary-Level Cyclist Training Program: Objectives Techniques and Results; 1982

On-Road Training is Coming Fast; Bicycle Forum #8, Winter 1981-2

Bicycle Transportation; 1983. Second edition, The M.I.T. Press, 1994

Forensic Engineering in Bicycle Accidents, in Attorney's Guide to Engineering; eds Kuperstein & Salters (Matthew Bender), 1986

Effective Cycling at the Elementary Level, Bicycle Forum #16, Summer 1987

Improving Bicyclists' Traffic Behavior By Changing National Attitudes; Inst. of Transportation Engineers Annual Meeting Procs.; 1988

Cycling Knowledge and Cycling's Social Position As Viewed In Literature, 1989 ProBike NW Conference.

Seminar on Liability in All Types of Bicycle Accidents; 1989

What Cyclists Need Today: An Intellectually Respectable Cycling Policy; 1991 ProBike NW Conference

Effective Cycling Video, Writer and Director, (Seidler Productions); 1992

Objective and Psychological Explanations for Differences in the Bicycling Programs of Different Nations; VeloCity International Conference, Montreal, 1992

Understanding Damage to the Front Forks of Bicycles During Deceleration; Cycling Science, Fall 1992

Cycling Transportation Policy: How the Conflict Between Popular Emotions and Knowledge Affects the Scientific Process; Session on Commuter Transportation of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; San Francisco, 1994

Nighttime Safety Equipment Requirements of the CPSC; Consumer Product Safety Commission of the U.S., hearing on nighttime equipment; Washington, DC, 1994

The CPSC Starts to Wonder About Nighttime Car-Bike Collisions; 1995

Signal Clearance Timing for Bicyclists; (with Alan Wachtel, Gary Foxen, and David Pelz); Journal of the Institute of Traffic Engineers, March 1995.

How to Make Biking a Real Alternative? Ecodecision, Royal Society of Canada, Summer 1996.

Bicycle Nighttime Safety Requirements of the CPSC; CPSC meeting March, 1996

Analysis of Papers Presented to the CPSC; 1996

CPSC Reflector Research Program; 1996

CPSC Reflector Research Program Goes Nowhere; 1997

The Bikeway Controversy: Transportation Quarterly, Spring 2001; Vol 55 No 2, p 7-17

1.9 Minor Publications:

  1. Steering Column, a regular column in American Wheelmen, 1979-1980
  2. Cycling in Society, a regular column in Competitive Cycling, 1976-1980
  3. Effective Riding; a regular column in Bicycle Rider Magazine, 1983-1987

1.10 Many articles in the cycling press on the following subjects:

1: Traffic cycling technique

  1. The bikeway controversy
  2. Bicycle brake testing
  3. Political strategy for cyclists
  4. Bicycle wheel stress analysis
  5. Exercise physiology of cyclists
  6. Car-bike collision statistics
  7. The cyclist inferiority complex
  8. Nighttime protective equipment
  9. Bicycle design standards
  10. Bicycle gearing systems

12: Measurement of cyclists' behavior

1.11 Critically Important Reviews

Reviews (several of which have caused significant changes) of books, papers, standards and articles on the following subjects:

1: Bikeway design

  1. Highway design standards
  2. Traffic cycling technique
  3. Bicycle transportation
  4. Cyclist training programs
  5. Bicycle facility standards
  6. Measurement of cyclists' behavior
  7. Car-bike collision statistics
  8. Bicycle design standards

10: Bicycle transportation plans

1.12 Extensive working papers for state-and national-level committees:

1: Highway design standards

  1. Bicycle design
  2. Cyclist safety education
  3. Cycling transportation planning
  4. Bicycle facility standards
  5. Traffic law
  6. Nighttime protective equipment

1.13 Forensic Work

Acted as consultant or expert witness in cases that involved:

1.13.1 Bicycles:

1: Bicycle handling characteristics

  1. Bicycle safety standards
  2. Bicycle brake design
  3. Maladjusted bicycle brakes
  4. Quick-release hubs
  5. Maladjusted derailleurs
  6. Bicycle frame integrity
  7. Bicycle front fork failure

9: Nighttime protective equipment

1.13.2 Bicycle Facilities:

1: Bikeway design

  1. Curves
  2. Grades
  3. Hazard warnings
  4. Obstructions
  5.  Surface defects
  6. Illumination

8: Effect of bike lanes

1.13.3 Highways:

1: Road surface defects

  1. Illumination
  2. Hazard warning signs
  3. Suitability for cycling
  4. Parallel-bar drain grates

6: Traffic signal operation

1.13.4 Cyclists:

1: Cyclist behavior in traffic

  1. Cyclist skills
  2. Instruction quality and accuracy

4: Liability of ride organizers

1.13.5 Bicycle Law:

1: Cyclists' right to use the roads

  1. Restricted roads
  2. Mandatory bike path laws
  3. Product safety regulations

5: Applicability of traffic laws 

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