Quote of the day: why vehicular cycling doesn't work
There was a post the other day at GGW on vehicular cycling, "We can make our roads a lot more bike friendly, here's how." It discusses the difference between the vehicular cycling approach, which calls for cyclists to learn how to ride in motor vehicle traffic, and to be treated just like cars versus an approach that aims to reduce cyclist stress associated with mixing in traffic.
-- Low-Stress Bicycling and Network Connectivity, Mineta Transportation Institute
-- "Portland's Bicycle Brilliance," The Tyee. This article discusses the approach laid out by Roger Geller of the Portland Dept. of Transportation. His research found that 10% of people will bike in the kind of environment provided today, but 57% more people would bike, if they didn't have to ride in high speed mixed traffic.
In an e-conversation a few years ago, sparked by this article, "Britons unmoved by pro-cycling campaigns: Most regard bicycles not as legitimate form of transport but as children's toys or preserve of hobbyists, research finds" in the Guardian, Anne Lusk, a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health, made the comment that it is no surprise that the two countries that have adopted the vehicular cycling approach, the US and the UK, have the lowest take up of cycling as transportation.
Barrow Street Corner, West Village, Manhattan. Flickr photo by Kenneth Garcia.
And it should be no surprise that where biking is experiencing a resurgence, it happens to be in center cities, usually in those areas with urban design characteristics dating to the Walking City (1800-1890) and Streetcar/Transit City (1890-1920) eras (paper by Peter Muller), when streets were built more narrowly, and where the built environment is more balanced between people and buildings, which works to slow down motor vehicle speeds.
Berkeley plans to increase city bike friendly initiatives," Daily Californian.
I argue that the neighborhood/local streets in such places, for the most part already function as bicycle boulevards, without having to create much in the way of special infrastructure.
And as biking becomes more of an accepted practice--just as it took 50 years to change accepted attitudes concerning living in cities as a reasonable choice--more people are riding in the places that are most conducive.
In the GGW thread, commenter Jonathan Krall hit the nail on the head about why vehicular cycling doesn't work--people motor vehicle operators already treat each other horridly, and cyclists can't afford to be treated so equally when a car is 2000 to 3000 pounds heavier and up to four times faster.
As for being treated like a vehicle, no thanks. Long hours of riding have shown me how car drivers treat each other. Many cyclist complaints--passing too closely, tailgating, honking, yelling--are exactly what drivers do to each other. Forrester was wrong. People on bicycles fare best when they are recognized as human beings who deserved extra care and not just "drivers of vehicles."
20 mph speed limit sign on Stanford Ave. at East Ave in the Town of Chevy Chase, Maryland