June 15th, 2011

Vehicular Cycling: America's Curse

Vehicular Cycling, or Effective Cycling, as John Forester originally called it, means riding as though you are a car, but with a range of reflex actions programmed into your mind to avoid being hit, when drivers don’t see you. It generally works. In my car-centric city, I'm forced to rely on it more often than I wish I had to. However, on rainy nights, on heavily trafficked narrow roads where there are downhills and uphills, and for young children, it is pure suicide.
From this we can conclude: A. that John Forester was only ever a fair weather cyclist, B. that he was a pussy who didn't like hills, C. that he never rode a bike as a kid, and D. is now one of those old Mr. Magoos who drives around cursing at cyclists for popping out of nowhere in front of his car. We might also speculate that he doesn't have children, I guess due to his reluctance to cycle when conditions got tough, making him unattractive to women—but of course, this is pure speculation. What cannot be denied, is he has set the cause of all-weather bicycle transportation back by decades in the US, a country that treats cyclists in parks and on sidewalks as though they were Hummers. 

America are world leaders in many things, but when it comes to cycling, a little prudence and humility would help them see Holland and Denmark are eons ahead. Separate bike paths, plus laws attributing responsibility proportionate to the dangerousness of your vehicle (high for cars, low for bikes, nil for pedestrians) — that is the recipe for genuine bicycle transportation, in all weather, and for all ages, and John Forester only every drove to work when it was raining, and he and his gang are big girls. There, I have said it!

Now watch me cycle along a street in Sienna, in Southern Italy, that is closed at night to vehicles (meaning things that have motors). You might also check out this witty essay making more fun of dyed-in-the-wool vehicular cyclists.