Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Joy of Vehicular Cycling

John Forester is a controversial figure in the world of bicycle advocacy.  Forester said that "cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles," and he was against the idea of separate facilities because be believed it was safer to pretend that you're a Lincoln Continental.  While this view has more or less fallen out of favor as the very existence of places like Amsterdam and Copenhagen totally disprove it, certainly some of his wildly anal retentive cycling advice remains useful in the context of streets that are still for the most part dominated by drivers.  In any case, I recently came across this video he made back in the 1970s, and it's certainly a fascinating product of its time:

Of course it's also a long video you probably don't have time to watch, so I've gone ahead and summarized it for you.  Basically, it's all about how to be a good He-Fred:

Or She-Fred:

Spoiler alert: ride on the right side of the road with a salad bowl on your head, unless the lane is narrow, in which case you are supposed to take it:

Granted, taking the lane is almost certain to enrage the driver behind you, but in a vacuum free from human emotion I suppose its sensible advice.

Before riding, always make sure your outfit is amazing:

He looks like he's going to work on a disco oil rig.

Also, the rider who makes the yellow light:

Shall be awarded the maillot jaune:

The salad bowl may be foregone if the rider is wearing jorts:

Jorts should be worn with rugby shirts at all times, and the hem of the jort when measured along the inner thigh must be no more than one inch lower than the lowest point of the scrotum or labia:

(♩ ♪ ♫ ♬ "Yeah I'm'..."--Tom Petty (RIP)♩ ♪ ♫ ♬ )

When turning, furl and unfurl a yo-yo several times to signal your intention to drivers:

Use red for left, green for right, and purple for stop.  Always keep a full complement of yo-yos in your voluminous handlebar bag:

When riding two abreast, the rider with the taller headtube should always position himself on the right:

Though he should move to the rear when riding single file:

This ensures both riders will be visible to motorists in their rear-view mirrors.

When riding near a Ford Pinto, always maintain a distance of at least 100 feet, or else wear flame-retardant polyester shirt and trousers:

This is because the vehicle is likely to explode:

If the Pinto does burst into flames, make every attempt to smother the blaze with your polyester suit so as to minimize the risk to other motorists.

Take special care when riding behind earthen tone trucks:

As they are often made of the marihuana:

This can result in intoxication and strange fashion choices:

When commuting to work, note that the yellow line always leads right to the porno movie set:

On-the-bike Kegel exercises can increase performance on the set:

As well as stopping power on the bike:

Though sudden release of the pelvic floor muscles can result in a phenomenon known as scranial or vulvanial ejection:

In the event of a crash, always have the foresight to place a tiny cushion on the road surface to break your fall:

When riding in a group, utilize a double paceline, ensure a 50/50 gender balance, and make sure your group contains at least one (1) beard:

It shall be the bearded rider's responsibility to order the slowest member of the group into the hole:

Said rider shall go willingly into the hole, never to be seen or heard from again:

Most importantly, all rides shall be orderly and joyless:

The end.

Moving back to the present, here's a rather dubious Kickstarter:

Yes, given recent events, I can't think of a better design for a bag than one that looks exactly like a gun holster:

What could possibly go wrong?


hellbelly said...

Str8 to the porno shoot (chute?) Podio-tastic?

Old Timer said...

Huh? What?

wle said...

After the bikesnob.summary of the Forester video, all desire to actually see it, has left me.

Not, however, because it seems so accurate..

Was my detector in overdrive, or did the snark ramp up, as the thing wore on

Next time, I need an excerpt from a digest of the summary.

Or just give me my 3 minutes back.

But I'm at work, so it all works out.

wle <-podium

wle said...

Ida been podia, but I took so long snarking about the video summary..

The 70's were cool said...


Love that old timey 1970's movie! My era!

wishiwasmerckx said...


(That is if the proprietor of this-here blog allows for it...)

Phildefer said...

Well, that was quite funny. I'll have to make time to watch the actual video later.

Unknown said...

Wow. I needed that. Best video review I think I have ever read.

Unknown said...

I remember being castigated for not hating Forester & VC enough at a local bike advocacy conference. I think I said something like "in the absence of bike lanes, VC is a good survival tactic" and thus labelled myself as an evil bearded anti-bike-lane asshole. =\

Crosspalms said...

Orderly and Joyless sounds like a Dickensian law firm.

Andy Scherer said...

Always a fan of Forrester, geekiness be damned

recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

Some real gems in that posting. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Those are cut offs, not jorts! Duh!

leroy said...

My dog insists that I warn readers that disco oil rig rider is really the PoPo.

I see the resemblance, but it's so hard to know when he's serious.

I mean my dog. Not disco oil rig rider guy.

Disco oil rig guy seems serious.

Anonymous said...

No way the dude with the jorts was on his way to a porno... his giant 30.48cm crank would never have been restrained by those cutoffs

cyclejerk said...

Wow! Was that bikesgonewild at 2:35 of the Forestering vidya? That sweet Kickstarter holster is what I need! Nobody has to know it’s a fannypack.

Chazu said...

Ahh, the good old days....

That orange Schwinn with the monkey bars, low sissy bar, and banana seat looks exactly like hoopty I was riding in the late 1970s.

The Pinto wasn't a problem for my family, we had an AMC Vega.

Bikeboy said...

Bike lanes, bike paths, etc., are fantastic! When they are available, I'll use 'em EVERY TIME! Unfortunately, I live in a backwards burg where every street doesn't have dedicated bike facilities. And alas, sometimes my destination lies off the bike-centric grid.

So... I'm with Jean-Francois: "In the absence of bike lanes, VC is a good survival tactic." Because... what's the alternative?

(But the movie review is pretty funny!)

N/A said...

I never knew before today that I need to get a job on a Disco Oil Rig. I wonder if there's a Funky Oil Rig? I speak jive.

The older I get, the longer my jorts need to be. You gotta' be careful, ain't nobody want to catch a bag in their chainring.

janinedm said...

So, I'm sure I'm probably one of the newest to cycling as an adult in this group. Seven years come May. I've always been an odd fish in that i was never introduced to #bikelyfe by someone who did it. I was standing on a corner, walking towards the subway when I saw a woman on bike and that just looked better than what i was doing. Then I saw a gorgeous bike on Pintrest and ordered it from a shop in NY. While I was waiting (and it was a long wait; I guess a lot of people dug that pinterest), i did research on the rules of the road. I read through the entire collated PDF of bike rules on the DOT website. I ordered a copy of the "Biking Rules" booklet from TransAlt. And i watched a lot of VC videos. I have to say I credit at least 50% of my early confidence in traffic to those VC videos. I at least felt like I knew where I was supposed be and I didn't feel nervous on streets that didn't have bike lanes.

bad boy of the south said...

N/A and Pist Off,I gave kudos to both in yesterday's post's comment section.hey,the 70s called and wants it's bikes and salad bowls back.

bad boy of the south said...

Or is it "its'"?

ken e. said...

"comedy gold!" i'll take funny stories and 70's dogma every time!

Anonymous said...

Bike safety advocates still spout this shit; the thing that's changed is back in those days they didn't have Cell phones, Texting, infotainment systems & legalized weed.
Yeah, I still ride the way I did when I was a kid, IT WORKED! I am still alive after 55 years and never been hit by a car! - masmojo

N/A said...

"Testicular Biking- a primer"
-By BikeSnobNYC

Right on, Bad Boy. Let us know how it turns out if you get some new color on your bike. Or you could have Janine do it, she's experienced, you know.

McFly said...

Who needs a chamois pad when you have a nice thicc untamed muff?

Very Slim Pickens said...

"or else wear flame-retardant polyester shirt and trousers"


I wish the burning car video hadn't been included; just so those who haven't occupied this orbiting madhouse for very long, would have scratched their heads and said WTF, WTF, WTF.

Anonymous said...

Ugh, shivers. Polyester cloths give me the ick. Thankfully I was a kid through the 70s and not chasing fashion trends & wearing that crap.

recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

Nice one McFly!

Grump said...

I seem to remember Bike Nashbar selling a Bell Tourlite that looked an awful lot like that white helment, back in the early 80's. Even back then, I realized that a helmet like that was nerdy. I believe that I didn't start wearing an helmet until 1985.

Rapha Kramden said...

White privilege means that the dude hoping to kickstart his project with Kickstarter doesn't have to worry about wearing a man purse that looks like a shoulder holster. If he were brown skinned, however, the police would shoot him on sight.

Vend403 said...

Great video - brings back memories. Some good points were made, but yes the traffic environment is different now. Somewhat better but worse in other ways.

mander said...

Ok snob, now I'm snickering on the terlet at work and it's all your fault

Anonymous said...

Snob, you sound a bit pompous and smug. Just say'n.

bad boy of the south said...

N/A,so I know.

Pist Off said...

What’s the alternative to VC? I mean, most of the country doesn’t have extensive bike paths. If you want to get somewhere on a bike you have to scope out lesser used roads, or get the local knowledge. I lived through my twenties figuring the nuances of riding in traffic, but I’m probably luckier than I know.

STNK FNGR said...

I laughed at you the other day when you described getting dog shit on your water bottle like a dummy. Lob dammit if it didn't happen to me last night. Got transferred my glove and haunted me the rest of the ride. Karma?

Some guy from upstate said...

The Vega was a Chevrolet product. AMC had the Gremlin (a Hornet with the trunk lopped off). Also the Pacer (a la Wayne's World). Really hard to understand how they went under ...

Anonymous said...

it's sensible advice

Steve Barner said...

It's actually quite a gòod video, especially for its day, full of good tips that can take years to learn on your own, if you survive. There were almost no bicycle lanes in the 1970s, and once you get out of urban areas, there probably never will be. Unless we think that once the bike lane ends, we should hang up our road bikes and switch to off-road, "vehicular cycling" skills become critical. In fact, cyclists should work against laws requiring the use of bike lanes when present, as many are more accurately labeled as recreation paths, and you don't want to be mixing it up with peds when you're on your way to work at 20+ mph.

JLRB said...

I am a day late - should have read the "long video" warning before clicking. Enjoyed it though. Definitely some sense to the VC - but like most rules - you need to exercise judgment.

I get making fun of the short-Jory's and disco duds, but when was Lycra invented

Unknown said...

Snark alert! People busy putting down “vehicular cyclists” are busy shooting ducks in a barrel.
Bike Snob finds a 40-year-old bicycle safety video — by far the best of its era, though superseded several times since then — and makes a series of snarky remarks.
The video is Bicycling Safely on the Road by the Iowa State film unit. They got John Forester to write and direct the video, and the Skunk River Cyclists to serve as models.
A few of Bike Snob’s snarks are sort-of funny. In that New York centric, "I can't make a joke without putting somebody down" way. But mostly, he just shows off his cheap-crud sense of humor. He can’t get over how people dressed in the 1970s. Rugby shirts! Worth a snark. Bell helmets (all that was available). Worth a snark. Cut-off blue jeans. Worth a snark. Having both men and women cyclists in the video. Worth a snark. One rider has a beard. Worth a snark. Pointing out hazards. He makes a snark out of that. Are you sick of it yet?
I don’t think he accomplishes much by snarking a 40-year-old movie. There’s certainly no serious discussion of best practices in the snarkfest.
I first saw this movie in 1979, on Rodale Press’s 16 mm projector.
The criticism levied against it at the time was that it showed very skilled riders doing some maneuvers that are difficult, and was therefore intimidating. There wasn't much on-ramp to "We'll make this easy for you."
That's what happens when you make a movie. People find things about it you wish you'd handled differently.

BikeSnobNYC said...


I deeply apologize for laughing at 1970s clothing instead of engaging in a "serious discussion of best practices" in a 40 year-old video.

--Wildcat Rock Machine

Principled Pragmatist said...

Is it just me, or is the opening music Benny Hillish?

Interesting to see how much edge riding there is in a "vehicular cycling" film. Pretty tame compared to more recent traffic cycling films, like this one from the CyclistLorax on Youtube:

"The Rights and Duties of Cyclists - Bicycle Safety"

Or Cycling Savvy's "You lead the dance":

But as others have noted, you can't really argue with staying alert, following the rules, and using lane position to make yourself relevant and conspicuous. So making fun of 40 year old fashion make sense.

janinedm said...

Bad Boy of the South, I just saw your inquiry about repainting your bike. I have certainly had good results so far with my home job using I've locked and unlocked it outdoors a few times, but we'll need at least a season to see if the paint really holds up. I kind of want to do another bike, it was such a fun project. That's the bummer about getting a bike to where you're satisfied with it; there's only maintenance. No fun projects.

Anonymous said...


STG said...

I'm siding with unknown here. Longtime reader but I think I have to buck your scoff at VC and show this vid to new riders. Bike lanes are great but they are limited, and worse they often put you on the wrong side of turning traffic. If you do not learn the basic skills in this video -then you are not a safe rider- period. You cannot get everywhere by by hugging the curb and using bike paths. Don't downplay these essential skills.


BikeSnobNYC said...


Relax, it's just some fun with '70s clothes.

As for vehicular cycling, absolutely these skills are important where there's no infrastructure. However the whole "act and are treated as drivers of vehicles" only takes us so far--and where it takes us is cycling being limited to a small group of fitness-oriented people who want to travel at a steady 20mph at all times without carrying much. There's absolutely no future in that, especially in cities. You need people of different ages, fitness levels, etc. to be able to ride at a pace that's natural for a bicycle and not one dictated by drivers of motor vehicles. And for that you need Bicycle Infrastructure, period.

--Wildcat Etc.

John Schubert said...

STG -- I'm the "unknown" here. I don't know why the web site called me that, after I signed in with my name. For the record, my name always has been and always will be John Schubert. Perhaps the web site will use my name this time. It says I'm signed in.
May I suggest a better video? We wouldn't want the viewers to get distracted by old Bell helmets and rugby shirts. ;-)
More seriously, this video slays the myth that safe traffic cycling is some sort of athletic achievement. Nope. It's knowing how to make the rules of the road work for you, no matter what your speed, your equipment or your fitness level.
The video, done in 2010 by my good friend Keri Caffery, is called "Bicycling in traffic is a dance you must lead."
Keri wrote a companion print article which explains the concept.

BikeSnobNYC said...


By the way, do go ahead and show that to new riders, I'm sure they'll quickly conclude cycling looks difficult and un-fun and that they're better off driving their Hyundais to the gym.

--Wildcat Etc.

John Schubert said...

BikeSnob, get your facts right:
"where it takes us is cycling being limited to a small group of fitness-oriented people who want to travel at a steady 20mph at all times without carrying much."
Watch the video I just posted. It was made by a bunch of middle-aged (and older) people. Our most successful student is in his 60s with Parkinsons Disease, and he goes anywhere he wants to in Orlando.
Don't let a 40-year-old video convince you that we can't make traffic skills work for everyone.
Drop your snark just long enough to be curious and learn some thing.

BikeSnobNYC said...

John Schubert,

Why do you keep insisting I'm against traffic skills? I am FOR traffic skills!!! Do you think I've been cycling in New York City all this time without them? But I'm also for infrastructure designed for bikes and the way bikes worked, and for moving this whole thing forward. I've seen this city before the infrastructure and I've seen this city after, and bike share, protected bike lanes, etc. lets bikes flourish in a way that it never, ever would otherwise. It's a huge improvement.

Also, I checked out your video, and if that's how you want cycling for transportation to look in 10 or 20 years that's just depressing. It's amazing how we Americans persist in the idea that this hi-viz helmet-and-semaphore dance is the highest expression of cycling and refuse to acknowledge there are places in the world that have riding bikes to get around totally figured out.

Like seriously, the fact that nothing has changed between your video and the one from 1970 doesn't indicate to you that something is wrong?

--Wildcat Etc.

John Schubert said...

Bike snob,
The false promise is that "protected" bike lanes eliminate the need for traffic skills. Rather, they exacerbate that need -- because they hide road users from each other until the moment of impact. I hope you've studied the goings-on to note the nationwide rash of fatal "right hook" collisions between bicyclists and turning trucks. I've been an expert witness in several such collisions. They suck. And they occur because people who ask for "infrastructure" don't want to learn the difference between good infrastructure and bad infrastructure.
Or dooring collisions. That's what happens when you set aside a shit-sandwich bike lane (whether "protected" or not) next to parked cars.
Also, you misinterpret the motives of the dance video. I agree with you that the sunbelt traffic sewers in that video are not a good vision of what a city should be. No one ever said that. But that's where people live, and what the video shows is that you can master them.
I want a better cycling environment than that. Of course I do. That's why I live 100 miles west of that shit-pile island full of hedge fund managers you call home.
The prescription for improving cities is not to be found in an indiscriminate call for "more infrastructure." I have studies from Berlin, Helsinki, Amsterdam and Copenhagen showing how their infrastructure increases crash rates. And the studies illustrate why. They don't just correlate bike lanes and crashes, which is what the current crop of American studies does. They look at the behaviors that led up to the crashes.
No, the prescription includes a lot of things, but setting people up for right hooks isn't one of them.

BikeSnobNYC said...

John Schubert,

Thanks for swinging by, putting a lot of words in my mouth, and calling New York a "shit-pile." Have a great weekend and don't hurry back.

--Wildcat Etc.

Principled Pragmatist said...

For a host of cultural and legal reasons Dutch infra in the US is a fantasy that trying to achieve mostly results in crap that is worse than nothing. From door zone bike lanes to the much ballyhooed "protected" "bike lanes" that are full of debris and obscure cyclists and motorists from each other until the point of conflict, we're wasting our limited time and resources trying to improve cycling through the "build it" route. Roads need repaving, bridges need replacing, existing bike paths are crumbling... in this environment to try to add more doesn't make sense.

What does make sense is to stop pretending that all kinds of people of all ages - practically anyone who can ride a bike - can't be safe and comfortable riding bikes on roads in all kinds traffic. They can.

There's a lot of ignorance out there about cycling safety, and that ignorance underlies much of the fear. We CAN get a lot more people on bikes today, right now, if we just focused on demonstrating and training the practices and techniques that allow anyone to be safe and comfortable on a bike in all kinds of traffic.

Don't believe me? Take a CyclingSavvy class, preferably with somebody you know who typifies the stereotypical person too scared to share the road with cars. Watch how they do. And write about it. That's your challenge.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Principles Pragmatist,

Where do you live and what is your own experience with infrastructure before and after it has been implemented? And answer without smugness or sweeping generalizations and one-size-fits-all pronouncements. That's your challenge.

--Wildcat Etc.

Principled Pragmatist said...

Why does it matter where I or anyone one person lives. This isn't about me and I'm not talking about (just) my experiences. Let's not take that tangent.

CyclingSavvy has been taken successfully to all corners of the country (FL, WA, CA and Maine) and everything in between. Once people on bikes learn the practices and techniques they can use them anywhere.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Principled Pragmatist,

So in other words you're full of it, as I suspected.

--Wildcat Etc.

der Blaue Reiter said...

Soooooo late to the party, but glad i came. What i can never get over is this wild insistance that "if only people would do it right they'd all be true believers" when in the last 40 friggin years VC increased bike mode share... uh... how much? Oh that's right: NOT AT ALL. But some of these comments really took the cake: "that's your challenge..." ha ha! Ok, professor, thanks! And i love "i want a better cycling infrastructure! That's why i don't live in the city!" Ok, so then have fun pedalling around whereversville and let the city build city infrastructure, what do you care anyway?

But the real tell is that the first exchange always includes some moderation, like, "of course i support riding skills, and sure in the abscence of infrastructure, fine..." But that's not good enough! For any reasonable person, those conciliatory remarks should be sufficient to establish that we're operating in good faith and open to compromise, so live and let live... but not to VC adherents! It's all or nothing for them. Sigh.

Anyway, just for the record since i'm bringing up the caboose here, i though the joke about ordering the rider into the hole was really funny; snark away! If only those 16mm reels would show up on craigslist we could get into the old school BSNYC/RTMS.

Principled Pragmatist said...

Yeah, okay. No where in the US has infra been definitively tied to increasing bike use. There are often other factors at play. For example, in San Francisco bike usage more than increased during a four-year legal moratorium on building any bike infra.

If infra had been built during that period the Separationists surely would have credited the infra for the increase, just as they do elsewhere.

Outside of the US, in Stevenage, England, they built a complete network of paths. Virtually unused. Total flop.

Time and time again the idea that infrastructure gets more people to ride bikes has been refuted. But the myth continues.

You want people to ride bikes more? Ban street parking. Raise gas taxes to European levels and other car taxes and fees to Dutch levels.

Once you're u have big numbers on bikes THEN they'll demand and support gage infra you want. Don't conflate cause and effect.

And yeah I realize it's a two-way street to some extent, but honestly the amount of bike use that infra increases (if any) pales in comparison to the effect of other factors, most critically the relative ease and cost of motoring.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Principled Pragmatist,

In New York City bike trips have more than doubled since 2005. Citi Bike alone is seeing 70,000 trips a day now. If you don't think this has anything to do with the growing bike network you're nuts. I've watched it happen.

But absolutely, we should skip the infrastructure and focus on riding in traffic while wearing day-glo vests and helmets instead. Because Stevenage.

Are you an auto industry shill or something?

--Wildcat Etc.

Principled Pragmatist said...

Yeah, the auto industry pays me to encourage cyclists to ride in the way of cars. Are YOU nuts? You're the one lobbying for getting bikes out of the way of cars - maybe you're the auto industry's shill? Or, perhaps, a shill for the bike infrastructure industrial complex? Lot of people making a living from selling that snake oil...

Seriously, I think your motives are noble. Just misguided.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Principled Pragmatist,

I can't think of a better way to get ordinary people to conclude "Fuck it, I'm leasing a Hyundai" than telling them to ride in front of cars. I checked out your blog. Love the post about telling people to get out there and "herd the beast." Brilliant piece of advice, perfect for the kid riding his or her bike to school.

I don't know where you live, but you should think of moving to New York City and joining a community board, the NIMBYs would love you.

I don't even think your motives are noble, I think you're just brainwashed.

--Wildcat Rock Machine

STG said...

Wildcat et al,

Sometimes in an argument you have to remember - what is more important, the issue, or the relationship. Consider those commenting here are all invested in cycling. I'm sure you have been hit before in addition to a number of folks commenting here (i've been intentionally run over - wheels over my arms and legs, run over).

My intention behind the line, "If you do not learn the basic skills in this video -then you are not a safe rider- period." Cycling infrastructure is a good improvement*, but you 100% must have the fundamentals practiced to fill the gaps. The 2nd ave bike lane terminates into the mangled and unmarked intersection with Houston. The first ave bike lane forces you into a difficult, mixed-use chicane after passing the UN. The Flushing ave bike lane and connection to DUMBO by the Navy yard goes from 2-way, to 1-way, and back to 2 way, forcing you to cross back and forth over a 2-way truck route near the BQE onramp. You think you're going on a road ride but the switchbacks and chicanes on the GWB test your MTB skills. The west side highway above 125th st is like a pump track. You must have hammered down Flatbush Ave and dealt with high-speed ramps to get to races at Floyd Bennett Field.

Cycling infrastructure is a good improvement, even if its haphazard. Its a necessity on bridges (ex. why do we have many East River crossings and only one for the Hudson?). Had the GWB been closed to cycling traffic during recabling I would no-shit move back to Maine and go back to digging for a living.

So that video was freakin awesome and highlighted a ton of bad habits that are hard to illustrate - weaving in and out of "safe" spaces between parked cars, hugging the very edge of the road, and riding in the door zone. The part on countersteering and emergency braking, awesome.

I don't really care about the snark, its funny and its why I read your blog and buy your books. What I won't tolerate is detraction of vehiclular cycling. We don't get bike lanes that are safe for kids without the sweaty racers, aggro messengers, and helmet mirror beardos pushing the frontier. Without vehicular cycling there is no cycling.


Tricia said...

You asked for examples of separated bike lanes that decreased safety. Here's one: Summit St in Columbus, Ohio. 2-way separated by parked cars bike lanes on right side (in relation to the travel lanes) of 1 way street. Prior to bike lanes: avg 2.5 crashes per year. After bike lanes: 15 first year, 10 as of Sept 15 this year. 20 cyclists injured in those crashes. Bus route required constructing bus islands with removal of bus shelters. Bus passengers who are blind have difficulty finding island and sidewalk. Bus passengers with arthritis have nowhere to sit. Bus passengers in general have no shelter from the storm or shade from the sun. Crash types are mainly motorist drive outs, collision with contra-flow cyclists (cause motorists don't look right) and right hooks at unsignalized intersections. Do you think an 8 year old knows that they can't be seen behind those parked cars? Do you think an 8 year old knows that if they ride behind a car that is blocking the bike lane that they need to watch for oncoming turning traffic? I don't diss all separated infrastructure. Some of it is great, like the painted buffered 1-way bike lane on the left side (relative to the travel lanes) on the parallel 1-way street. Crashes did increase but only slightly (from .5 avg prior to bike lane to 1.5 after). Do you have any before/after crash data for individual streets in NYC? Aren't you seeing the same issues with your separated bike lanes?

Tricia said...

By the way, I wish folks would show some respect for the father of bicycle transportation and education. Raise your hand if your first helmet was a hardshell Bell. Raise your hand if you wore cut-offs in the 70s. Raise your hand if you've never been involved in a crash with a car cause you followed the advice of John Forester and John Allen and owe your safety to those two men, or the women and men who followed them.

BikeSnobNYC said...


What's so exhausting about this discussion is that I'm not discounting traffic skills at all, I'm discounting the notion that it isn't good bike infrastructure that will ultimately make cycling safer and more accessible. These people seem unable to accept both. (And yes, of course there are bike lanes that need improvement, or that wind up getting watered down by NIMBY resistance or driver pandering);


Yes, there is data that NYC streets are safer with bike lanes. And I'm under no obligation to show respect to anybody. It's been 10 years, why would I start now?

--Wildcat Etc.

Principled Pragmatist said...

"I'm discounting the notion that it isn't good bike infrastructure that will ultimately make cycling safer and more accessible."

Our views are not that far apart, it seems. It's just that many of us are highly skeptical of the notion that bike infrastructure in the US will ever be good enough to "make cycling safer and more accessible", and is more likely to have the opposite effect.

Besides, the whole debate is moot. We're witnessing the dawn of the Age of the Driverless Car. In a fraction of the time that it will take to build any bike infrastructure of significance in the US, such infrastructure will be pointless, because fallible and deadly human drivers will have been replaced by far safer computer drivers who are never distracted and are paying attention in all directions at all times, programmed to "first do no harm" for violating that principle will be a marketing disaster.

And please don't even start with the flaws in Tesla's early beta system (that failed to save the guy in Florida from his careless driving), or pretending that the Trolley Problem applies to driverless cars (which will avoid the errors like driving too fast for conditions that must be made to even find oneself in such a predicament). It might two years, or five or ten or twenty, but it's far, far less than any significant infra can be built.

In related news, recently installed new infra in the Los Angeles area is already being rolled back due to it creating huge congestion problems and drops in business. The point is it's not just the public finance hurdles holding back infra in this country, it's socio-political resistance.

In the meantime driverless technology is being developed at, well, high tech speeds. Remember how quickly smartphones took over about when you started this blog? Just wait...

Anyway, once driverless cars are slowing down for bikes and changing lanes like the no-big-deal it is, while passengers are buried in their mobile devices totally unaware of these minor details on their mundane drives, suddenly everyone will feel and actually be safe riding in the streets, where bicyclists belong.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Principled Pragmatist,

So basically "There might be driverless cars soon and they'll fix everything, so why bother?" Got it.

--Wildcat Etc.

Tricia said...

So I did find a study of bike safety in NYC separated bike lanes here:

Previously, all I'd seen were numbers of cyclists and bike crashes across the city so I wasn't sure which types of infrastructure were working.

It looks like all these separated bike lanes in this study are 1-way in the same direction as traffic. And reading your inventory of 2-way separated bike lanes, a lot of them sound like they may be along waterways or highways or on bridges, where they make sense. I thought it was interesting to see a couple dated 1874 (Eastern Parkway) and 1894 (Ocean Parkway). So Sadik-Khan can't take all the credit?

Principled Pragmatist said...

Not quite. There WILL (not might) be driverless cars much sooner (not just soon) than significant and truly good infra that will make a real difference can be built. In the meantime we'll get... well, see STG's second paragraph, and worse (, under the false premise that "anything [crappy] is better than nothing".

New Amsterdam is no Amsterdam.

BikeSnobNYC said...


Thank you for bike-splaining my own city for me.

Principled Pragmatist,

The driver who killed Kelly Hurley cut across four lanes of traffic to make a left turn. Using her to further your argument that we shouldn't have bike infrastructure is not only extraordinarily tasteless, but also goes to show how ridiculous your video in which all drivers behave predictably is. But nice job googling for tragedies in a city you know nothing about.

--Wildcat Etc.

Unknown said...

So Bikesnob seemed to think people dress funny back in 1979 maybe they did I don't know I was 1 in 1979. But when I look at the pictures from back then I guess it is true. Clothing fads come and go and we might laugh when we see how people dressed 40 years ago. But to fault the video for having people wear what people normally worn 40 years ago. The video was done on a college campus the actors were not paid much if anything so their wardrobe was their own clothes.

Next BikeSnob crosses the line and starts attacking the principles of vehicular cycling or bicycle driving. Insisting instead that we need infrastructure infrastructure. and Referring to those of us that would rather drive our bikes as Freds. I don't know where the term Fred came from or how it got a bad rep. But I think it should be a good thing. One of the greatest cycling advocates of all time is named Fred Oswald.

But BikeSnob doesn't stop their he pushes the 8 to 80 crap about how all we need to do is copenhagenize the whole country but He doesn't advocate a full copenhagenization. Which would involve lowering speed limits. Changing right of way laws and a more comprehensive motor vehicle operators privilege test and training and also forcing all current and new drivers to complete such training before they could continue having or get that privilege.

Most but not all infrastructure creates more problems then it solves. And Bikesnob fails to point out the social and financial cost of infrastructure. Not all streets are wide enough to support infrastructure. land rights have to be bought unless eminent domain is used and that opens a whole other can of worms and will really spark incivility.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Marc Caruso,

Wow, Marc Caruso sure likes putting words in my mouth.

Hard to pick a dumbest Marc Caruso paragraph written by Marc Caruso but I'll go with this one:

Most but not all infrastructure creates more problems then it solves. And Bikesnob fails to point out the social and financial cost of infrastructure. Not all streets are wide enough to support infrastructure. land rights have to be bought unless eminent domain is used and that opens a whole other can of worms and will really spark incivility.

Yeah, lots of land buying and eminent domain-ing going on for bike lanes.

--Wildcat Etc.

Get in the ditch said...

> I have studies from Berlin, Helsinki, Amsterdam and Copenhagen showing how their infrastructure increases crash rates.

Yep, the whole "kinder mort" thing and subsequent change of direction has resulted in wholesale carnage, if only those Europeans hadn't wasted all that money on cycling infrastructure it'd be a utopia of hi-viz helmeted vehicular cycling with not an injury in sight. Reminds me of this drivel...

der blaue Reiter said...

Hey Snob, i hope you're enjoying your weekend, and i wonder: do you need to keep engaging these comments because of the new moderation function? I seriously thought i would have been the last comment in the thread since i didn't get to check in until days after your post, but here the battle still rages... well regardless, thanks for fighting the good fight! I'm tempted to go into the archives and start telling you that you need to show the Bianchi Pista some respect... "it's been 10 years, why would i start now" Ha ha ha that's entertainment! But seriously, you've already said like three times that you support skills and you agree that infrastructure isn't a magic bullet, and they don't quit pushing? They're assholes!

hotdog said...

Anyone know where I can get a bottle of disco oil?

Unknown said...

Here is a response to you critique of Forester it was published several days before your blog in response to another attack on Forester by the Los Angeles time. Don't worry this response won't bore you it is published by a true wordsmith that could put you to shame.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Marc Caruso,

Hey, thanks for sharing the LA Times piece, it was quite good. Too bad I had to wade through a lame blog post to find it.

--Wildcat Rock Machine

Principled Pragmatist said...

People can and do debate the role the design of the infrastructure had in the Hurley case because the truck turned left from the far right lane, but the idea of channeling through bike traffic into a lane where only left turning motor traffic is expected seems quite obviously to be an unsafe design. That was the point I was trying to convey by referencing that article, in support of my larger point that the infrastructure we typically get in this country (for a variety of reasons) often results in a worse situation for cyclists than no infrastructure. Separation of bikes from cars may seem like a great idea, until the paths of cyclists and motorists must intersect. Unless you have a society like the Dutch do that is dedicated to managing all of these conflicts with great care, it just doesn't work well, and can be deadly. We don't have such a society.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Principled Pragmatist,

New York City infrastructure makes things demonstrably safer. Of course it should be continually refined, they continually refine their infrastructure in the Netherlands as well. And guess what? The Dutch did not "have such a society" either. You seem adept at googling places you know nothing about, so I suggest googling how they got where they are today.

Your insistence that the US will never arrive at good infrastructure but that as soon as we hit the "on" switch on autonomous cars everything will be solved instantly is, quite frankly, utterly moronic.

--Wildcat Etc.

Principled Pragmatist said...

I've seen that how they got there video. It glosses over that the Netherlands had a huge cycling society in the early 20th century. Yes, the amount of cycling dipped considerably when motoring arrived, but the base was there - a society of people who had bikes and had used bikes heavily for transportation, and that history was instrumental in creating societal support for replacing motoring with bicycling there again. They also over-emphasize the role that infrastructure played in encouraging cycling again, and play down all of the anti-motoring initiatives enacted there, from getting rid of parking and raising parking prices, to closing roads and entire sections to cars, and enormous gas and car taxes. Not to mention that car use was always relatively difficult and expensive there, due to high density, small streets, etc. Those conditions do not exist anywhere in America, except maybe Davis, California which had high bike modal use (25%ish) in the early 60s before any of their now famous bike lanes were created. That high bike modal use, by the way, was obviously not created by infrastructure - but by prohibiting motoring on the university campus there.

The bottom line is "regular people" choose biking over motoring only when the economics and hassle of motoring are made such that biking becomes relatively preferable. Only then do they start demanding separate infrastructure, but it's not the infrastructure that gets them out of the cars and onto the bikes. Not in the Netherlands, not in Davis, not anywhere. Not to any significant degree. Don't be fooled into thinking it is.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Principled Paragmatist,

I realize you're resolute in your delusion so go forth in your hi-viz vest and prosper. If you ever actually try riding in any of these places let me know.

--Wildcat Etc.

Anonymous said...

You should go ahead and lock the comments now.

I rode with a leather hair net and cutoffs in 1971. I read a lot about cycling safely, took most of all that to heart, sensible, works. Then in the 80s, found myself living in europe, and holy carp! Cycling infrastructure for realz! In a land whers everybody rides, drivers are required to know what tge heck they are doing, they have lots of infrastructure, and still folks ride mopeds, hauling a trailer full of tools , drinking a beer, down the railroad-shared multiuse path, and no one whines and cries about it! Could it possibly be that they know what the heck they are doing?
I come back home in the late 80s, and aside from informal 'club' rides, pretty much stop. Riding here sucks. But it's getting better in spite of, not because of the vc devotees. Couple of years ago, was in norway and denmark for a bit, then down into switzerland.


Yeah, these ride safely tips are great. But aside from the uk, with it's own john (franklin) the rest of industrialized world uses bicycles, all the time, everywhere, and has infra to accomodate that. These vcs, regardless of which sect, will *never* accept this.
How it is.
Stop paying attention.

Tricia said...

I'm not sure what bike-splaining means.

I asked if anyone could share some before/after data on separated bike lanes cause I'm interested in the safety of different types of bicycle infrastructure. You responded that it's out there, so I looked for it and found some. I'll move this discussion of NYC bicycle infrastructure to another forum.

You should've seen me during my disco phase.

And I'll keep sticking up for Forester, respectfully.

der Reiter ist blau said...

Anonymous says it like it is... I'm so glad those were only empty threats about not reading this blog anymore, Anonymous!

Snob, maybe you could add a new sidebar to highlight comments threads like this that simply refuse to die... are there others? Probably more readers would appreciate the tip about the LA Times piece. (thanks for the roundabout advice to just go straight there.)

Blau wird geritten said...

Quick PS after reading the blog reply to the LA Times piece: if that guy's a "wordsmith" then i must not have the grasp i thought i did on either concept... yeech!

Anonymous said...

Burn the heretics!

Duncan Watson said...

2:12 seconds and standard Forester speak starts= Any other method of riding is dangerous. He also refers to bikes as toys. There is a reason why cyclists hate Forester and his flying minions.

boys on the hoods said...

Not sure how this fits into the shade being thrown all around but I can say that up here in America's toque we have seen a significant increase in the on-street bikecycling following the installation of protected bike lanes in the downtown core of Edmonton. It would stand to reason that the increase in usage opens up more riders to collisions with vehicles especially in the right hook scenario. Saying that bicycle infrastructure puts riders at risk due to the increase seems misleading. As both a cyclist and driver I am very aware of my surroundings and particularly conscious of cyclist both in bike lanes and also riding in traffic.

Anonymous said...

Snarkyness aside The VC video and concepts are not terrible, just dated and out of touch.
I personally reject the idea that bicycles be treated as cars, It seems like we get all the responsibilities and none of the perks! Newsflash streets and traffic Controls are designed for CARS (& motor vehicles in general). That being the case it's moronic to use your bicycle as if it's a car! Your bicycle doesn't have "crumple zones" (unless you count your scranus), Bumpers (unless you count your foam hat) OR 15 airbags!! IF I tried to mingle with Cars as the video suggest I'd have been dead 20 years ago.
The first step is for cyclist to embrace the fact that they are NOT motor vehicles AND for motorists to except the fact that Cyclist aren't self destructive lunatics and careless law breakers! Cyclist have more incentive to be "safe" then anyone, but just as I don't believe that everyone should drive the same way, we will never get all cyclist to ride the same.
The main difference that cycling infrastructure makes is that it encourages people to ride; it basically says "hey, you can do this and there's a place for you right here" the increase in safety comes with the increase of riders. We have bike share bikes multiplying like Tribbles around here and ridership is UP, but the main benefit to me has been increasing awareness to cyclists in general.
Driverless cars increasing Bicycle safety? What!? Fact is we would already have driverless cars if there were no bicycles, because most driverless programs don't know how to process the movement of cyclist on the street. The advent of driverless cars will = an immediate spike in cyclist fatalities. Driverless cars are the future though; Why? MONEY!
To me painting a few lines on the street is not infrastructure, it's a cop out. True Pedestrain and cycling infrastructure doesn't just increase ridership and reduce cars, it also spikes property values along those routes which in turn means Tax revenue down @ City Hall. Most big cities are pushing Bike infrastructure not so much because they want to, but because they have to! There's only so many freeways you can build. Civil planners will tell you that replacing a 3 lane highway with a 5 lane highway has little long term positive impact on traffic, because as soon as you increase capacity, it just encourages people to move further into the suburbs and drive more.

No actually, what's going to help cyclist and motorists both is more & more people working from home. Yeah, The Internet is going to be the commuters best friend!!! - masmojo

der blaue Reiter said...

Since folks are coming by to check out the zombie comments, here's a somewhat scary article about the difficulties that autonomous cars are having recognizing bikes:

Sure hope they sort that out before sending out tens of thousands of test vehicles onto our city streets! Oh wait... "The proposed House legislation would also permit each manufacturer to test as many as 100,000 robocars that don't quite meet federal standards..."

Oh well.

Bryan said...

Driverless cars are at least a decade or more away. Sure, the technology is developing rapidly but it's expensive. People aren't going to ditch their cars as soon as driverless cars are out (also, if that were to happen, good luck selling or trading in your obsolete car for any real amount of money). New laws and regulations will need to be written. Police departments will lose a lot of funding when they no longer need traffic enforcement. States and municipalities will lose revenue from traffic violations.

I like the snark. I come to this blog for the snark. And I never remember BSNYC being about bike advocacy. Sometimes there is some mixed in there, but this is mainly about bikes, and fun, and making fun. Also, at no time has BSNYC ever said that having skills to ride in traffic isn't important.

Bike infrastructure is great. You can carry on smugly on an other wise busy road during the morning/afternoon commute and mind your own business and have very little to worry about until the bike lanes run out, then you just get to play chicken with traffic.

Paul Heckbert said...

Don't scoff at VC. The Viet Cong will kill you! And their secret weapon on the Ho Chi Minh Trail was the pack bicycle, capable of easily carrying 440 pounds:

EmiGremlin said...

I recently rode my bicycle from Sofia in Bulgaria to Copenhagen in Denmark. This gave me the opportunity to see both the recent ex soviet solutions (which included sharing the road with trucks, farm vehicles and horse drawn carts, but also included some quite nice separated bike lanes because people can't afford cars or petrol to run them) and the mid range central European solutions through to the justly famous Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

Interestingly bikes share the road with cars a lot in Amsterdam but the cars have priority. The rest of Holland has fabulous separate bicycle highways complete with overpass and tunnels. A more practical model for my home country of Australia and for the USA is probably Germany which has minimalist but still segregated bike lanes, no curbs, no lights, no painted bicycles just a strip of tarmac barely wide enough for two bikes to pass with a foot or two of dirt, or grass, or gravel between it and the road but that was enough.

Denmark is a bit strange great separate bike lanes within each city but nothing on the roads between cities, which I assume is why a lot of rural Danish cyclists wear helmets.