Vehicular cycling is the idea that a cyclist should take up the position on the road, as if he / she was another vehicle on the road.
It is related to the idea that:
- Cyclists have a right to be on the road, and it is necessary to defend this right.
“Every person riding a bicycle shall have all of the rights and duties applicable to other drivers.”
- The best and safest way to cycle is to behave like a motorist.
- If cyclists get cycle paths, there is a danger that they will lose the right to be on the road or at least lose the skills necessary to be confident in traffic.
- The safest way to cycle is to mimic the actions of a motor car, and to be confident, assertive, quick out of the blocks and take up the middle of the lane to increase visibility and safety.
- “Cyclists Fare Best When They Act And Are Treated As Drivers Of Vehicles.” (John Forester)
Others are much more critical of this approach to cycling.
- If cyclists need to behave like an unprotected car, you will necessarily limit cycling to the preserve of a small number of fairly fit, (usually male) and cycling will never become a universal forms of transport.
- To look at cities where cycling has really blossomed, the approach has strongly veered towards segregated cycle lanes and providing safer routes where cyclists don’t have to sprint ahead and behave like a motor vehicle.
This issue raises a lot of interesting ideas, and in a way I’m sympathetic to both viewpoints. Firstly, I am a fit male cyclist, who often accelerates away from lights. I even regularly race on dual carriageways, which are practically motorways (though I have certain misgivings about that, but that’s another story). I would easily fit into the vehicular cycle stereotype. But, also I really would like to see cycling become a mass form of transport I would like UK cities to be transformed into cycle havens, where cyclists are able to use segregated facilities and safe cycle routes. If that means it’s slower to ride around town, I would be very happy for the compensation of enabling more people to feel safe to cycle.
Some points on Vehicular cycling
- With the current UK road design, I feel being able to cycle quickly gives more confidence to be on the road (probably a false confidence). It sounds silly, but when a car gets stuck behind me I often speed up. Though it shouldn’t have to be like this
- The way to encourage cycling is not through expecting cyclists to be able to do 0-20mph in 5 seconds. If anything, this expectation, would put the majority of people off cycling completely. We don’t design city centres, so pedestrians get an advantage from dashing away at zebra crossings.
- I am worried about losing the right to cycle on roads. Good cycle paths are great for parts of towns, but I don’t want to be forced onto ‘shared use pavements’ when cycling in less densely populated areas. I like the current law that states use of cycle lanes is optional.
- In densely populated cities, many cycle journeys are less than 5Km, speed isn’t the issue. Safety is. If cyclists can be made to feel less vulnerable, it would encourage more to cycle.
- I don’t think segregated lanes would deskill cyclists. IN fact, more cyclists would raise awareness of cycling amongst drivers. The safest places to cycle are those with highest rates of cycling.
- It very much depends on the area. Some parts of cities need segregate facilities, or at least safe passageways, but providing cycle lanes in cities, shouldn’t mean the end to cycle on roads.
- It is one thing to advocate segregated cycle lanes and cycling nirvana, it is another thing to get it. On the one hand, I would press councillors to invest in good quality cycle infrastructure. But, on the other hand, every day we have to cycle with the facilities and road design that we actually face.
- Often it is safer to ride out 1m from the road. (best position on road for cycling) Hugging the curb can reduce visibility. (though even as a confident racing cyclist – I still often end up there because I feel too vulnerable in the middle of the road or am being honked by impatient cars.
Good Cycle Lanes and Bad Cycle Lanes.
A genuine concern amongst ‘vehicular cyclists; is the idea of being forced to use bad or dangerous ‘cycle lanes’. For example, so called shared pavement cycle paths, which often I’m really not keen on using. This is because they are too thin and too congested with pedestrians. Even if it is a shared pavement, and even if you cycle at walking speed – many pedestrians still really dislike it. I don’t like irritating pedestrians, so I usually end choosing the road and irritating the motorists instead.
Also, you feel that these cycle lanes may well be designed to actually improve traffic flows for cars by getting bikes off the road.
The way to encourage mass cycling is not through the ‘vehicular cycling’ approach. The way is to encourage real cycling infrastructure, better training, lower speed limits e.t.c which helps cyclists avoid danger.
An individual riding in UK cycling cities, may be advised from a personal perspective to take on board aspects of vehicular cycling. We would like better cycling facilities, but until you get them, you have to cycle in the safest way. The safest way is not timidly hugging the curb.
Fundamentally, cyclists do have a right to be on the road, but the provision of good segregated cycle lanes doesn’t have to change this. If cycle lanes are worse than useless, it is important to have the right to cycle on the road. If cycle facilities are good, cyclists will want to use them. Even hard nosed time trial list like me enjoy a good segregated cycle lane.
A key part of Cycle craft is the idea that cyclists would benefit from better training. And if we don’t promote cycle training, but encourage cyclists to avoid traffic, these skills may be lost. Again, better cycle facilities and segregated lanes could be promoted along with cycle training which helps for all circumstances.
- Cycle craft pdf
- Vehicular cycling at Copenhagezine
- Vehicular cycling in the land of make believe
- Complete guide to cycle paths