My Year Among the Bikeway Advocates

home                    sociological

In the Spring of 2007 I was informed that discussions were going on about me and my views in a group named Bike Forums, in particular in a subgroup named Vehicular Cycling.

These discussions were sparked by my appearance at a traffic forum held in Santa Barbara under the auspices of a residents' organization that was opposed to the traffic reduction measures proposed there. The prime speaker of the forum was Randal O'Toole of the Preserving the American Dream Conference, who said that private car transportation was very important and that trying to restrict it produced ill effects. I followed with my statement that particular traffic calming measures being proposed to make motoring more difficult also made cycling more difficult and dangerous, that what cyclists needed were good roads on which they operated with the rights and duties of drivers of vehicles. My statement outraged some bicycle advocates who were members of Bike Forums and who may, or may not (most Bike Forums members use pseudonyms), have heard my presentation. These members then discussed my views, using my name, on the Vehicular Cycling (VC) subgroup of Bike Forums (BF), and somebody reading those discussions informed me of them. Therefore, I joined the group.

I learned much later that the VC subgroup had been formed not long before this time, as a subgroup of the Advocacy and Safety group, in order to isolate discussion of vehicular cycling from the subjects covered in Advocacy and Safety. The VC subgroup was officially described as being formed because nothing in bicycle advocacy has so polarized the bicycling community as vehicular cycling.

This statement is somewhat ingenuous. The great divide in the world of bicycling affairs is between those who advocate vehicular cycling and those who advocate bikeways. The VC subgroup was formed to keep the few vehicular cyclists away from most of the discussions and to provide a place for those bikeway advocates who chose to dispute with them. In effect, the VC subgroup was largely a platform for those who chose to bash vehicular cycling and defend bikeways, and its members did just that when informed of my presentation in Santa Barbara. In consequence of being informed of this activity, I joined in and spent a year with them before being expelled. My posting that gave BF management the excuse to expel me is given in full at the end of this account, under the excuse that I insulted members. As with many discussion groups, BF presents a series of statements by participants, and any member can call down any one statement into the reply window and write his reply below it. One doesn't keep a copy, because one's reply will appear quickly. However, in this case I worked up the reply rather carefully, keeping a copy as I went, which is just as well because I presume that my reply was never published.

The participants in the VC group were self-chosen, presumably according to their desires to present their views and to their own high evaluations of their own abilities to do so intelligently. There was one vehicular cycling advocate, presumably the one whose activities had caused BF management to isolate the VC group. There were several bikeways advocates. In addition, there were an unknown number of people who read but never, or only rarely, presented statements. The sequence of discussions was too convoluted to present here; I present outlines of those of both sides.

I present the bikeway advocates first, because theirs is the simpler side, and their bike path arguments first because those are the simpler part. Two arguments were presented for bike paths. The first is that bicycle transportation would be wonderful if most trips could be done largely on good bike paths well away from motor traffic. The supporting evidence for this argument was the system of bike paths in Oulu, Finland, which is a most unusual city. The second argument presented particular locations, Denver CO being most frequently named, which was described as having a system of bike paths, principally alongside waterways, that attracted much bicycle traffic. The only evidence advanced was the Denver map, with no data on the proportion of total personal traffic that used these paths.

Several arguments were presented for bike lanes. Bike lanes make cycling legitimate, safe, specially safe for beginners, and persuade large numbers of motorists to switch trips from motoring to cycling. The supporting evidence came from two sources. One being Portland OR, the other being various locations in Europe, particularly those studied by John Pucher. The Portland evidence consisted of time series comparisons of the increasing number of bike-lane miles versus the increasing volume of downtown bicycle traffic, together with no increase in city-wide bicycle accidents. The European evidence consisted of data from European nations and cities with historically high volumes of bicycle transportation that now had strong government programs for supporting bicycle transportation. These data showed that, once bicycle transportation modal share had declined with the advent of mass motoring, it had then recovered, and that the car-bike collision rates were much less than in the US. Bike-lane advocates argued that this recovery was caused by bike lanes and that building bike lanes in the USA would produce similar high volumes of bicycle transportation at similar low car-bike collision rates.

The vehicular-cycling advocacy had two parts. The first part was the value of vehicular cycling to the cyclist in terms of safety and convenience. The second part was the contradiction between vehicular cycling and bikeway advocacy. There was little discussion about the value of vehicular cycling to the cyclist, most of it being about precise lateral position, in which the vehicular cyclist argued that a more leftward position made the cyclist more visible to motorists with whom he would be interacting. I was not surprised when the bikeways advocates admitted that they rode in the vehicular manner because they recognized that that is best. I was not surprised because I had heard that over the years from many other bikeway advocates.

Regarding bike paths, vehicular cyclists argued that while some bike paths were safe and useful, the number of locations at which safe and useful bike paths could be built was too small to serve as a bicycle transportational system that would significantly reduce motoring. Too few of the bicycle trips would be sufficiently close to any bike path for the cyclist to feel inclined to divert his trip to use the path, and the cyclist still needed to know vehicular cycling for all the street cycling he would be doing. Bikeway advocates provided no analyses of trips to demonstrate the comparative utility of bike paths.

The real controversy concerned the extent to which vehicular cycling and advocacy of bike lanes are in conflict.

Bikeway advocates argued that vehicular cyclists have no right to oppose bike lanes because, absent mandatory use laws or the enforcement thereof, vehicular cyclists can ride as they wish, whether or not a bike lane was present. That is fine for the individual vehicular cyclist, but bike lanes are items of public policy that affect how cyclists ride, how motorists drive, and consume valuable roadway width. Since these are all reasons why bike-lane advocates desire bike lanes, bike-lane advocates should not try to exclude them from the discussion.

Bikeway advocates argued that since vehicular cyclists sometimes rode in bike lanes, this proved that there was no conflict between bike lanes and vehicular cycling. One would think that these advocates would have recognized that their own argument, that sometimes they rode in bike lanes and sometimes saw that it was better to ride outside a bike lane in the vehicular manner, absolutely contradicted their second argument. But they did not seem to recognize this.

There was controversy over the purpose of bike lanes. The historical record is clear that the California bikeway standards and traffic laws were produced by motorists over the objection of the California Association of Bicycling Organizations and its specific representatives, myself (John Forester) and John Finley Scott. These same standards and laws then became the national standard, and have remained with little change. The committees that did this work acted only to keep cyclists at the side of the road and refused to do anything that would tend to prevent car-bike collisions. While they argued that all this was for cyclists' safety, it certainly increased the convenience of motorists. Partway through this process, the first statistical study of Santa Barbara County car-bike collisions completely disproved the safety argument. Immediately after this process, the second such study, of a national sample, provided a statistically robust confirmation of this disproof. The bikeway advocates said that they do not believe this account, that they believe that the bikeway program was done for the benefit of cyclists, but they have never provided any historical or statistical evidence to contradict this account.

At a late stage in these discussions the bikeway advocates advanced the argument that, while the bike-lane designs had changed only slightly, the purpose had changed from discriminating against cyclists to benefitting cyclists. I replied that the function of bike lanes had not changed at all, they still kept cyclists at the edge of the roadway out of the way of cars. This function suits superior-feeling motorists and inferior-feeling cyclists just the same as always, no difference over time. The bikeway advocates then claimed that my argument was the same as that of the hate-filled and bigotry-filled racists who claimed that since blacks had been slaves blacks were inferior forever.

This gets to the issue of whether or not bike lanes reduce car-bike collisions. The Cross statistics (referred to above) give the proportions, mechanisms, and contributing factors for a large number of types of car-bike collision. Comparison of the movements of vehicular cyclists versus those of cyclists who obey the bike-lane stripe, evaluated according to the Cross statistics, show that bike lanes can reduce car-bike collisions only by a very small amount, and have the distinct possibility, by making driving more complicated, of increasing car-bike collisions to a somewhat greater extent. The bikeway advocates said that they thought otherwise, but they never presented any contrary analysis. The most that they would come to was to admit that bike lanes had only an insignificant effect on collision rate. In other words, they admitted that their safety argument is bogus.

Toward the end of these discussions two recent European papers on bicycle safety had been recognized. These two, one from Copenhagen, one of the bikeway advocates' favorite cities, tried to assess the safety effect of their bike-lane systems. They both concluded that bike lane systems decreased the rate of car-bike collisions between intersections, but increased the rate at intersections, and the net effect was an increase rather than a decrease. This evidence provided empirical support for the argument that vehicular cyclists had made, long ago, from analysis of American car-bike collision data but for which no supporting empirical investigations had been made.

The other safety argument presented for bike lanes is that their safety effect is particularly important for beginning cyclists who have not learned vehicular cycling. Vehicular cyclists challenged bike lane advocates to show which vehicular cycling skills were not necessary in a city with a bike-lane system. The bike lane advocates denied that they had made that argument.

Another line of argument concerned the extent to which bike lanes increased the modal share and the safety of bicycle transportation, the examples being Portland OR and the European cities and nations studied by Professor John Pucher. In each of these cases there is a strong governmental program opposing motoring and promoting bicycling, accompanied by large modal splits for bicycle transportation and low car-bike collision rates. The volume data in Portland showed small switching from motoring to bicycling, without an increase in car-bike collision rates. The data in Europe showed, after the initial depression in cycling volume at the start of the mass motoring era, that bicycling volume increased to large values, and that the car-bike collision rates were much lower than in the USA. The bikeway advocates argued that these effects had been produced by bike lanes. This resulted in a discussion with several lines of argument. Vehicular cyclists argued that correlation does not demonstrate causation, that the result argued could have been produced by any number of other potential causes, and that arguing a causative relationship requires that the causal mechanism be shown. All of this is standard scientific doctrine. It was known that Portland was conducting an anti-motoring program that had made motoring into its downtown area much more difficult, as well as conducting a general pro-cycling program. How much of the volume and safety results had been produced by these, and how much by the bike lanes installed, had never even been investigated. There was also considerable discussion of Portland's bike-lane blunders in which its bike lanes had directed cyclists to ride on the right-hand side of right-turning motorists, resulting in two notorious deaths during this period, together with Portland's defense of its blundering designs. The European data were complicated by two different situations. These locations had had a very high bicycling modal split before the era of mass motoring. Their anti-motoring programs were as much a reflection of the fact that these were old walking cities very unsuitable for any significant amount of motoring. The social and economic fabrics of these cities had developed to suit a walking city. In these cities bicycling, even at the low speeds at which it was done, was quicker than both walking and motoring, when total trip time was considered. Therefore, there was not only the lack of a causal relationship with bike lanes, but there were very obvious other very obvious causes for the popularity of bicycle transportation and for the low car-bike collision rate. This produced considerable wrangling, with the bikeway advocates informing me several times that I was totally unqualified to dispute the conclusions that, so they said, Professor Pucher had proved. Of course, Pucher had proved nothing of the sort beyond the existence of his data on bicycle modal split and car-bike collision rates and he had made no investigation of other possible causes.

This led to a wrangle about how much Pucher knows about bicycle transportation. I argued that to make a causal connection between bike lanes and accident rates required detailed investigation into traffic movements and collision statistics. I stated, accurately, that Pucher had not claimed to have made such an investigation, that he showed none of the knowledge of traffic cycling that is required for such an investigation, that in previous public correspondence about one of his earlier similar papers he had shown only the most superstitious view of traffic cycling and had denied the existence of the statistical and traffic movement analysis that had been well known from American data for thirty years.

The second part of Pucher's claim and its argument advanced by the bikeway advocates is that producing a bike-lane system in the USA will produce similar high modal splits for bicycle transportation and low car-bike collision rates. Since there is no evidence that bike lanes produced the conditions found in the European locations studied by Pucher, there is even less evidence that bike lanes would produce the postulated effect here. Furthermore, modern American cities have grown largely in the automotive era, with social and economic fabrics suited to private motoring, so that the proportion of trips made that are suitable for bicycling has grown smaller and smaller. In summary, there are very good reasons not only for saying that Pucher's argument is unsupported, but also for predicting that it is most unlikely to produce the desired results.

This led to a most acrimonious discussion of motoring. When I stated that Americans used so much motoring because they found that, of the available choices, it best suited their needs and purposes, I was excoriated for promoting motoring. There were repeated sly statements about my association with the Preserving the American Dream Coalition that, so they said, promoted motoring. (Actually it doesn't. It promotes home ownership, but that involves opposing zoning restrictions and accepting the motoring that makes suburban home ownership possible.) Bikeway advocates argued that Americans had been forced to live in places that they didn't like, the suburbs, by a conspiracy of highway builders, motor manufacturers, oil companies, land developers, and the like. I was also excoriated for saying that mass transit was inefficient in such decentralized urban areas, and that rail transit was least efficient on an area-wide basis and had by far the highest costs.

Running throughout these discussions was the low-level question of why bike lanes and bike paths were so popular and vehicular cycling so unpopular. I provided an historical account starting in the 1930s, an account which has been on my website for decades. Americans considered cycling to be an activity of children who were incapable of exercising traffic judgment and had to be kept at the side of the road, out of the way of cars, lest they be killed. They developed a system of cycling that did not require traffic judgment and consisted of staying close to the edge of the road and obeying two other rules: stop at stop signs and signal your turns. Generations were taught that such cycling was necessary to be safe, and most grew up, having stopped cycling at an early age, with no better idea of proper cycling behavior. This I named the cyclist-inferiority cycling method. Indeed, when robust statistics became available about the different types of car-bike collision, some 30% of American car-bike collisions could be ascribed to the cyclist acting in accordance with the cyclist-inferiority method. Those few adult cyclists who instead used vehicular cycling were ignored. When motorists became concerned about an unexpected increase in cycling in the 1960s, they started the bikeway program that provided physical means of enforcing this cyclist-inferiority method on all cyclists. The only consideration was the relationship between bicycle traffic and faster same-direction motor traffic. Concern for that relationship has pervaded practically all the investigations since made about bicycle traffic, particularly those made to support the government's bikeway program. Government and society permitted this thoroughly one-sided view of bicycle traffic because the public, all except the few vehicular cyclists, believed this superstition about the great danger of same-direction motor traffic. In particular, I stated, when people take actions according to a greatly exaggerated fear of some condition, actions which in fact harm the person rather than help the person, that condition is technically described as a phobia.

My introduction of this into the discussions raised a storm of angry protest. However, the words then and later of the bikeway advocates supported, rather than opposed, my hypothesis. They did not deny being motivated by fear of same-direction motor traffic; they claimed that this was a natural fear held by everybody and therefore was not a phobia. They also denied that this fear motivated their actions. (Their claim that this was natural did not persuade me, because I had never had that fear. Presumably that was because I had been raised in the British tradition that cyclists were drivers of vehicles just like all other roadway users.) The bikeway advocates then argued, with sneering comments, that this could not be a phobia because I did not have the psychological qualifications necessary to name the condition, and it was not in the official list of phobias. But that is merely arguing about the name, not about the accuracy of my description of the condition. The thoughts and words of the bikeway advocates throughout the discussions were obsessively permeated with concerns about the speed of same-direction motor traffic and what to do about it. Since they exaggerated the fear of same-direction motor traffic and underrated the fear of the more dangerous crossing and turning traffic, and developed their strategies to suit this imbalance, they were technically operating according to a phobia.

When the discussion turned to the unpopularity of vehicular cycling, the bikeway advocates emphasized that people did not want to ride in the vehicular manner, and, specially, did not want to learn how to do it. Other bikeway advocates, such as Pucher, claimed that vehicular cycling required extreme levels of skill, courage, and physical power. But these bikeway advocates had to be rather restrained about this, since they admitted that that was the style of cycling that they had chosen for themselves. Despite this, there was a continuing undercurrent of criticism that vehicular cyclists had to impede motorists, that it wasn't real vehicular cycling unless motorists were impeded. It appears that the bikeway advocates' objection to vehicular cycling lies not in what the cyclist does but to any official recognition that vehicular cycling is a necessary safety skill. If it were recognized that to be safe when cycling one has to learn this difficult and dangerous practice of vehicular cycling, few motorists will switch to bicycle transportation. If it were recognized that it is vehicular cycling technique that keeps the cyclist safe, instead of the cyclist-inferiority cycling promised by bike lanes, the supposed justification for bike lanes disappears.

The bikeway advocates found that they were trapped in a corner. They want above all to persuade large numbers of motorists to switch a large number of trips from motoring to bicycling. They are convinced that the best available way to accomplish this is to build a bikeway system. They think that the major deterrent to accomplishing the desired traffic switch is the danger of riding a bicycle in traffic, or, perhaps, only the fear thereof. They recognize that the public thinks that bike lanes make cycling safe, because bike lanes are the physical embodiment of what they consider to be the only safe way to ride. However, they had been forced to admit that bike lanes neither made cycling safe nor avoided the need to operate in the vehicular manner. Logically, their desired system is based on exaggerated fear that is contrary to known facts and traffic principles, and this they aren't about to admit.

A compromise had been suggested by another vehicular cyclist who was not a participant in BF. That compromise basically allowed cyclists to operate as they chose, either in the cyclist-inferiority mode in bike lanes or in the vehicular mode. However, that required that the public pressure for staying within bike lanes, and the laws that so required, and the similar laws about staying at the side of the roadway, be removed. Repealing those laws could only be done if society admitted that bike lanes were not a necessary safety device, because safety was the official and unofficial excuse for these discriminatory laws. This compromise turned out to be totally unacceptable to the bikeway advocates. They were absolutely unwilling to admit to the public that bike lanes did not make cycling safe.

All through these discussions the bikeway advocates presented lies and insinuations about me, starting with the claim that I was being paid by motoring organizations. It mattered not to bikeway advocates that for decades I had fought against the motoring establishment for creating, first, the status distinction that motorists were superior and cyclists inferior, and then for creating the bikeway system that is the physical embodiment of that status distinction. And that I remind motorists whenever I talk to them that they are now reaping the whirlwind of anti-motoring bikeway promotion as the result of their old errors. Bikeway advocates refuse to believe my historical account, implying that I am lying, although none of them has ever found a historical document that even casts doubt on my account. Then there was the claim by the bikeway advocates that my arguments were those of the hate and bigotry filled racists. There were claims that I could not know about bicycle transportation because I did not carry my groceries by bicycle (I have done so, but not recently), that because I claimed that I cycled because I enjoyed cycling I could only have cycled on good roads with little traffic and therefore could not consider myself to be a transportational cyclist. Consider what that says about the motivation of these bikeway advocates: they consider that those who perform bicycle transportation do so as an unpleasant duty.

As the bikeway advocates lost more and more of the arguments that they advanced, they introduced more exaggerations and misrepresentations to accompany the outright lies. Certainly, I replied. But I tried to keep my replies to emphasizing that we should be obeying the proper content of technical discussions and, if possible, within the bounds of polite society. Of course, I had to state the ways in which the bikeway advocates were violating those bounds; no discussion is possible unless truth be told. And part of that truth was that many of the errors were manifestations of an ideological imperative that caused people to misunderstand, or to refuse to understand, quite ordinary facts and reasoning. After all, the bikeway advocates kept their advocacy even though the weight of the evidence was so strongly against it, and despite having their arguments disproved. The one valid argument that they did have left was that their program was based on the exaggerated fear of same-direction motor traffic, but that argument they didn't want to admit. They were in a bind.

Then the bikeway advocates discovered a new way to try to discredit me. Bikeway advocates don't like wide outside lanes (WOLs), which vehicular cyclists like because they provide the width that allows motorists to overtake cyclists without the bike-lane onus of forcing cyclists to the edge of the road just because they are cyclists. In some discussion of WOLs, I stated that the cyclist had no need to control a WOL, that his presence secured the particular width of that lane that he chose to use. In some discussion of straight, lonely, narrow-laned rural highways I had also said that I would not bother to control the right-hand lane because there was no need to do so. I just let any motorist who came behind to overtake me as he wished, it was his legal responsibility to overtake safely. In another discussion I had said that when there are several 12-foot lanes for same-direction traffic there is adequate room for a cyclist to ride the lane line, and I often did so, letting faster traffic overtake on either side. The bikeway advocates discovered that they could cobble these statements together, add misrepresentations and falsities, and produce a picture of my cycling practices and attitudes that is completely false. Here's Forester, the vehicular-cycling hypocrite, demonstrating how much he acts inferior to motorists. We don't act inferior as he does. The discovery that they could produce such propaganda unleashed a torrent of hateful posting.

My response to arguments presented by The Human Car (THC) was to prepare the posting quoted below this, being a shorter account of the course of the discussions. The convoluted nature of THC's argument, which might seem strange to people who don't know the background, reveals the extent of the misunderstandings generated by the misstatements made by the bikeway advocates. I concluded by saying that these last postings by the bikeway advocates were their response to losing all the prior arguments. For so saying, BF management expelled me from their forum.

After I was expelled, the participants started a new discussion about the expulsion of the two of us who expressed the vehicular-cycling view. I managed to read that discussion. The predominant view was that these expulsions returned the discussions to the peace that was, before the vehicular-cycling view had entered. Not one of the discussants recognized that the conflict between the vehicular-cycling view and bikeway advocacy had any significance regarding cycling or other road operating matters. As far as they are concerned, bikeways are the only proper way to provide for bicycle transportation, despite the weight of the evidence so strongly against them.


The bikeway advocates who participated in this discussion cannot be considered typical, not even, I suppose, typical of the participants in Bicycle Forums, because they were self-selected to participate in the Vehicular Cycling subgroup, largely for the purpose of opposing vehicular cycling. Presumably, they considered themselves to be both particularly interested and particularly competent in this subject. Bearing this in mind, however, one can still reach some reasonable conclusions from these discussions.

!: There was little that was new in these discussions. The bikeway advocates argued all the standard arguments for bikeways, although they did not introduce all of them. Those arguments that were new were appropriate only to the specific circumstances of these discussions, several being personal.

2: The only argument for bikeways that survived the test of reason is the argument from popularity, and the bikeway advocates did not like to accept that this popularity is motivated by exaggerated fear of same-direction motor traffic.

3: None of those who participated most frequently were persuaded by the failure of their arguments to cease their advocacy of bikeways and their opposition to vehicular cycling as a program. There were a few indications toward the end of these discussions that some less-frequent participants were starting to have doubts about bikeway advocacy, but further evidence on this point is unavailable.

4: The bikeway advocates argued, quite nastily, that vehicular cycling (at least as done by me) is hypocritical and based on lies because I fail to stand up for what they consider to be my principles. In each case this concerned whether or not to control a full lane, be it one lane of a straight rural highway with infrequent traffic, a wide outside lane, or one or the other of a pair of same-direction 12-foot lanes. I said that I didn't bother to control the lane of a straight rural highway with infrequent traffic because there was no need to do so. I said that the cyclist did not need to control the full width of a wide outside lane, that indeed the purpose of such a lane was to allow lane sharing with either party on either side. I said that I rode the lane line between pairs of 12-foot same-direction lanes because it worked. At the time that the bikeway advocates made these arguments, I thought that they were accusing vehicular cycling of being insufficiently obstructive of motor traffic. However, some of their later comments indicated that their real motive was, again, fear of same-direction motor traffic. Because they were frightened of having same-direction motor traffic as close to them as I accept, they insisted that the only safe method was to control a whole lane to force same-direction motor traffic to use the next lane over.

5: The devotion to bikeway advocacy, despite there being no rational reason for it (except for popularity, and even that requires some cause), requires consideration of the possible motivation for this devotion. An infinity of possible motives exist, but the two logically closest are advocacy for cycling as an activity in itself and advocacy for bicycle transportation. Throughout these discussions the bikeway advocates always discussed increasing bicycle transportation, and if they brought in motivation it was more as a duty than an enjoyable activity. From whence are these additional cyclists to be obtained? Considering the bikeway advocates disapproval of suburbia with the motoring associated with it, and with their support for mass transit, the most reasonable conclusion to be reached about motivation is that the bikeway advocates are motivated by opposition to motoring and their goal is to persuade motorists to switch many trips from motoring to bicycling.

6: One can look on this motivation in the reverse direction also. If devotion to opposing motoring is the primary motive, this explains why many of those who oppose motoring become such devoted bikeway advocates, particularly for bike lanes. Other choices of anti-motoring action exist, but they all have greater difficulties. Rebuilding America's cities into walking cities would take many decades and trillions. Building and financing sufficient mass transit to reduce motoring significantly would take a few decades and billions. Directly making motoring inconvenient has political support only where motoring is already inconvenient and expensive. Increasing bicycling appears to be both quick and cheap. Given the American attitudes about cycling, compounded of ignorance and superstition, bikeways in general, and specifically bike lanes, appear, particularly to those who dislike motoring, to present the only opportunity. In short, it is bike lanes or nothing, despite their inherent defects. No wonder the bike-lane concept is defended so intensely, at any cost in fact or reason.


The following consists of the last BF posting which I received and to which I replied. The post to which I replied was written by The Human Car, and runs from one QUOTE mark to the next QUOTE mark.

[QUOTE=The Human Car;6466393]This is so full of delusions it is almost unbelievable. Beck has been advancing the how and why he takes the lane and has not put forth any bikeway advocacy in this thread. You assert that because of fear of same-direction traffic he is taking the lane and riding with motoring traffic??? That conclusion is laughable.

You on the other hand seem to be advocating to stay out of motorists way irregardless of any safety concerns based solely on the fact because you have no fear. As if no fear of same-direction traffic is the ultimate goal even though one could ascribe problems of same-direction traffic to include (IMHO implied in Beck's posts) right-hooks, mirroring and unsafe passing distance as well as (NOT implied in Beck's posts) the fear of being rear-ended. Beck's riding style seems to account for all the legitimate safety concerns of the subclasses of problems with same-direction traffic while your riding style seems to only deal with the problem of being rear-ended. While that is not your stated intention you poo-poo Beck for his lack of concern of being rear-ended and being "overly" concerned about right-hooks and the safe passing distances of motorists. I personally find this very disingenuous on your part.

Personally I think both of you are scraping the bottom of the barrel to find fault with the other and have resorted to making things up and exaggerating things out of context.[/QUOTE]

You assert that Bekologist "has not put forth any bikeway advocacy in this thread." Yet he keeps on referring to bicycle infrastructure as being marvelous, by which he means bikeways. You can't have missed that refrain.

THC: "You assert that because of fear of same-direction traffic he [B] is taking the lane and riding with motoring traffic??? That conclusion is laughable." Surely you can read? I am objecting to B's denigration of my cycling style, in which, it is correct, he boasts about taking the lane, presumably under all conditions. However, B has made it painfully obvious that he is making this argument against my cycling style because he advocates taking the bike lane whenever possible.

You claim: "Beck's riding style seems to account for all the legitimate safety concerns of the subclasses of problems ..."
All I know about B's actual cycling style is what he writes in these discussions. You may know more, or not. But we all know that B has spent a great deal of time advocating bikeways, while largely neglecting the traffic problems associated with them. If he rides as he says, with no exaggerated fear of same-direction motor traffic, then what basis has he for advocating bikeways, in particular bike lanes?

You claim: "while your [meaning JF's] riding style seems to only deal with the problem of being rear-ended." Haven't you read my writings on cycling, writings that disprove the grotesque caricature that B chooses to present?

You claim: "While that is not your stated intention you poo-poo Beck for his lack of concern of being rear-ended and being "overly" concerned about right-hooks and the safe passing distances of motorists. I personally find this very disingenuous on your part." I ask again, can't you read? I never denigrate B for having a lack of concern for being rear-ended, and I never denigrate B for having excessive concern for right-hooks, or for safe passing distances of motorists. Rather, I have consistently stated that bike-lane advocates, such as B is, consistently exaggerate the concern of being rear-ended and being passed safely, and consistently underrate the proper concern for right-hook collisions.

You opine the following: "Personally I think both of you are scraping the bottom of the barrel to find fault with the other and have resorted to making things up and exaggerating things out of context."

That is a finely impartial opinion, but it does not reflect the facts of the discussion. It is obvious that the source of this particular part of the controversy is the bike lane issue, which is part of the overall bikeway issue. B loves bike lanes, I love vehicular cycling instead. B has chosen to attack me because I am one of the most intellectually capable advocates of vehicular cycling on roadways instead of cyclist-inferiority cycling on bike lanes. However, the facts and reasoning are not evenly balanced on each side. Here is a resume of the facts and reasoning regarding the controversy.

1: Bike lanes were created and designed by motorists for the purpose of keeping cyclists to the side of the roadway. One argument is that this was for the convenience of motorists; the other argument is that this was for the safety of cyclists. If bike lanes had a safety quality, it was only to serve as protection against same-direction motor traffic.These designs were embodied in the government's program regarding bicycle transportation and the laws associated thereto. These are historical facts, well documented.

2: At the time that the bike-lane standard was designed, there were no data supporting the safety argument; indeed the date available (the first Cross study) disproved it as far as its data went.

3: Just after the government's bikeway designs had been created, the first statistically robust study of car-bike collisions, their type, mechanisms, and contributing causes (the second Cross study), was published. This study demonstrated that bike lanes had the possibility of reducing car-bike collisions by a very small amount, and the equal possibility of increasing car-bike collisions by a slightly greater amount.

2: Bike lane designs have not changed much since the original designs, and they still, if obeyed, keep cyclists at the edge of the roadway.

3: The other safety argument advanced for bike lanes was that they made cycling much safer for beginning cyclists who do not have vehicular-cycling skills. That is, bike lanes enable safe cycling by those without, or who do not use, vehicular-cycling skills. No bike-lane advocate has tried to demonstrate this claim, and analysis of the skills required for safe cycling show that vehicular-cycling skills are required whether or not there is a bike-lane system.

4: The other major criterion for personal transportation, other than safety, is convenience. No bike-lane advocate has tried to demonstrate the claim that bike-lanes make cycling more convenient than does the road system itself, because bike lanes are part of the roadway.

5: Vehicular cycling, operating according to the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles, has been shown to present reasonable countermeasures against the major causes of car-bike collisions. This should be expected, because the rules of the road have been developed by practical experience to prevent collisions between drivers. Furthermore, those cyclists who are most likely to operate in this manner have distinctly lower car-bike collision rates than the general cycling public, few of whom who operate in the vehicular manner.

6: Some bike-lane advocates argue that vehicular-cycling skills are unattainable by the general public; others argue simply that learning vehicular-cycling skills, or the use of those skills, is unpopular. The first argument has been amply disproved. The second is correct, but the fact that vehicular cycling is unpopular does not invalidate it as the best method for getting around town by bicycle.

7: The facts that bike lanes are popular while vehicular cycling is unpopular, despite the weight of the evidence in favor of vehicular cycling, demonstrates that some irrational factor is operating when considering cycling from a cyclist's viewpoint, though that may be a rational factor when considering cycling from the motorist's viewpoint.

8: Surveys of public opinion regarding these issues show that the public generally believes that bike lanes make cycling safe, make cycling safe for beginners, and give cyclists a legitimate place on a roadway. These views are all false. When considering these characteristics in greater detail, the safety argument boils down to protection from same-direction motor traffic. Casualties to cyclists caused by same-direction motor traffic constitute only a tiny fraction of all casualties to cyclists, and only a very small proportion of car-bike collisions that occur in urban areas in daylight.

9: Bike-lane advocates are, by the weight of the evidence, reduced to two arguments. The first of these arguments is that of correlation. Bike-lane advocates look at societies in which there is the combination of high bicycle mode share, low cyclist collision rate, and strong governmental programs regarding bicycle transportation. It so happens that these governmental programs almost all include a bike-lane program. Bike-lane advocates then make two arguments. The first is that the bike-lane program produced the high modal share and the low collision rate. The second argument is that if America produced such a bike-lane program similar results would be produced here. The scientific defects in these two arguments based on correlations should be obvious to all.

10: The second argument used by the bike-lane advocates is simply that people like bike lanes and we don't question their reasons. In other words, we accept whatever superstitions people hold.

11: It must be obvious that bike-lane advocates have very strong motivation to advocate their cause despite the absence of reasonable support for it and the facts and reason that form the weight of the evidence against it. I think it most reasonable to conclude that they do not spend this great amount of time and effort merely to protect themselves while cycling. I think that if they thought that cycling was as dangerous as their arguments indicate, they would simply not cycle themselves. I think that the most reasonable explanation for their continued intensive effort in advocacy of bike lanes and of bike paths is what they hope to be the potential reduction of motoring by persuading motorists that bikeways make cycling safe. That ties in with the correlation arguments, also, in that these advocates think that if supposedly safe bikeways were generally available many motorists would transfer many trips from motoring to bicycling, just as they think has occurred in Europe.

12: The combination of very strong motivation with the absence of arguments based on data and reason has led bike-lane advocates, and other bikeway advocates, to use arguments that are based on exaggeration, malice, misrepresentation, and other practices not acceptable in either polite society or in technical discussions.

Return to: John Forester's Home Page                                 Up: Social