We know why this works, what it takes to make it work, and how practical it
Why does society object so strongly to this principle?
Vehicular cyclists are caught between the self-serving desires of the motorists and the ideological dreams of the anti-motorists. They have lost every battle and have found their right to operate according to the rules for drivers of vehicles severely eroded. Just to carve out the permission, the toleration, to operate in the standard lawful manner will require allies, and discussion of this need is now widespread. Many advocate sticking with the anti-motorists, but it is unlikely that those allies will assist in developing protection for cyclists' right to operate lawfully.
Thirteen British academic sociologists with interests in cycling have written a book of essays on sociological aspects of cycling. Some essays have only historical and gender interest, but those on planning are remarkable. All agree that no planning system has markedly increased bicycle transportation; too many variables, too little known. Contrary to planners, many cyclists enjoy urban cycling, even in London's rush hours, and those more likely to cyclocommute have both cycling and professional self-confidence. However, safety programs produce fear that inhibits cycling, even the more gentle British program, in contrast to the more intense American program that produces intense superstitions about cycling.
This is the claim of Professor John Pucher and Ralph Buehler. They claim that only by attracting willfully incompetent cyclists will it be possible to reduce the amount of motoring. It is a well-known fact that competent cyclists are vastly outnumbered by incompetent cyclists, many of these willfully incompetent. However, there is no evidence from anywhere that American willfully incompetent cyclists can be recruited in such numbers as to significantly reduce American motoring. But Pucher makes the argument because he has no other hope of reducing motoring.
The Argument for Bike-Messenger Cycling
Robert Hurst's Art of Urban Cycling presents the argument that cyclists should exercise all their skill and alertness to stay out of the problems created by all the other incompetent drivers and should get away with everything that may make cycling more convenient for them. Hurst argues that since traffic is inherently chaotic there is no justification for obeying any rules.
Two bicycle advocacy organizations have published a paper advocating a significant transfer of motor trips to walking, bicycling, or public transport by arguing for the benefits produced. However, no transfer costs are considered, there is no evidence of how to make this transfer, and the social and economic arguments are based on conspiratorial superstition.
In the field of cycling affairs, the scientific process has been corrupted. Very few people accept the scientific evidence that the vehicular-cycling technique and principle are correct. Even the supposedly responsible scientific and engineering organizations have refused to act in accordance with the scientific evidence. The responsible scientific committee has made many efforts, many forbidden by standard scientific procedures and many irrational, to squelch all recognition of the vehicular-cycling principle. Such actions require some very powerful psychological force that makes its actors believe that they are acting responsibly. This is the cyclist-inferiority superstition, complex, and phobia. The government has based its cycling policy on this cyclist-inferiority superstition, for reasons that favor motorists.
Bike planners correctly recognize that their only principled opposition comes from vehicular cyclists. Principled means that it is the only opposition that is based on the standard principles of traffic engineering that are so well supported by both facts and reason. Vehicular cyclists describe bike planning as having no scientific support while also contradicting well-established principles of traffic engineering. This criticism upsets bike planners who believe that vehicular-cycling advocacy is the one great obstacle to accomplishing their goal. Bruce Epperson, bike planner, expressed this emotional opposition to vehicular cycling in a paper in The Transportation Law Journal.
The characteristics of the psychological force that corrupts scientific, engineering, political judgement about cycling affairs meets all the characteristics of the definition of a phobia by the American Psychological Association, except one. The APA believes that all phobias are rare conditions, whereas the cyclist-inferiority phobia is nearly ubiquitous. Obviously, when everyone in a society except a small, disdained minority suffers from a phobia, the phobia is invisible and its effects are looked on as laws of nature.
Anti-motoring bicycle advocates inhabit a difficult psychological position. Anti-motoring itself is a field of unscientific, even aesthetic, opinions outside the scope of fact, but it requires bicycle transportation as a substitute for motoring. However, the anti-motoring bicycle advocates have chosen to base their strategy on a system invented by motorists to improve motoring, and made politically acceptable by defining cyclists as inferior to motorists. But that system is scientifically false. The anti-motoring bicycle advocate has to argue for two mutually opposed but equally unscientific programs while staving off the scientifically sound criticism from vehicular cyclists. Shall we say that the arguments are irrational?
In the Spring of 2007 a group of bicycle advocates started venting their criticism of my and my views, specifically using my name, in a public e-mail forum. Hearing of this activity, I joined the forum and participated in the debate. Most of the discussants opposed vehicular cycling and supported bikeways. Surprisingly, most of these admitted that they cycled in the vehicular manner because that was best, but advocated bikeways just the same, with the public pretense that bikeways made cycling safe without vehicular cycling. Typical of the convoluted psychology of bikeway advocacy. They presented all the standard arguments for bikeways and against a vehicular-cycling policy. I disproved all except that bikeways are popular, which I explained in different terms. After such losses they lost their temper and expelled me.
Cyclists from the rest of the world wonder why the American discussion of the bicycle transportation controversy produces such nastily emotional arguments. This an expected response to the American oppression of lawful, competent adult cyclists by people who falsely believe that they are right.
Vehicular cycling is following the traffic rules. Typical American cycling is disorganized lawlessness because its cyclists believe that the laws don't apply to them and, as cyclists, they are not very competent. Robert Hurst, a former bicycle messenger, in The Art of Cycling, denigrates motorists by saying that they don't obey the traffic laws and vehicular cyclists by arguing that they think they do. Instead, Hurst takes typical American lawless cycling to the utmost level by advocating super-competent lawlessness as much better than vehicular cycling in the real, chaotic traffic world. "A successful, safe ride through American traffic is not an exercise in rule following , but a beautiful piece of performance art."
Fiction is a mirror held up to life. In cycling, fiction gives us a much more accurate picture of what people really thought about cycling than do the supposedly serious, but politically motivated, studies of cycling transportation. Not that the picture always accurately describes cycling; much of the literature exposes the general ignorance of cycling that passed for knowledge. Only in the great decade, 1890 to 1900, was cycling accurately described and accurately praised. There were fantasies also, but fantasies that accurately foresaw some of today's cycling experiences. Only one major English novelist wrote a cycling novel, in the middle of that great decade, a novel that most consider a potboiler but which describes the cyclists whom we still meet along the road. By Galsworthy's time, in The Forsyte Saga, cycling was disdained instead of praised. Cyclists were seen as lower class, even evil. And then, in 1972, from an otherwise unknown writer, came the greatest cycling novel of all, one that we who have raced know has been written by someone who's been there with us.
Since 1940, I have viewed American cycling in its social, legal, and engineering settings, from the viewpoint of one trained in the British cycling tradition. Since 1970 I have been one of the leading persons in the application of reliable knowledge to cycling affairs. This article is my account of American cycling history as I have seen and participated in it.
America managed to impose its bikeway system upon cyclists, despite the fact that the only supports for such a system are motorists' desire to kick cyclists off the roadways and anti-motorists' superstition that doing so will benefit America.
Because of the conflict between governmental cycling policy and scientific knowledge about good cycling, the League of American Bicyclists should be confronting the government and opposing its bicycle policy and programs. This explains the scientific basis for the conflict, and urges the League to start doing what it should have been doing from the beginning.
Improving cyclists' behavior and safety requires changing national attitudes. The American attitude encourages, practically requires, incompetent and dangerous behavior by cyclists and encourages dangerous behavior by motorists. The few American competent cyclists know and behave better. Cyclists in other nations behave in accordance with their national attitudes, and in some nations they behave competently and safely. If they can, why can't we?
Each nation has its own attitude toward cycling transportation. In part those attitudes reflect objective physical and historical conditions. In part they reflect subjective and manipulated psychological conditions. America needs a psychological and political attitude toward cycling transportation that reflects its objective conditions and the historical events that produced them. However, that is exactly what the government and society refuse to accept.
Publication of articles such as this in a respected and refereed journal by three supposed experts on bicycle transportation shows not only the sad state of bicycle transportation in the USA, but also the abysmally low level of our public understanding of the intellectual muddle that we have made of it.
Another publication that asserts, without any degree of proof or reason, that European bikeway systems create bicycling transportation and make it very safe and useful. This author has stated that he knew nothing at all about the literature of bicycling transportation engineering when he wrote this and the article reviewed above.
This is another of Prof. Pucher's surveys of statistics regarding urban characteristics and bicycle transportation. No evidence of causation, and one glaring statistical error.
Bicycle planning could be using ouija boards, not even dice with known probabilities. Despite all the effort expended, and all the claims, there is no known way to predict bicycle transportation volume with any reasonable degree of accuracy.
Bicycle transportation has a place in societies in which private motor transportation is commonly available. But this place is very different from that envisioned by the bicycle advocates.
The modern American polycentric urban area arose through the normal operation of people doing what they chose as best for them with the means available to them. This development required no conspiracy of auto manufacturers, oil companies, road builders, and land developers to proceed with rapidity, starting in the 1920s. Indeed, if there were a conspiracy it was between big-city mayors and commuter railroad companies to preserve downtown, and that failed to do so, except for the few very large financial cities.
The modern American polycentric urban pattern so created will be with us for a long time, so argues David Jones in Mass Motorization + Mass Transit. Therefore, it behooves vehicular cyclists to accept and preserve their role as being the bicycle travelers best suited to the pattern that will continue for decades.
This study claims that the behavior of child cyclists aged 10 to 12, when yielding to traffic at stop-signed intersections, show developmental deficiencies relative to adult cyclists. In fact, the small differences detected are much more likely caused by the ignorance of the investigators of the elementary laws of physics and of normal traffic-cycling behavior.
A paper by Jacobsen claims that increasing the volume of bicycle transportation has been shown to make cycling safer. This paper has been widely touted by bicycle advocates because it serves their two desires: more cycling, more safety. However, analysis of the paper shows that the claim is nothing more than wishful thinking and that the claim is probably erroneous, and further analysis shows that the claimed result is also produced by purely random data and, therefore, is a mathematical artifact.
Sociology and Psychology page last changed: 13-Jan-12