Labels can be useful; for example if I say “Vehicular Cycling,” most regular readers of this page will know exactly what I am talking about. If you don’t this short video explains it.
To me this is defensive riding that works because for the most part, drivers of motor vehicles will go out of their way to avoid hitting you as long as they know you are there.
It is the inattentive or distracted driver who is the most danger, but by riding predictably, signaling intent, and correct positioning on the road, you make even the most inattentive driver aware of your presence.
For example, whatever direction I leave my home I have to travel a busy two-lane highway. The traffic seems to come along in platoons because of traffic lights in both directions.
When the road is clear behind me I ride out in the lane about two or three feet. When I hear a vehicle approach from the rear, I move over to the right to let them pass.
This has the effect of slowing them down and the first car makes a conscious effort to go wide around me. Each car following does the same.
If I stay close to the right edge of the road all the time, a car approaching from the rear will not slow down and will often not deviate from his line of travel.
A driver of a car three or four vehicles back will not even know I am there. If people want to label this “Vehicular Cycling” that’s okay; it works for me.
However, I prefer not to be labeled a “Vehicular Cyclist.” I didn’t pay a subscription to join a Vehicular Cyclist’s organization. I have not even read John Forester’s book. (He’s the man who coined the term.)
I am simply a “Cyclist” doing what is necessary to survive while riding my bike on today’s streets and highways.
I have just read an article by Mikael over on Copenhagenize.com titled “Vehicular Cyclists – Cycling’s Secret Sect.” A secret sect… Really. The writer suggests that Vehicular Cyclists:
“Fight tooth and nail against virtually any form of separated bicycle infrastructure because their theory is based up on the premise that bicycles are 'vehicles' and therefore should act as the vehicles in the traffic, using the car lanes just like cars.”
The article then goes on to ridicule Vehicular Cyclists, comparing them to the Flat Earth Society. According to Mikael it is our own fault, the established cyclists in America and the UK, that we don’t have a widespread cycling infrastructure.
What utter bull-shit. I would love it if my local authority was making my city as bike friendly as Portland, Oregon, or Davis, California. But in the mean time I am making do with what I have. The other alternative is to not ride my bike.
There are many people who would ride a bike but are scared to do so I today’s traffic. It is the avid cyclists who take to the road each day, who are showing others that it is possible to survive out there.
Who knows how many others might be encouraged to try cycling just by seeing us pedaling around the city streets. The more cyclists on the road the more cities are likely to facilitate cycling.
I suggest Mikael does not have a clue what it is like to ride a bike in any American city, or in the UK for that matter. Both countries are steeped in the car-culture, and it is not going to change overnight.
The situation is improving, but slowly; I doubt there will be huge improvements nationwide in my lifetime. All we can do in the mean time is keep riding our bikes, while doing whatever is necessary to stay safe.