Vehicular Cyclists out of the planning department

I’ve just re-read the Copenhagenize post on so-called ‘vehicular cyclists‘, the American cycling sect that fights any bicycle infrastructure that could make bicycles a normal and safe way of getting around town, based on a groundless belief that such infrastructure is dangerous (almost certainly a selfish cover story for not wanting granny and the kids to obstruct their ‘right to ride’ bloody fast).

Then it dawned on me that, in the English-speaking world most transport planners are also vehicular cyclists. The mindset is there, even if the 10-gram-90-speed bicycle and the lycra permaskin aren’t. The New Zealand Road Code and UK Highway Code both treat bicycles as ‘vehicles’ which as vehicles must therefore share the road, where all ‘vehicles’ belong.

Try this at home: Find pictures of a car, a truck, a bus and a bicycle. Show them to a 5-year-old and ask them which is the odd one out.

vehicle (n.): a machine usually with wheels and an engine, which is used for transporting people or goods on land, especially on roads

-Cambridge English Dictionary

Spot the odd one out.

Spot the odd one out. Can you?

Am I the only one who finds bizarre the whole idea of lumping bicycles with cars, trucks and buses? If bicycles are vehicles (and therefore must share the road), in what way are unicycles, wheelchairs, kick-scooters and skateboards not ‘vehicles’? And running shoes?

A bicycle has this in common with all of these: none should be forced to travel among motor vehicles.

Share the Road? Based on what logic?

All places where bicycles are treated (not as vehicles but) as slightly faster pedestrians, riding a bicycle is a safe and normal thing to do.

In the Netherlands, many parts of Germany, and (still) many parts of China, you have:

bicycle paths that follow pedestrian paths, safely separated so bicycles don’t have to share the road with dangerous motor vehicles. (And pedestrianised city centres where people on foot and on bikes mix carefully and respectfully.) Streets in living areas are dead-end and narrow, discouraging motor vehicles and making it safe for people on foot or bicycle.

In Japan, you have:

bicyclists who largely ride on pedestrian paths and side streets, safely away from motor vehicles. Streets in living areas are very narrow, so motor vehicles are not able to move quickly, making it safe for people on foot or bicycle.


Quit it with the ‘vehicle’ lumping and give people safe infrastructure.


6 thoughts on “Vehicular Cyclists out of the planning department

  1. I strongly disagree with the “vehicular cycling” approach, but I have the same feeling about putting cyclists on sidewalks : this is probably the best thing to do if you want pedestrians to hate cyclists !

  2. It’s not ideal to put bike riders on the sidewalk. I’ve seen it work well in Japan because the riders are invariably slow, ring their bells whenever they’re coming up behind a walker, and give way at all times to pedestrians; and also because Japanese pedestrians are totally used to looking out for bikes because most of them ride bikes for some trips too.

    A better solution, even on many routes in Japan, would be to install quality cycle paths.

  3. Cyclists should be allowed to ride on the footpath in every country or state! Cyclists should give way to pedestrians and pedestrians should keep out of the way of cyclists. All bicycles should have a bell and a spring seat.
    There is no substitute for a spring seat.
    Pushbike helmet laws have put a curse on Australia and New Zealand.

  4. Cyclists should not be forced to share the road with motor vehicles!
    I often ride on the footpath!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s