I had heard the term “vehicular cycling” before and understood it to mean “riding as if a car on the road”, in other words, taking the position of a car when riding on the road in traffic. The latest edition of the book on this topic, by John Forester, was recently released and this has sparked some discussion of his philosophies on cycling blogs, so, being somewhat indisposed last week, I took the opportunity to read up on vehicular cycling. I found the online resources very useful as a guide on how to ride in traffic, and of course, many of the guidelines I use myself when riding. I also found the descriptions of riding vehicularly, of riding in flow with the traffic and easily navigating it, quite seductive.
There is one place where I used to be fearful of riding and that is Beaumont St in Hamilton. Nowadays I enjoy riding along Beaumont St and always ride vehicularly along it. I see many other cyclists riding there, and often in the door zone, which worries me as I always take the lane there, and feel it is much safer to do so than to be forced into the door zone. The speed limit there is 40kph, though I doubt that there is any motorist who would reach this speed as there are several sets of lights, numerous pedestrian crossings and a set of rail gates in a short span of the street, all of which help to maintain a slow pace of traffic. So when I ride along there, I take the lane, and if cars pass me they have to overtake me as if I were a car, though the general speed of traffic means that this is not often necessary. On two or three occasions I have had angry responses from car drivers when they overtook me, though they soon had to slow down at the next crossing/lights, (and I have decided that motorists are just as angry at each other as they are towards cyclists so I do not take this response personally). There are some areas better suited to vehicular cycling than others, and the frame of mind of the cyclist is an important part of this riding style, as they must feel that they have a right to be on the road and to be respected like a car.
I found the riding tips in the various articles I read on VC to be interesting and engaging and I will attempt to master some of the techniques described in them, especially the quick turning techniques necessary to evade objects or cars on the road and to avoid an emergency situation. The limitations of this method of riding when it is applied to all riders are that it seems to require a high level of athleticism, which not all riders may have, though of course it would be great if we all did ride this way.