Vehicular Cycling

 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.

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6 Responses to Vehicular Cycling

  1. petermc says:

    I agree that some motorists just seem angry at the world in general !

    • Vicki says:

      That is true Peter. I had a recent experience while driving that convinced me that some drivers are going to behave appallingly, whether to cyclists or other car drivers.

  2. ladyfleur says:

    At some point in their ride, almost every cyclist has to do a little vehicular cycling (just like almost every driver becomes a pedestrian at some point). So it’s good to know the VC techniques and it works well when the car speeds are low and the drivers have a good attitude about cyclists.

    The problem with hardcore VC enthusiasts is that they think that bikes don’t ever need any special infrastructure so they oppose cycle paths, bike lanes, etc. Truth is that in most of the world most people will never feel comfortable riding bicycle along with car traffic beyond the calmest of neighborhood streets. If we want to grow the number of cyclists to be a significant form of transportation we need cycle-specific infrastructure, like cyclepaths and bike signals.

    • Vicki says:

      I forgot to add in my post that when I cycle this way I also travel at the speed of the traffic, Ladyfleur. I agree with you that separate infrastructure is far preferable to being on the roads with cars and that it is a big disappointment when cyclists speak up AGAINST separate infrastructure.

  3. BB says:

    I use VC in the inner streets of Perth, Northbridge and Fremantle for exactly the reason you mention. I’m doing the same speed as the traffic anyway, it makes me more visible and it keeps me out of the door zone. When in the ‘burbs the cars tend to be quicker, but, I still ‘take the lane’ on roundabouts and when a road quickly narrows as I’ve found too often cars will accidently (we hope) force a cyclist off the road in these instances. I also take a lane whilst waiting at lights if it’s possible a car may want to turn left. I’ve been surprised by bad mannered drivers assuming they can rev past me and then cut me off as they turn.

  4. Vicki says:

    I’ve had the revving past experience a few times too BB, and it is not nice, there really should be a law against it, but I am not sure of the law on this issue. Also, where are the cops when you need them in instances like this?

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