sitemap Bicycle Driving, A.K.A. Vehicular Cycling

The Science and Politics of Bicycle Driving

Bicycle Driving, A.K.A. Vehicular Cycling

A bicycle driver follows the vehicular Rules of the Road in order to safely and efficiently take advantage of the convenience of facilities designed for vehicular travel. The bicycle driver knows that she is an equal user of the roadway, and acts like it, cooperating with other drivers and asserting herself where necessary. Cycling down a street with wide lanes, she uses the right side of the lane to allow overtaking vehicles to pass easily, then looks behind to merge with traffic when approaching an intersection, and smoothly moves into the middle of the left turn lane in preparation for a left turn.  She patiently awaits a green light before proceeding, looking carefully for other road users whose paths may conflict with hers as she turns. The bicycle driver cycles down a side street taking care to stay four feet away from parked cars in order to avoid being doored.  On a street with lanes that are too narrow to safely share side-by side with a motorist, she drives in the middle of the lane to provide herself room to maneuver and to avoid being squeezed off  the road. When traveling straight through an intersection, she uses the through lane, never the right-turn lane, and does not pass on the right side of other drivers who might turn right.  On narrow two-lane roads with heavy traffic in each direction, she occasionally pulls off the road to disperse traffic if and when it backs up behind her. When cycling at night, she equips her bicycle with a white headlight in front and a bright red reflector, and perhaps a red light, on the back.  A bicycle driver is not afraid of traffic; a bicycle driver is traffic.

Bicycling in travel lanes as the driver of a vehicle is standard operating procedure for many experienced cyclists in the United States.  It complies with traffic law and the scientific principles of collision prevention.  Most bicycling education programs run by cycling organizations, such as the League of American Bicyclists, teach this type of vehicular-style bicycle operation.  In Britain, the vast majority of cyclists drive bicycles this way.  Yet many - if not most - American teenagers and adults operate bicycles very differently.  Many ride on sidewalks, or in the gutter, and often against traffic. They make left turns from the right edge of the road. They run red lights, ride straight from right turn lanes, and ride at night without a headlight, all while the police look the other way. When Americans do drive bicycles in a lawful, vehicular manner, they are sometimes harassed by police and motorists. Why is this? The reason is because popular American notions about appropriate behavior by adult bicyclists have nothing to do with science or the best interests of people who travel by bicycle. Instead, American perceptions of bicycle operation are based on a taboo promulgated for the convenience of motorists.