Vehicular Cycling: If It Worked, It Wouldn’t Work

Part I – Promote Vehicular Cycling. Really?

Part II – Who Wants Vehicular Cycling?

National Bike Challenge Update: Fledgling team is in 59th place in MN, MNDOT is 61st and BikeMN is in 32nd. Team is open to all. More info here.

Terminology: Given some comments two weeks ago, I thought a quick attempt at some definition might be in order.

Vehicular Cycling (now renamed Bicycle Driving) Advocates and Segregated Bicycling Advocates will both say that vehicular cycling technique is best for riding on roadways with motor vehicles and that segregated bicycling facilities are ultimately the best option.

In a recent discussion with John Forester, the ‘father of vehicular cycling’, he told me that “RRDV cycling will continue to be the best available until the utopian bikeway system appears.“ RRDV is Rules of the Road for Drivers of Vehicles or, vehicular cycling. ‘Utopian bikeway system’ is John’s term for the Dutch style segregated bicycling facilities I advocate. BTW, I largely agree with him on this statement and was quite surprised by this apparent change in perspective.

However, John’s belief is that the implementation of segregated bicycle facilities is a conspiracy of ‘motordom’ to get bicycles off the roads, not desired by bicyclists, and that in any case the U.S. will never achieve anything remotely close to the segregated system of The Netherlands. Thus, according to John, our efforts are all best focused on making improvements to vehicular cycling. And this is what we see from the vehicular cycling community.

So, the difference then is perhaps on emphasis, one focusing primarily on vehicular cycling as has been the case in the U.S. for the past 40 years, the other focusing on the expansion and improvement of segregated facilities as has been the case in The Netherlands for the past 40 years.

Vehicular Cyclist, Bicycle Driver or Vehicular Cycling Advocate – Someone who believes that cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles. Whose primary advocacy or emphasis is for vehicular cycling and improvements to vehicular cycling. Who advocate that vehicular cycling is good enough or that it is the only viable option or that it is anything other than a stop-gap measure until better physically segregated facilities are implemented. Who prefer riding with traffic to riding on segregated bicycle facilities[1].

Vehicular Cycling or Bicycle Driving Facilities – Facilities intended primarily to support vehicular cycling. Bike boxes or advanced stop lines at junctions are key examples. Unprotected bike lanes, sharrows, and ‘share the road’ signs on roads with speed limits over 15-30 mph or heavier traffic are generally vehicular cycling facilities.

Segregated Bicyclist or Segregated Bicycling Advocate – Someone who prefers or advocates for bicycle facilities that are well designed, physically segregated from motor traffic, have safe segregated crossings at junctions, and that serve a broad spectrum of able-bodied and disabled users. Who believe that bicyclists fare best when they are protected from harm by motor vehicles. Note that segregated bicyclists will often utilize vehicular cycling techniques when riding on roads intermixed with motor traffic due to a lack of safe segregated facilities.

Segregated or Protected Bicycling Facilities – Bicycle facilities that are physically segregated or protected from motor traffic such as side paths, cycletracks or many protected bike lanes. Some preferred methods of protection include cement curbs, planters, a row of parked cars, k-rails or jersey barriers. Junctions that safely segregate bicyclists in space or time and make right-of-way clear to all users.


And now, the final installment (I promise) on Vehicular Cycling.

Even as an advocate for bicycling I get frustrated when I’m driving and am considerably slowed by people riding bicycles.

Hiway 244. The shoulder completely disappears just over the hill. Note the shoulder on the opposite side. The speed limit is 35 mph but 45-50 is not unusual.

Hiway 244. The shoulder completely disappears just over the hill. Note the shoulder on the opposite side. The speed limit is 35 mph but 45-50 is not unusual.

On MN 244 a hilly and twisty road along the NE shore of White Bear Lake I once found myself driving 13 mph for about a mile because of no safe chance to pass the people riding single file in front of me. The increasingly long line of cars behind me wasn’t so patient and later, in my mirror, I noticed that a few chose the 3” rule instead of the 3’ rule. There have been a number of riders hit along here and one acquaintance was killed not long ago.

Recently, I was driving north up Hodgson Road in Shoreview. There were dozens of people on the path along the west side, many riding bicycles, a few walking, and my favorite of all, a mother portaging a canoe while her grinning son wore both of their vests and carried their fishing poles and other stuff. His mom’s vest was keeping a good beat on the back of his calves. You couldn’t help but be cheered by it all[2].

Then came the cyclist. He was in the lane in front of the car in front of me—riding a fairly brisk 17 mph (in to a headwind). With cars coming from the opposite direction we couldn’t pass him so we all did 17 mph for the next couple of miles. When the car in front of me honked to get him to move over they were rewarded with a middle finger.

If it worked, it wouldn’t work

Vehicular cycling poses an interesting conundrum—if it worked, it wouldn’t work.

I am far from the only person who gets frustrated driving behind slower cyclists[3]. There are growing complaints from motorists and from some, like radio host Michael Gallahger, quite open contempt and hostility.

Doug at Brooklyn Spoke recently said “There is literally nothing I can do that makes people madder than just riding my bike the way I am supposed to.”

What will happen when cycling in the U.S. increases from its current 1% of trips to 5% or 10%? Or 25%? When many more people begin bicycling to local stores, restaurants, and schools? Imagine all of these cyclists, three to ten times as many as today, most traveling about 12 mph, on the roads mixed with and sometimes blocking motor traffic[4].

This is fine on local access streets where cars should drive slower and where most drivers have the patience to do so since it is for a very short distance and only at the beginning or end of their trip. Most people riding bicycles want to go more than two blocks from home though so they will need to ride on numerous non-residential streets and roads.

But Wait, There’s More.

Vehicular cycling advocates, led by John Forester, are fighting laws that in any way restrict their use of the road. In Minnesota they want to eliminate or significantly modify keep-as-far-right-as-practicable laws and laws limiting riding on the roadway to two-abreast.

Are these really the things we should be focused on? Or should we be working to get more and better physically segregated infrastructure for all bicyclists and disabled?

Imagine five times as many bicyclists on the road as today with a bunch riding in the middle of traffic lanes and others riding three or four abreast.

Recipe for success?

The only way that vehicular cycling can be successful is if it fails. If the number of cyclists does not increase much beyond current levels. In whose world is failure considered success?

Bicycles and Motor Vehicles are not compatible.

On a study tour in The Netherlands last month David Hembrow said “Shared Space only works when there are no cars to share with.” Sadly, I think that sums things up quite well. Sharing is a great idea, but in reality doesn’t work. Drivers of 300hp cars don’t like having it reduced to the 0.02hp of a bicycle.

Anyone who thinks that we can change drivers behavior so that they’re happy driving 11 mph behind a bunch of cyclists is smoking something that they probably shouldn’t. It hasn’t worked in The Netherlands (they’ve tried) and I’d don’t expect it to miraculously work here.

Likewise, we’ll not get parents comfortable with their 8-year-old riding to school and sharing the road with cell phone texting drivers in jacked up Ford F350 pickups.

It is illogical to take an extremely safe mode of transportation, bicycling, and make it less safe by placing it in a less safe space, our roads.

40 years ago the U.S. and Netherlands made different choices and took divergent paths. The U.S. chose vehicular cycling which has led to one of the most dangerous bicycling environments in the developed world and vehicular cycling advocates want to continue on this road.

Today The Netherlands has a much safer road system with about one-third as many fatalities per capita as the U.S. The Dutch are healthier, live longer, and are less likely to die or suffer a degraded lifestyle from preventable diseases.

Vehicular cycling will always be for a tiny minority. We must begin to focus on a network that supports all users.



[1] Personally I believe that the term vehicular cyclist should mean only someone who rides on the road using vehicular cycling techniques. However, it is very commonly used to refer to vehicular cycling advocates. In the future I will attempt to to use the term vehicular cycling advocates rather than vehicular cyclist.

[2] This Multi-Use Path or MUP is getting crowded enough on some sections that separate pedestrian and bicycle paths will soon be needed.

[3] Interestingly, one reason I think that The Netherlands works so well is that drivers are much more accepting of having to stop at crossings than being slowed to 11 mph for any distance. Mentally, it is less tiring to stop than to drive very slow or have to pass someone riding a bicycle.

[4] While many bicycle riders do take care to not block traffic, this is sometimes at their own peril. When we must ride on the roads with traffic I am all for taking the lane when necessary and being legally allowed to do so. However, we need to do everything possible to make this unnecessary.

Walker Angell

About Walker Angell

Walker Angell is a writer who focuses mostly on social and cultural comparisons of the U.S. and Europe. He occasionally blogs at, a blog focused on everyday bicycling and local infrastructure for people who don’t have a chamois in their shorts. And on twitter @LocalMileMN

77 thoughts on “Vehicular Cycling: If It Worked, It Wouldn’t Work

  1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    Well, one obvious advantage of changing rules over building infrastructure is that it costs nothing and might therefore be more achievable. But you don’t want to set your sights too low.

    Sometimes I wonder if the “we’ll never get that here” mindset is rooted in a misconception that bike-friendly European cities were always that way. I was surprised when one of the city profiles posted here was about Seville. I was there in the early ’90s and didn’t remember much biking or many facilities for it then. So either my memory is bad or it’s made a lot of progress in the last 20 years. Sure, we have a stronger car-dependent culture, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make progress too.

    The other thought that comes to mind is that vehicular cycling may just work a lot better on urban street grids where traffic is already moving slower and already facing multiple impediments. Traffic on a road like Hodgson seems unlikely to ever be too happy with sharing. And with fewer intersections, the dangers of segregated facilities are reduced as well.

  2. Jeff Klein

    I think it’s useful to consider the Strongtowns delineation between streets, roads, and stroads. Here’s the best merger of ideas I can come up with after months of reading vehicular vs. protected debated.

    If it’s a *street*: Vehicle traffic should be slowed to the point where bikers and pedestrians eventually dominate. Good, dense urbanism should prevail. The street should be mixed-use and ideally narrow. Bikes should be so ubiquitous that they are in no danger. (example: 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis)

    If it’s a *road*: There should be room for a shoulder. If there’s money and political will to create a separated facility, fine by me. (example: Washington Co. Rd. 7)

    If it’s a *stroad*, ideally it should be turned into a street or a road. If that’s not possible and we have to give in to such stupid development, then a separated facility is necessary — but only because it’s terrible design in the first place. (example: Washington Ave., Minneapolis)

    1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

      Hi Jeff. Something very critical that the Dutch have learned is that sharing only works on local access streets, not on any kind of thru street. In other words, it works on short dead-ends or culs-de-sac.

      Generally, if you can drive more than about 1 or 2 blocks or access more than 1 or 2 blocks of businesses or residences they’ll put in a curb protected cycletrack because beyond this they have found that traffic volume and speed, and driver patience, is not conducive to sharing. This was part of the idea behind my posts on St Paul: and

  3. Joe

    Vehicular cycling will always have to be at least part of the solution, no? We can’t have a segregated biking facility on every single street and road everywhere in the state. They will probably at most be spaced a mile apart. So the first and last 1/2 mile of every journey will be on the street. I will eventually want to visit a destination on a non dead end road, and I don’t live on a dead end road, so if I can’t bike on them I would just never bike anywhere. If we get to 25% bike use, then way more people will be on streets than now regardless of how many segregated bike facilities you build.

    So while you dislike vehicular cyclers, you better get used to them, and everyone better learn how to do so safely, as it’ll be a fixture of our lives.

    1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

      Hi Joe, I can give you a quick explanation of how Dutch infrastructure works. I think that it is the best option and that we can and should strive for the same system. Generally the more and higher the speed of traffic the more segregation is necessary.

      Below about 18 mph bicyclists and motorists can successfully share. Most of these are signed for bicyclists to have ROW and many are signed that motorists may not pass bicyclists. These are nearly all local access only.

      Above 18 mph a bicycle specific facility is warranted. Historically they began this with unprotected bike lanes but have abandoned that due to problems of people driving in to them, parking in them, and complaints from bicyclists that they did not feel safe using them. So now a curb delineated cycle track is the minimum.

      As speeds/volume increase the separation does as well and distance separation also becomes critical.

      The result is that between any two points you may ride about one or two blocks on a shared street with very low speed (below 18 mph) and volume, the rest of your journey will then usually be on segregated facilities (designed to support bicyclists riding very slow to 18 or 20 mph), and maybe end on a similar very short shared street.

      I say usually above because in Amsterdam and elsewhere you will occasionally encounter older facilities such as a bike lane on a street with 30 mph traffic.

      More in upcoming posts.

      1. Joe

        So in St. Paul and Minneapolis every residential street would be 18 MPH, and only the Lyndale’s and Lexington’s would have cycle tracks?

        1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

          Something like that, eventually. Every street would either be 18 mph or have a cycletrack or side path. For an example look at this:

          In that example, Grand, St Clair, and Lexington would have a cycletrack and allow higher speeds (even though they contain residences). The residential streets bounded by them would be 18 mph (and local access only). By making them very local access only the distances are short enough that most drivers will have the patience to drive quite slow and they will be safe and comfortable for most people to walk or bicycle on.

          1. Joe

            One more logistical question: Where would the cycletracks go? Do we take away traffic lanes even though we’ll be funneling a ton of cars to these arterial streets? Do we remove parking? Or do we remove sidewalk space? Thanks for explaining this all to me.

            1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

              It will certainly vary by corridor. Space for a cycletrack can be gained from a road diet such as 4 to 3, removal of parking, or from other available space.

              It is critical to keep in mind that as more people ride bicycles instead of drive there is less need for traffic lanes and car parking. In many cases it will take a quite small conversion rate to make up the difference. If the traffic volume on a street only barely requires an extra lane then motor traffic need only be reduced by that amount to make lane removal palatable.

              Parallel parking is, from a linear lane mile standpoint, quite inefficient, especially when you consider how long many cars take up that space. Here too it may only take a very small conversion of driving/parking customers to bicycle customers to make this a neutral at worst and most likely positive for retailers.

  4. Ron

    I wonder how many minutes a year the typical driver spends waiting for it to be safe to pass a cyclist? Less than 10 minutes I would guess.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      And considering that those minutes aren’t spent stopped, but rather just travelling at half of their desired speed, yeah, there shouldn’t be nearly as much skin off people’s noses as they seem to experience.

      1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

        Yep. I know that for me it is much easier or less frustrating to sit completely stopped for 90 seconds at a light than to drive 10 mph behind a bicycle rider for 90 seconds. And the former costs me considerable more time than the latter. Go figure.

        I’m sure some psychologist has written about this somewhere.

        1. Rosa

          judging by driver response, it’s WAY more frustrating when it’s rarer, and even worse when there is a nearby segregated path. But sometimes the street is the only way that actually goes where I’m going.

          The other thing is that slower traffic is safer for everyone. Drivers and pedestrians and people using transit too. So maybe instead of minimizing that anger we just need to teach drivers to get used to it in a lot of places.

          It’s not like cars themselves don’t often slow each other down to a crawl. Last time I drove on Hwy 94 i think the average speed was about 5 mph for most of it.

  5. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    I philosophically agree with much of this, but there are also some statements I would consider factually wrong. In particular, bike boxes, advanced stop lines, and bike lanes are not “vehicular cycling facilities”. True Forester vehicular cycling would eschew all of these “facilities”, except perhaps sharrows or Share the Road signs. The only “vehicular cycling facility” is the street.

    The League of American Bicyclists Smart Cycling program has more of a nuanced position, which does not advocate for one type of facility or another, but shows cyclists how to safely navigate both shared facilities, segregated facilities in the street (bike lanes), and off-street segregated facilities (trails, cycletracks, etc).

    As has been said before in comments on your posts, vehicular cycling is not a boogieman out to prevent children or the elderly from riding a bike. Rather, it is education to safely use all facilities, which may certainly include segregated facilities. In both my Traffic Skills 101 class and my League Cycling Instructor seminar, about exactly half were women — and explicitly fit, long-distance cyclists were in the minority.

    As another matter: a less antagonistic way to make the point of your Shoreview parable would be to talk about how shared facilities slow down cyclists, since they are subject to the same slowdowns as motor traffic, and have no way to bypass the jam. As you told the story, you seem to be suggesting the cyclist should go slower — and potentially be less safe — on the MUP so you can go faster.

    1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

      The other consideration that makes your story problematic is that it doesn’t apply in many urban or higher-volume environments, where multi-lane roadways are more common. A two-lane roadway with high-speed or high-volume traffic may result in delay of a few minutes. So, assuming avoiding motorist delay is a high priority, we have an argument there. But how does that indicate that segregated facilities are beneficial on 4- or 6-lane roadways, where motorists are delayed no more than a few seconds while they change lanes around the cyclists?

      On the other hand, a desire to improve sense of safety applies in either situation, as does a desire to avoid cyclists being impeded by car jams.

    2. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

      A number of good points… I think only a tiny minority of VC’s eschew bike boxes and ASL’s, the majority based on those I’ve talked to and discussions I’ve read online, are proponents of them. And they are in fact for the benefit of vehicular cyclists.

      A major problem with them, besides the danger of riding on the road with motorists, is that too often engineers and politicians look at bike boxes, ASL’s, and bike lanes as good enough, job done, nothing else needed.

      If LAB does not advocate then what purpose do they serve? Should they not determine what the best and safest options are and what will best serve the U.S. population and advocate for that?

    3. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

      Vehicular cycling advocacy DOES though prevent children and elderly (and most women and many men and most disabled) from bicycling. That is exactly why so few of those will ride to school or dinner or work or the grocery store. That is why countries in northern Europe have such high modal shares and we have such a near non-existent modal share.

      1. Goodgulf

        Vehicular cycling in no way prevents children, the elderly, disabled, etc. from cycling. It’s pretty silly to say such a thing.

        Perhaps you mean that you think dedicated seperated infrastructure would incentivise more of those folks to ride than do currently?

        1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

          I’m guessing that you are not a parent nor disabled? Parents throughout most of the Twin Cities and state will not allow their children to ride to school or the store or wherever if it means riding on the road with motorists. Disabled who rely on a mobility scooter or trike can often not ride to local stores or other destinations if it means sharing the road with motorists. Yes, vehicular cycling advocacy does very much impede these people and many more.

          1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

            I don’t totally understand why you think mobility scooter users are better off on bikeways, Walker, when they’re legally pedestrians and when ADA standards do a pretty good job of ensuring that they can safely and comfortably use sidewalks.

            What’s wrong with sidewalks for these users? Isn’t mixing them with much higher-speed bikes problematic?

            1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

              Our sidewalks and even our best ADA facilities are not adequate and are still fairly dangerous. Disabled folk have difficulty with sloped sidewalks, reverse slope curb cuts, crossings that aren’t raised or tabled, pedestrians in their way, and numerous other issues. And that’s where there are sidewalks and ADA facilities.

              Disabled folk in The Netherlands use the bicycle network which works extremely well for them. It’s smooth, flat, and continuous. They often travel the same speed as most bicyclists and even when there are speed differentials they can easily pass the slower bicyclists (or vice versa). The Netherlands is the Autobahn and the U.S. is the Yungas Road. We need to catch up.

              Search for videos on disabled folk using Netherlands bikeways.

          2. Goodgulf

            I am absolutely a parent for 11 years now. My son has been riding on roads with me since he was fairly little. His middle school is located on a 5 lane 45 MPH road and there are LOADS of children that ride there each day. His elementary school also had many many children riding there.

            Again, it does not impeded them. You have not even attempted to illustrate how you suppose it does. Get in the road and ride. It’s not difficult for children. Why it would be difficult for the disabled is beyond me.

    4. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

      As to the parable… The reality is that motorists will continue to get frustrated and angry when they are forced to drive very slowly behind a bicycle rider and this will only get worse as there are more bicycle riders on the roadways slowing motorists down. Right or wrong, fair or unfair, that is reality.

      The bigger issue though is that it is quite solvable in everyone’s favor. Well designed segregated cycletracks, side paths, and junctions will serve about 99.9% of bicycle riders very well and better than vehicular cycling. This will also remove the vast majority of bicycle riders from motor traffic lanes and thus get them out of the way of motorists.

  6. Ben

    This article to me is part of the problem. Some motorists feel entitled to be able to drive the speed maximum. When there is no guarantees. The frustrations while are there, are not valid.

    1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

      Ben, I agree with you. Human nature does not. I am not aware of anywhere on earth where anyone has successfully convinced drivers of your argument. The Netherlands experiments with shared space and the huge failure of them is perhaps the best example.

      1. Ben

        If driving is a privilege you shouldn’t have to convince anyone. We don’t need to convince you to give up your license we just take it away.

        1. Polyhymnia1958

          Hi hat am a parent any vehicle or cyclist. I’m also a professional planner. I will not allow my child to ride in a bike lane on a 45 mile-per-hour road. It IS dangerous in America, with its large, fast vehicles driven by distracted, impatient, sometimes desperate drivers.

          I also think it is quite utopian to call for the level of enforcement to change the behavior of drivers en mass to make vehicular cycling as safe as these advocates think it actually can be. I live in a state where perhaps one out of every four drivers should not be on the road. Yet, they are, and there is no enforcement unless there is an accident that is investigated by the authorities.

          I’m also a long time bicycle commuter, and if a facility is available, I will gladly use it over riding in the roadway with cars. It never makes me feel like a second class citizen. Nor am I worried that I’m going to be forced to use the facility and stay out of the roadway. Those are old laws that are not likely to come back. Yes, some police officers personally think that bicyclists should not be riding in roadways, but that’s merely a training issue.

          1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

            I think you represent the vast majority (99%?) of the parents I know with respect to parenting (sadly many fewer ride bicycles as much).

  7. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    Another thing I was thinking about this weekend is the multiple times I’ve had vehicles yield to me at street/path intersections when they had the right of way. In particular I’m thinking about Midtown Greenway crossings in Uptown, and, especially, the Greenway/Minnehaha intersection. Even while I’m slowing/stopping to yield, I’ve had motorists seemingly happy stop to let me pass.

    Contrast that with motorist behavior when I’m on the street, where I don’t think I’ve ever experienced deferential car yielding, and only only sometimes am awarded a right of way that belongs to me.

    I don’t know what the lesson is here, but I think its interesting. Perhaps the drivers crossing our most prominent bike facilities just expect bikes (and maybe expect bikes not to yield even when they are supposed to) and are “resigned” to stopping for them. Or maybe drivers don’t mind stopping when we’ve go so far as to make it explicitly clear that bikes are allowed and encouraged.

    1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

      Psychology is fascinating. I’d love for someone to explain all of these human contradictions.

      BTW, Europe makes extensive use of sharks teeth to delineate ROW so that it is clear to everyone at every junction who has ROW. I think at the junctions you mention, if the bicyclist had sharks teeth then the drivers would see that and proceed through. Similar in situations where a driver is given sharks teeth so that bicycle riders have ROW.

    2. Kassie

      I’ve had cars yield to me on the street, which can be more infuriating. An example is when I was going to take a left at a stop light and the person going straight through the light comes to a complete stop on a green. I don’t know what they are doing and I had changed my speed to account for them going through the light. Instead we both just sat there.

      1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

        I wonder if part of this is that they’ve had so many people blow stop signs of lights on them that they’re a bit over cautious (or perhaps appropriately cautious)?

        1. lifelong MTC rider

          That’s probably part of it. I don’t drive, and it drives me nuts not to be treated like a vehicle using the roadway, with all of the rights and rersponsibilities of any other vehicle. When a driver yields when I don’t have the right of way, I usually just shake my head, shrug, and proceed (if it’s safe – there could be another car zooming around them).

          I heartily advocate aggressive citiation of bicyclists violating traffic laws; perhaps then all vehicles – motorized or otherwise – would behave predictably (and safely).

        2. Al DavisonAl Davison

          That might be why, I may be one of those people that is probably overly cautious towards cyclists because I’ve seen a few blow through stoplights and stop signs, and I don’t really want to risk hitting a cyclist.

          1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

            That’s two of us. There is one intersection that I go through daily and will often be confronted by a string of Twin Cities Bicycle Club folk blowing through the stop sigh. I’ve become quite cautious of any bicycle riders there.

        3. Rosa

          I think it’s more that they don’t understand what stopping a bike looks like – they think if you don’t put your feet down you’re still moving or about to – and that they don’t really know how the rules apply. They get “stop for cyclists, it makes you a good person” and forget “as if they were traffic.”

          1. Janne

            I think Rosa is spot on, here. When I have yielded, am traveling 2mph but haven’t unclipped, I get yelled at for not yielding once in a while.

            I think many drivers yield when (I wish they wouldn’t and) they have the right of way because they mistakenly think it’s “nice.” It’s not nice. Don’t yield.

            I tend to either make a show of stopping and waving them through, or to similarly to MTC rider slow like crazy and then shake my head and follow their directions — they get even madder if you DON’T take the right of way after they’ve yielded it.

            1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author


              It’d be interesting to study the impact of MN Nice on road efficiency. This is one reason I’m such a fan of roundabouts because of how often people don’t understand the myriad rules of intersections and who has ROW when. And this can be worse when riding (and especially when balancing and wanting them to just GO! so I can).

            2. Rosa

              Exactly. I can only trackstand this cargo bike with the kid on the back for so long! If drivers would just pause, look & roll through as if I were another car, we’d both be gone already!

              Also waving through doesn’t work well with darkly tinted windows. That happened to me a couple days ago. I can’t tell what you’re doing in there, dude!

              It does worry me that so many people who can’t seem to tell a moving object from a stationary one are driving cars, sometimes.

    3. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

      I think motorists are rightly confused by intersections like Greenway/Minnehaha. Bicyclists are (probably) obligated to stop for the stop sign, but they do have right-of-way over vehicles on Minnehaha. A bicyclist within a legal crosswalk is considered a pedestrian, and motorists are under the same obligation to stop for them as they would be for someone afoot. Stop signs do not assign right-of-way in this case.

      It’s more ambiguous in situations where there is no marked crosswalk (such as Beltline Boulevard and the Cedar Lake LRT/Greenway trail). If the trail is conceived of as a sidewalk, cyclists still have right-of-way. If it’s conceived of as a “highway”, the stop signs assign right-of-way (although pedestrians would still have ROW). This is complicated further by certain enterprising jurisdictions who have taken it upon themselves to rewrite state law in the name of safety, erasing crosswalks on trail crossings and also decreeing that pedestrians do not have right-of-way in locations where they objectively do.

      That’s a lot of nuance to calculate when you’re out driving bike or car on the road. Which is probably why you see many responsible motorists stop or yield, even if a cyclist may assume they do not have right-of-way.

      1. Rosa

        there’s also a horrible set of rewards/punishments at places like the Greenway crossings – the signs say stop for pedestrians (but you’re supposed to understand it means cyclists) in crosswalk. So there’s no reason to stop unless the driver sees someone wanting to cross and maybe not until they’re actually playing chicken in the crosswalk. A lot of drivers pretend not to see people trying to cross. Or they see people trying to cross, but the opposite lane of cars hasn’t stopped, so the cyclist waits, and then the car that did stop decides they’ve waited long enough and drives through.

        And then, when they DO stop like they’re supposed to, it’s not a timed light or a turn-taking 4 way stop. They have to wait for ALL the cyclists. There can be a lot of us! So the drivers who stop like they’re supposed to get punished for it.

        1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

          Sean and Rosa have both raised great points. The approach to this in northern Europe is that anytime there are conflicts such as these, one or the other is given shark’s teeth (photos coming). All such junctions are also designed so that drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians can fairly clearly see each other. Bicycle and pedestrian crossings are also often raised a bit or tabled above the road surface.

          The result is that right of way (ROW) is very clear to everyone and everyone can see each other far enough back to plan ahead. When a bicycle path crosses a road and has ROW then motor traffic is given the teeth. Drivers can see enough of the bicycle path to know if anyone is coming and if they need to react or not. Bicycle riders can see motor traffic and know the same. Generally if bicycle riders have ROW they will not even slow down and there is no need for them to do so with this junction design.

          If we did this here (and I think we should) then I would guess there would be a learning period for both, particularly for motorists to learn how quickly a bicycle rider will reach the junction and thus when to yield and when not.

          Janne had a good post on this here: One difference between Norway and the rest of northern Europe though is that Norway does not (that I’ve ever seen) provide sharks teeth to drivers exiting roundabouts. The other countries will often give bicycle riders ROW and thus sharks teeth to motorists.

          1. Rosa

            but bicycle riders aren’t all going the same speed. This is actually a serious problem for me, because I’m so often riding with a kid. Sometimes he’s on teh back of my cargo bike, and my speed is pretty normal (I’m a little slow) but the length of my bike isn’t, and cars start to turn as I’m going through a 4-way stop, but almost clip me. This was both worse and better when I was hauling him in a trailer, btw – it was scarier, but cars were less likely to crowd me, too. The cargo bike seems to confuse people.

            But then a lot of times now he’s riding his own bike. He’s slower than drivers expect bikes to be, and he is sometimes slow to start moving from a corner, which makes cars get impatient and not wait. But worse, turning cars (especially at T-intersections like the horrible intersection under the Sabo bridge) often don’t see him and get really aggressive at me because they think I’m just coasting across the street that slow for no reason, or they get tired of waiting and turn and nearly hit him when he’s behind me (i usually try to be next to him at intersections for this reason – or just ahead so I’m between him & cars that don’t stop before turning right, when we cross busy streets like Cedar.)

            One difference between bikes and cars is that ability, age, condition of your bike, and a bunch of other factors have a HUGE effect on speed. Cars aren’t like that and drivers don’t seem to understand it well.

  8. D Maki

    The Portland Bureau of Transportation conducted a bicycling survey. The survey determined that up to 8% of the population was willing to ride regularly in traffic. 60% of the population was interested in bicycling but generally did not ride due to safety concerns. Not surprisingly, the #1 safety concern was fear of being killed by an automobile. Minneapolis currently has something like 4% bicycling ride share. These survey data suggest we may be able to that up to about 8% without bicycle infrastructure. We will never attain the 30-50% ride share of cities like Stockholm, Copenhagen or Amersterdam without viable urban bicycling infrastructure.

    1. Jeff Klein

      That’s not necessarily true. You can imagine a case where you had a campaign to both help people understand the actual risk (and thus reduce their fear) and teach them how to bike on streets. My anecdotal experience is people who are encouraged by a friend to try lose their fear after a few weeks of riding.

      You’re talking about making large infrastructure decisions based on irrational fears. I’m suggesting it may be easier to instead combat the fear. It’s simply a fact that you’re no more likely to be killed on a bicycle than in a car, even with the limited protected facilities we have now.

      1. D Maki

        Bicyclists in the United States are from 8 to 30 times more likely to be killed by a motor vehicle than bicyclists in Northern Europe, so the risk is not imaginary. If bicycling infrastructure is built when roads are rebuilt (like the upcoming Washington Ave rebuild) the additional cost is negligible.

      2. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

        Firstly, I do not think that people’s fears of motorists is at all irrational. We can’t keep motorists from killing other motorists in steel cages, how can we expect to stop them from killing people on bicycles?

        How do you expect to combat a mother’s or father’s fear that their child will be killed if you allow them to ride to school and share the road with motorists?

        Beyond fear is a simple comfort factor, most people are far more comfortable on a segregated path. This is multiplied in winter or rainy summer days when riding on the road means being splashed and splushed which doesn’t happen on segregated paths.

      3. Ron

        It’s also just a 6 month riding season (if that) for MOST people. We’ll get 1/2 the use of bike infrastructure that they do in Copenhagen, right?

        1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

          It does not have to be a 6 month riding season. People in Amsterdam, Stockholm, Dala-Järna, and Montreal ride all year long. I think even with our current infrastructure that people in the Twin Cities ride 8 or 9 months many years. Given quality infrastructure that is segregated from motorist slush and kept relatively clear through the winter do you not think that many people will be likely to ride throughout the year?

          1. Ron

            Think of the people you know that cycle year round in MN. They are a breed apart.
            Early 2000s I was in my mid 20s, lived close to the river by Minnehaha Park and worked downtown. I was a diehard bike commuter and evangelical about it. All I had to do was take the West River Road bike path straight to my office door. I got SMOKED by the cold. I’ll concede that it’s probably an 8 month season but not more.
            I know you’re talking about the whole region and that’s a little different in that they need some more infrastructure, but right now anyone should be able to use google maps – bicycling and get anywhere they need to go following the green lines. The biggest thing that could happen for cycling would be to inform the public about google maps – bicycling and how easy and safe it is to stick to those routes. The more cyclists make ant trails out of those routes the safer they become as well.

            1. Ron

              By the way you’ll notice that MN 244 is not green on the map so homeboy you were stuck behind probably would have been better off on a different road. That’s a tricky area but he should probably have taken the green Dellwood Rd and then dropped down via the neighborhood streets.
              Seriously tho, the virtues of this map tool should be more widely espoused.

            2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

              I checked and my last ride last fall was Sept. 21 (which seemed kind of early to stop) and my first this spring was Mar. 31. So, a bike season of April to October sounds about right to me for recreational purposes.

              I have a hard time seeing myself biking in the dead of winter, but maybe I’d consider it if my commute was longer and walking wasn’t a more appealing option in bad conditions.

              As for maps, they’re useful to me for finding trails and bigger streets with bike facilities, but there is a whole lot low-traffic residential streets that are pretty susceptible to biking in our fair cities.

              1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

                I think it’s worth emphasizing that not every day is the dead of the winter (this winter notwithstanding). In general we’ll have many days where it’s comfortable riding weather during the day — especially if you have a well-cleared, safe roadway or bike facility.

                Even if cycling did go down to zero during the winter, there are still car traffic jams on warm summer days. Wouldn’t those motorists rather see some of their fellow drivers on a bike instead?

                We have particularly great incentive to reduce motoring during the summer, since air quality tends to suffer, and local pollution problems from cars become much more severe in the heat and humidity.

                1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

                  Yes. Most people, so long as they have a safe and comfortable place to ride and a proper bicycle, can ride one or two miles in almost any weather (-30f, blizzard, lightning, and tornadoes excepted). What percentage of our trips are within one or two miles?

                  We place a gob of emphasis on commuting and specifically on relatively long distance commuting from exurbs and suburbs, but I don’t think that’s all that makes up our driving (and is actually probably the most fuel and pollution efficient).

                  1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

                    Well, if it’s me, I’d walk the 1-2 miles when there are snow and ice around rather than bike. It’s easier to insulate, there’s no added windchill, and I have more confidence in the stability of my Minnesota-trained feet than my bike tires. And if I must, I can scamper over unexpected snow banks or even wade through spots that haven’t been shoveled.

                    But then, I don’t really ride other than for recreation anyway, and I don’t drive for those trips anyway.

                2. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

                  Every morning, all winter long, a bunch of kids stand outside our house waiting on the bus. Many of them could have ridden their bicycles to school by the time the bus comes. And riding will keep them warmer than standing around trying to look cool for all of the others standing around trying to look cool.

                  Don’t get me started on the costs of running school bus services or the damage they do to streets or how much fuel they burn or pollution they spew or … Yep, not a fan of buses. We spend far more running a bus service than it would cost to put in an A+ Cadillac (Volvo?) segregated bicycle network with tunnels under the intersections nearest schools.

              2. Ron

                Agree that many streets are nice for a route but if more of us stuck to the green lines than drivers would expect to see us there. It’s a little better for everybody if we get on the same page. Or same line.

                1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

                  As a stopgap measure perhaps, but bicyclists should not be limited in where they can go. We need to continue to push for the ability for every bicycle rider (of all ages, genders, and abilities) and most disabled to be able to safely and comfortably ride to any destination.

                  Yes, it will take a while and there will need to be many interim measures as you mention and many people will not choose to ride instead of drive for a long time, but we’ll eventually get there. If the Dutch can do it I’m pretty sure we can. Well, maybe.

                    1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

                      Yes I’ve read them, no I don’t think they have things figured out. There are things I agree with on the site and things I strongly disagree with.

                      Specific to the post you cited. The biggest problem is Jan is utilizing U.S. bike lanes for context, and poor ones at that. Most U.S. bicycle infrastructure is quite poor and I do agree that much of it is not convenient nor comfortable to use. We don’t need more bad infrastructure, we do need a lot more good infrastructure (by which I mean Dutch style infrastructure where I can routinely ride 15 mph or faster with few if any problems).

                      Second is the reference to Copenhagen. Copenhagen’s infrastructure is, in my opinion, a very distant second place to Dutch. We should be striving for Dutch style infrastructure, not Danish and not what is currently promoted by NACTO.

                    2. Ron

                      Well that’s where I’m coming from. The car competes really well in the Twin Cities. They make a good point about how well the auto competes in the states. There’s a lot of crummy reasons for this but that’s the playing field for bikes/cars in the states.

  9. InvisibleHand

    For context …

    I’m a practicing vehicular cyclist, but I do care about robust transportation systems that include active transportation like walking and bicycling. I don’t pass out when a bike lane is less than perfect but complain to push officials to correct mistakes.

    One important omission in the thread regarding cycling advocacy here during the 70s through 90s is that VC advocates were not acting in a vacuum. As a layperson, it seems that simultaneously there was a movement toward suburban living with “closed” designs connected via fast arterials. Comparing bicycling in these environments to more urban environments with slower motorized traffic and suggesting that the difference is due to bicycle facilities is somewhat misleading. Moreover, I’m pretty sure that lots of vehicular cycling advocates push for slower and better designed roads as well as some facilities such that the following is unfair, IMO …

    “The U.S. chose vehicular cycling which has led to one of the most dangerous bicycling environments in the developed world and vehicular cycling advocates want to continue on this road.”

    Personally, I think facilities designed with vehicular principles are “good”. Here in DC, I think that the L ST design — where turning traffic crosses the cycletrack well before the intersection — is more than reasonable whereas the 15th ST cycletrack makes my life worse. I also think that as speeds increase, some segregation is desired since many transportation grids in the US require using them and my experience is that convincing people that it’s possible to VC through there is near impossible. So an effective bicycling network requires facilities crossing these junctions. Moreover, they are probably safer in some meaningful way provided some standards are met. In large, my complaint with Segregation advocates is that too often they celebrate facilities in low risk areas or with some obvious and nontrivial problems.

    You also asked whether we should work on protecting and extending our road rights. Naturally, I think yes. Besides the obvious that there will always be places that the bicycling network fails to include, letting cyclists choose the safer place to ride will result in better facilities. In other words, if a facility is well constructed/maintained and “makes things better” cyclists will use them (and vice versa). Restricting cyclists to segregated facilities — by failing to protect road rights — leaves us open to perverse outcomes.

    Anyway, I think that there is more overlap to the Vehicular Cycling and Segregation advocacy than the article suggests. Although I admit that each side has their extremes, I think we should be careful to judge each group by the entire population. It seems to me that there is support among VC practitioners for three-foot rules as well as some form of strict liability.

  10. InvisibleHand

    Whoops … hit submit too early.

    Besides high quality facilities, there is legislation that we can broadly support that would make cycling safer and preserve road rights.

    1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

      Just a note that they have just passed legislation that will begin pulling mopeds (Snorfiets 🙂 ) off of the bikeways. They have become a significant issue (increased from about 8000 in 2007 to 30,000 today) and are the result of slowly relaxing the original rules that required pedaling and more limited power.

      Here (in the U.S.) I strongly favor not allowing any powered vehicles on bike/ped paths except for low powered pedelecs (electric bikes that are pedal assist only) and specific disabled vehicles.

  11. karen

    Anyone who thinks bike boxes are an acceptable part of Forester’s VC, is uninformed and really shouldn’t be trying to educate.

    Or maybe should move to Denmark – good luck with that.

  12. Gary Cziko

    And this is one example of segregated cycling infrastructure in our nations capital:

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      Traffic sucks at one of the bottlenecks in a system with few through streets. What does that have to do with the cycle track?

      I used to commute through that intersection daily. It wasn’t better for bikes before the segregated cycling infrastructure.

  13. Pingback: The Vehicular Cycling Metaphor |

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