Friday, July 23, 2010

I am a segregationist...

Lets get this out and in the open right now. I am a segregationist. Not in the racial sense, but in the transportational sense.

Some time ago while having what I thought was a friendly exchange of ideas and thoughts with a bike blogger in another city concerning cycling infrastructure. He retorted to my last response with, "You are a vehicular segregationist, this conversation is over!" Vehicular Segregationist? I sat and thought about that statement for sometime and throughout the next couple of days I pondered that statement and I finally came to the conclusion, that if what I wanted in the long run was for more people to feel that there was infrastructure in place that made them feel safe enough to choose cycling over a car. Then yes. I am indeed a vehicular segregationist.

I guess I also should explain that the individual I was conversing with is what is commonly known as a "vehicular cyclist." What's that you ask? To put it in the most basic of terms, vehicular cyclists firmly believe that there is no need for separated cycling infrastructure in the form of bike lanes or paths. They proselytize that bicycles are vehicles and should be 'driven' like vehicles on the road. For a better understanding of who these people are and their thought process I recommend reading, Vehicular Cyclists - Cycling's Secret Sect by MIckael Coville-Andersen at Copenhagenize.

What incited this post are two recent videos I happened to watch back to back and they could not be more night and day. The first is providing information for correctly 'driving' your bike in traffic. As you're viewing it, take note of how hard these cyclists are working. Note also how stiff, harried, and just plain uncomfortable they appear. Do they look like they are enjoying their commute? Do they look any less stressed than your average automobile driver?

This second video is by Clarence Eckerson of StreetFilms and was filmed during the Vilo-City 2010 conference in Copenhagen. Do you notice any difference between these cyclists and those in the above video? Do they seem stressed or harried to you? After viewing both, I'll let you decide for yourself which is better suited for increasing bicycles as transportation.

Are you a vehicular cyclist or a vehicular segregationist? If you have the brains to do some research and can think on a logical basis and If you also think about what is best for majority and not just for yourself. Then maybe you, like me are perhaps a majority of segregationist with a little of vehicular cyclist thrown in.


Anonymous said...

I'm definitely in favor of complete, well thought out bike infrastructure that uses more than three inches of paint to separate those at 12 mph from those at 50 mph. Also, I tend to think that riding as in the first video does little to encourage people in cars to consider biking themselves.

That said, I do steal some plays from their playbook when riding neighborhood streets. The last thing I want is to be passed at a stop sign.

Jeremiah Russell said...

I'm moving to Copenhagen. Has anyone looked at Portland, Oregon? It's supposed to be the most cycle/pedestrian friendly city in the US.

David said...

You've made a straw man of vehicular cycling in order to promote segregation. This is not logical reasoning but a base appeal to emotionalism and a prime example of cyclist inferiority complex. Please demonstrate with factual evidence that segregationist policies are beneficial to cyclists.

Abhishek said...

Granted that Matt has made a strawman of VCs to promote segregation, he has also provided two videos for readers to judge for themselves which schools of thoughts they would like to belong to.
Moreover, there is tons of ridership data on for those craving more objective answers.

David said...

The link you've posted favors constructing segregated facilities for the purpose of convincing people to ride bicycles, not to provide any sort of safety to cyclists. The author acknowledges that cycling is already safe without segregated facilities. Why should cyclists support facilities that make novices feel safe when the facilities offer no improvement to actual safety? Why should we put feelings of safety above actual safety?

Bike Jax said...

David, drink the kool-aid much? I would be more than happy to provide you with "factual evidence that segregationist policies are beneficial to cyclists." But frankly it wouldn't do any good. You VC'ers are so embedded with your Forester indoctrination that you are either unwilling or unable to think about what is best for the majority.

One last thing, if Vehicular Cycling is the answer, where are all the cyclists your group has had 60+ years to produce? Why is the US still at 1% for bicycle transportation. I'll tell you where they are, they are using other sources of transportation because they are too damn scared of riding a bike in 45 mile per hour traffic.

I would also like to point out that safe, secure, scared, happy are all emotions. Riding a bicycle is nothing but emotional. If those emotions are negative (scared, frightened, insecure, etc.) people will not continue or even attempt to do those things that provoke those feelings.

David said...

If you wish to have a courteous and fair discussion, please publish my previous comment.

David Jordan said...

I agree with one of the commenters on the Copenhagen site who said vehicular cycling is an individual survival tactic. I don't recommend it to people just starting cycling. It's for when you've already made peace with your mortality.

If you want to get anywhere in Jacksonville by bike in a reasonable amount of time you've got to mingle with cars. Some VC practices (e.g.taking the lane) can help you.

I read Forster's book and agreed with much of it, but don't endorse all of it. I understand his point about how bike lanes enforce the notion of cycling as an inferior mode, but I think he overstates the case. I love riding car-free paths, when they're convenient. I think the Jax-Baldwin Trail and Riverwalk bring more people to cycling.

But, if I could say one thing to people, one rule for all cyclists to obey (except when there's an exceptional reason):


Please. It drives me nuts.

David said...

How do you justify censoring my comment? Do you oppose polite debate and the free exchange of ideas? Are you the fascist dictator of this blog? How great can your ideas be if you won't subject them to honest criticism?

Abhishek said...


I completely agree that vehicular cyclist techniques help riding in Jacksonville. I also share your enthusiasm of making people ride on the proper side of the road. I have not read John Forrester's book but I have read (and stopped reading) plenty of blogs and websites that promote that kind of riding.

The problem we have with Vehicular Cyclists is that they make their kind of cycling the final solution to bicycling. They do it by mostly opposing segregation.

I see vehicular cycling as a temporary technique (of low quality) till proper infrastructure is put in place. I wrote about it last July extensively here:

David said...

Because you will not publish my comment, I can see that you are interested only in disseminating propaganda, censoring dissent, and imposing your bankrupt ideas on your audience. You will not give others the opportunity to present ideas in a respectful manner. Your blog rejects democratic ideals in favor of fascist tendencies. Apparently, the idea you present is so weak that it will not stand up to debate.

David said...

Thank you for finally publishing my comment (July 27, 1:20am). I will respectfully retract accusations of unfair treatment and fascism. My questions, however, remain. Cycling is already safe without segregated facilities. Factual evidence supports the conclusion that cyclists are safer on roads than on paths.

A brief compendium of reliable, peer reviewed studies concerning bicycle safety can be found here: . Wachtel and Lewiston's study finds that cyclists on cycle paths incur risk 1.8x greater than cyclists on roadways:

Cycle paths can lead people to feel safer while actually exposing them to more risk. Why should cyclists support cycle paths that make novices feel safe when the facilities offer no improvement to actual safety? Why should we put feelings of safety above actual safety?

Jeremiah Russell said...

David, I can speak only from personal experience (because I have never studied up on relevant articles of safety etc) but in my 2.5 mile commute to work, I "mingle" with traffic for less than 1/2 of my trip and in that short distance, just in the past month, I've nearly been run down by a vehicle 3 times. This is not a "near miss" kind of thing where I just "felt" threatened. I'm talking screeching brakes and someone staring at me with "what the hell are you doing on the road" on their face. I would NOT want to mingle with traffic my whole commute to work. I would certainly fear for my life. It is NOT safe, nor is it even in the same solar system as safe, and we're only talking about friggin Riverside and Downtown. Segregation is necessary, in my opinion. Cyclists can not approach the same speeds that vehicles can even in a residential neighborhood. Dedicated lanes should be made available for any integrated plan to be successful. Off my soap box now. :)

David said...


I would prefer scientifically collected data over anecdotal evidence. The studies represented in the link I provided suggest that cycling is not particularly dangerous, nor do cycle paths increase safety. To my knowledge, no segregationist has ever been able to prove the contrary.

However, if you would like me to consider your personal experience, please consider mine. I've been bicycling as an adult in this very city for 14 years. I travel to and through nearly all parts of town(Riverside, Westside, Murray Hill, Northside, Downtown, Springfield, Mayport, San Marco, St. Nicholas, Mandarin, Arlington, Southside, etc.). I consistently ride at least 50 miles a week for my commute, errands, and for pleasure, racking up 2,000 to 3,000 miles a year. In my adult life I've probably logged at least 30,000 miles on my bike in Jacksonville. I have never once been involved in a collision with a motor vehicle. Not once. Never.

I take personal responsibility for my safety. I learned the principles of vehicular cycling through the League of American Bicyclists' local chapter, the North Florida Bicycle Club. LAB is the largest and oldest (and at times, the only) cyclist organization in the US. The only safety course LAB and its affiliates use (Effective Cycling) was designed by John Forrester in accordance with the principles of vehicular cycling. If you would like to increase your safety on the road, the Effective Cycling course is the only proven method.

Education of drivers (both of bicycles and motor vehicles) is a reliable and consistent method of increasing safety on the road. Scientific inquiries suggest that cycle paths do not increase safety. Why not focus on proven and reliable methods (education with Effective Cycling) to achieve safety, instead of catering to the feelings of ignorant novices by building facilities with no proven safety benefits?

David Jordan (Not the David that called Matt a fascist) said...

The best thing I learned from Forster and others like him is to get out into the lane. Don't tempt people into thinking they can squeeze by you without crossing the line on a narrow road.

The fear of getting hit from behind is natural and logical, but if you can ride in a straight line it's one of the least likely ways you'll get flattened. You've got to assert yourself. If they honk at you, they see you.

Also, when you're away from the side of the road, cars entering from side streets and driveways are able to see you better and less likely to pull out in front of you.

I've ridden from Murray Hill or Riverside to the South Campus of FCCJ about 100 times over the last few years, on weekdays, without incident.

I get about 10,000 miles a year in arguably the worst city for cycling in the U.S. VC is the best practice for me most of the time.

That said, I don't recommend it. The concept turns newbies off. I didn't start that way. I was scared of every car that passed me from behind.

Abhishek said...

David (who questions safety in segregated paths),

[comment 1 of 4]

Safety is a specialized term of a larger and much broad field of quality. Quality consists of statistical (objective) quality that is measured in manufacturing environments. It equally consists of a subjective side that generates a sense of fulfillment in the user. The entire field of ergonomics is born out of this side of quality.

Safety is an outcome of quality. Good safety comes from good quality and bad safety from bad quality. Too many direct routes that a cyclist may want to access appear on roads with high speed limits. Southside Blvd, Atlantic Blvd, Beach Blvd to name a few are such roads. These roads also have abundant driveways and intersections which add complexity to a commute. I have ridden on all these roads during rush hour with proper lane positioning. Motorists have each time let me know how much I was infringing on their "property". This abrasion is a bad quality outcome from having to ride in traffic. I almost find it unethical to encourage others to ride their bikes knowing the abrasion they might face. David Hembrow names it Subjective Safety.

What are the reasons to ask for segregated bike path? Is it injury and fatality rate in non-segregated paths alone? Why is bicycling rate in USA so low even after decades of advocacy? Is it just because this is a big country and we love our cars? Then why is bicycling so popular in cities with infrastructure (Portland OR, New York City NY, Davis CA, Boulder CO, Minneapolis MN)?

Abhishek said...

David (who questions safety in segregated paths),

[comment 2 of 4]

The study you quoted from clearly states that most accidents occur at intersections of cycle paths and motorist right-of-ways. These intersections receive special consideration in the Netherlands. Bicycle traffic lights go off before motor vehicle traffic lights do. Yielding to bicycles at intersections is also strictly enforced and religiously followed. 'Segregated path' does not imply simply laying down a path next to a roadway separated by a curb or physical barrier. it involves rules and enforcement. It also means creating routes that bypass regular roads. See example here:

I was not aware of a skill level in bicycle commuting. Who is a novice? Is it someone who just started commuting to work? Or is it someone who cant consider riding their bike on a road with a posted speed limit of 45 mph? Of all the people I know who dont ride for recreation, not many get excited about riding in the same lane as cars doing 45 mph or more. I wonder what the cause of this irrational lack of enthusiasm is?

Abhishek said...

David (who questions safety in segregated paths),

[comment 3 of 4]

I am glad you have not had a single accident, considering the amount of miles you ride and the areas you ride in. I wish you continued good luck and tailwinds. I wonder how often you get heckled by motorists. My record was once every four miles. I usually rode in the Deerwood Park area during rush hour. Heckling was a 100% guarantee especially when I was controlling the lane of a 10 foot wide roadway. On three occasions did someone pull over, get out of their car and try to beat me up while I furiously pedaled away from them. In no way do I state this as a factual evidence of low quality bicycle commute in Jacksonville. However, I could not encourage anyone to go through that experience. If you were in my shoes, could you?

You further state (replying to Jeremiah's comment) that education of both drivers and cyclists is a reliable and consistent method of increasing safety on roads. Please provide statistics to show the reliability of education and its consistency towards increasing safety. Since the automobile was more or less invented in USA, we have had a head start in automobile safety. Yet, fatality numbers seem to point otherwise. USA has three times as per capita fatality as Netherlands. See study here and graph here:
click for graph

This study contradicts your claims about education being the only ultimate method to increase safety. The greatest impact to on road safety in UK has been removing the vulnerable (cyclists etc) and increasing safety of road design.

Abhishek said...

David (who questions safety in segregated paths),

[comment 4 of 4]

On a personal note, comment moderation is a necessary evil due to the amount of spam comments popular blogs receive. Effective spam deletion maintains high quality blog reading and discussion. Please be considerate towards the technology we use. It is free after all and comes with its quirks. We also have day jobs that involve us spending time away from email and comment approval.

David said...


Segregationists have never been able to prove that cycle paths increase safety, so they often attempt to muddy the waters of what safety is. Safety is the relative occurrence of injury and fatality. Science shows that cycling is already safe and that cycle paths do not increase safety for cyclists. The personal feelings of individuals do not discount this fact. "Subjective safety" is nothing more than the personal feelings of individuals, and in no way represents actual conditions.

On an individual basis, some cyclists are safer than others. The studies I have linked show that cyclists practicing vehicular principles incur injury and fatality at significantly lower rates than those who do not. Cyclists acquire knowledge of the principles of vehicular cycling from education. Therefore, education is an effective method of increasing safety for cyclists. Similar logic holds true for motorists, as reflected in our Driver's licensing requirements.

The attempt to compare safety in the US to safety in the Netherlands exemplifies a common fallacy. Correlation does not equal causation. Yes, there are cycle paths in the Netherlands. Yes, cyclists experience a lower fatality rate in the Netherlands compared to the US. However, there is no evidence of a causal link between cycle paths and lower fatality rates. There are many differences between the Netherlands and the US which could also account for the lower fatality rate, including but not limited to education, urban planning, motor vehicle ownership rates, cultural tradition of cycling, etc. (continued)

David said...


Cycle paths were not added to Dutch roads for the safety of cyclists. They were added for the convenience of motor vehicles. Cycling was popular in the Netherlands before motor vehicles were introduced. When the rich and influential new motorists found that they could not travel in excess of the speed of bicycle traffic, they built facilities to segregate traffic so that they could go faster. Dutch engineers quickly realized that the cycle paths were very dangerous at intersections. To alleviate the danger created by cycle paths, the Dutch have separate signal phases at intersections for bikes and motor vehicles, doubling red light time.

Cycle paths add danger to the road. Cycle paths might make you feel safer, but they do not actually make you safer. Scientific studies show that the cyclists incurring the lowest risk are those that practice the principles of vehicular cycling.

In response to your personal note, if my comment was not published originally because it was caught in your spam filter, then I am truly sorry to have accused you of fascism. However, I was suspicious that my comment had been censored because one hour after I submitted it, Bike Jax responded (July 27, 2:18 am) by questioning my sanity (re: the kool-aid comment). My comment remained unpublished, along with my increasingly aggressive requests, while a couple more comments were approved. Once again, if this misunderstanding is the result of a spam filter, then I am truly sorry for my accusations.

Abhishek said...

David (who discounts subjective safety as a segregationist's argument to distract from real safety),

On the point that segregated cycle facilities make cycling more dangerous, we will have to stay at a disagreement. We have both said our pieces and I see no point in debating any more.

"The personal feelings of individuals do not discount this fact. "Subjective safety" is nothing more than the personal feelings of individuals, and in no way represents actual conditions."

i agree that feelings of people do not represent actual conditions. However, they produce actual results. Your ability to walk out of your house late at night without the fear of being mugged is a similar type of safety. It arrises out of an able police force and fast response times. I mean this even during today's thinning JSO police force. Try living in a third world country with high unemployment rates to understand the difference in subjective safety.

Another real life example will be the exit to Duval St. (JTA Airport) from the I 95 northbound lane. The speed drops to 25 mph in a very short distance and leads one into a sharp turn. That exit ramp may not be the most accident prone ramp but is sure makes a motorist "feel" unsafe due to its bad design. Bad design not always leads to injury and fatality. It increases the perception of possible injury in the future. That perception prevents people from using it. In case of our ramp, there are not many alternatives and commuters are stuck with it.

Try the interchange between Gate Parkway and JTB going towards the Town Center Mall and Costco. It's bad design makes commuters dislike it. Nothing to do with injuries and fatalities here.

I am only trying to prove that lack of subjective safety, though lacking proof in statistics is a major contributor of abysmal cycling numbers in Jacksonville (a well conducted survey will change this). My objective is to improve this situation. I do not plan to do this by prevalent education techniques and vehicular cycling. Those methods have hardly created a dent in cycling numbers. Do you disagree to this comment?

Abhishek said...


if the cycle paths were created by the rich to keep the cyclists out of their way, then please explain why cycle routes are more direct than car routes from one part of Amsterdam to another. Also, please state any basis of your assumption that rich people do not ride bicycles in The Netherlands. I make this inference since you state that cycle paths were created to keep cyclists out of the way from affluent people who could afford cars. Therefore, the inference that creating cycle paths had no intention for the benefit of the cyclist.

Cycle paths are not always installed on roads in the Netherlands. They are only introduced when traffic density and traffic speeds call for it. See details here: This is the reason why we do not advocate for segregated facilities on Riverside Ave.

In regard to the rest of your argument, we will always disagree on the validity of infrastructure in ridership numbers, objective and subjective safety. However, I am curious to your lack of comment on abusive behaviour of motorists and its direct impact on bicycling's lack of popularity. I guess you are better at curbing your feelings and emotions than us mere mortals.

Cyclist_Lorax said...

Cyclist Segregationist = Uncle Tom

Troy said...

Studies be damned, bring on the segregated bike lanes! I commute on my bike into downtown from Baymeadows and I also ride for recreation. The first Vehicular Cycling video has some good points but it is far from an ideal scenario. This coming from a guy who was hit in downtown Jax from behind about a year ago. I've walked around Portland, OR and cycled in Minneapolis, MN and both of those cities are a real treat. If I ever get to Copenhagen, I might not come back.

Patti said...

I lived in Jax for over 13 years and now live in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area where the first video is 100% how we HAVE to ride here. We have no other choice. The only bike lanes that exist are at most a mile long and exist in small suburban areas...completely useless.

I know I'm late to the party here, but I have to say, and yes, this is purely emotional, after having lived with both scenarios: I want bike infastructure. Although, it is equally important that cyclists and drivers alike know the rules of the road and how cyclists should, if need be, ride in the road.

Here in Dallas, the roads are barely wide enough for a vehicle. Now, add a cyclist in the lane coupled with a huge 4x4 truck and it is a very precarious situation. The drivers here are MUCH more courteous than those in Jax. In fact, I get angry that they just don't pass me or that they are passing too slow and potentially angering other drivers which could put me in harms way.

This area is very anti-cyclist...even though they have plenty of paved off-road paths, these are also narrow and are multi-purpose. The latest here is that cyclists ride on the paths "too fast" endangering the pedestrians, yet they don't want us in the road either. There are 2 towns here that have passed laws against "groups of more than 9" riding together. Officers actually sit in these towns on Sat. and Sun. mornings with the tickets at the ready.

Jax has it's issues but it's cyclist HEAVEN compared to what we have here. I'd rather deal with the occasional can of pennies being tossed at me while IN a bike lane, then have to deal with laws preventing me from riding at all.

ajlounyinjurylaw said...

Right now it seems like car against bike, which can be cause some of the the commuting stress.