Monday, November 5, 2007

Folk cycling

"Folk cycling" is the antithesis of "vehicular cycling." While vehicular cycling is the practice of bicycling in a visible and predictable manner in accordance with the principles of driving any other vehicle on the road, most cyclists don't believe the rules of the road apply to them. They either don't care about the law, don't think of themselves operating a vehicle or (most likely) don't even think about of this stuff.

Wrong way cyclist on Folsom, Boulder Colorado With the increased popularity of cycling for transportation in France, somebody has published their Outlaw cycling manifesto in which they affirm the right to run red lights and ride the wrong way "for my own safety." Alex @ Streetsblog at least acknowledges that he does all this for convenience sake in his proposal to loosen up traffic regulations for New York cyclists. He notes that traffic engineering and rules and laws became a requirement after automobiles made streets substantially more dangerous for other road users. Several commentators in the discussion following note, of course, that outlaw cyclists often make conditions dangerous for the other large group of road users -- pedestrians.

Speaking of laws, CycleDog posted some good commentary on American Lawbreaking is it relates to traffic law enforcement and bicyclists. He notes that the concerns of cyclists on the road can vary widely from that of motorists. It's good stuff: go read it.

Photo: Wrong way cyclist in the bike lane on Folsom, Boulder, Colorado. Photo by me.


  1. Welp, mr. folk cycling lost me when he stated as fact that "And yes, they sometimes ride the wrong way on a one-way street, because it is less dangerous to meet a car or motorcycle head-on than to be passed by one."

  2. Now the one you said to go read, which I read first, was much more interesting.
    Of course the best way to educate drivers about cycling is to get 'em out on bicycles. How about we arrange a perfect storm and have all the pieces in place for a major marketing campaign when the days start to warm up, and not wait for our so-called leaders to tell us that we can become less dependent on oil by ... using less of it...

  3. Howdy--

    Okay, I haven't linked to the other blogs, I've only read Fritz's synopsis, but I think this might be pertinent.

    One of my favorite sets of bike laws is in Idaho, where cyclists get to enjoy the "Idaho stop". That is, cyclists get to treat stop signs as yields, and we can proceed through red lights after coming to a complete stop (though I hope that doesn't encourage riders to split the lane between parked cars and traffic).

    I think these allowances recognize that the laws weren't made for cyclists, who will yield out of self-interest, and who could make do with much less expensive and complicated traffic control than stoplights. Plus, the stoplight part allows riders to leave a plug of traffic behind and enjoy some open road.

    Happy Trail,
    Ron Georg

  4. I take exception to "most cyclists". Round hereabouts most cyclists do the right thing - but there's a few percent consisting primarily of couriers and neophytes who do the wrong thing.

    Not to say that differenciation in rules is a bad thing - but blatant and dangerous disrespect for them damages cycling as a whole.

    Dave Moulton has a distinct take on it.

  5. I split lanes three times yesterday... because the line of traffic at four cars deep is just deep enough that I'm cmpletely invisible to the bloke about to make a left turn oncoming, and/or it's a quick light that I won't get through hanging back. All four cars get by me before I'm back on skinny roads (I plan it that way).

  6. is passing a clot of cars stopped at a light and waiting for the light in front of them illegal?

    i do that because i feel safer positioning myself separate from the cars where they can see me before hammering the gas pedal when the light goes green.

    i break other rules all the time. i run stop signs and, far less often, stop lights. i have rules, though: i don't go through intersections if a car is stopped or already moving through. if pedestrians are moving through the intersection, i always pass behind them so they aren't startled by me flying by at 10mph.

    i also occasionally take the sidewalk (going sloooowly of course) to get past thick traffic that leaves no room even for a bicycle. i always apologize to pedestrians, but most people don't mind because most people think bikes belong on the sidewalks anyways.

  7. Doug, lane splitting (riding between two lanes) is legal only in California in the United States, but filtering forward at an intersection at the right is maybe legal on the principle that if motorists can safely pass cyclists in the same lane, then the reverse should also be true. I Am Not A Lawyer, though, and my advice is worth about what you paid for it.

    I personally ride "vehicularly," but I'm also, umm, flexible about the rules. If there are only a handful of cars at an intersection I might wait my turn in the queue, especially if lane width is not adequate for safe passing. If the lane is wide enough, though, I'll filter right up to the front with hesitation. Just watch for the right hook and you should be fine.

    I know a lot of people get really uptight about cyclists slowing but not coming to a complete stop at stop signs, but that pretty much matches driver behavior *shrug* I also like the Iowa yield law that Ron mentioned.

    Fishbone, do you live outside the U.S.? Most cyclists in America appear to be recent immigrants riding bikes from *Mart or yardsales and pawnshops.

    Thanks for the comments, all!

  8. Fishbone, do you live outside the U.S.? Most cyclists in America appear to be recent immigrants riding bikes from *Mart or yardsales and pawnshops.

    I'm waaay out side the USA.

    Bikes actually outsell cars by a big margin, thanks mainly to the *marts. This is having a significant impact on the ubiquity of bicycling. Which in turn affects govt expenditure and driver attitudes. Local studies show that the #1 way to improve bicyclist safety is to get more bikes on the road.

    Legally, adult riders are vehicular road users. Depending on what state/province you are in the rules vary but usually there are a few cycle specific regs, such being allowed to pass stopped traffic on the "wrong" (ie kerb) side. Helmets are universally required.
    Importantly, the bike specific rules are covered in learner driver tests.

    The demographics of cyclists vary widely, but there's basically:
    * kids on bikes
    * recreational *mart MTB riders on bike paths. Adults across the spectrum.
    * lycra clad sports bike (group) riders on roads. Mostly higher income - seen the cost of a trek madone lately?
    * commuters - mainly white collar workers
    Oh, and
    * couriers.
    There's a fair bit of overlap between the groups, obviously.

    The road rules are regularily bent to suit reality: probably the most common would be riding on a footpath. I'd say a fair number of *mart MTB riders wouldn't know it was illegal. The couriers know but don't care.

    In everyone's defence, the intermittent nature of bike paths and roads often makes at least a small amount of footpath use sensible on many, many trips.

    For second place "Failure to indicate" would have to fight it out with "failing to stop at red lights/stop signs". The lycra brigade are particularily bad and are doing the cause no good on this front.

    Myself I tend to jaywalk across red rather than ride as the odds of being nicked are less.

    Sometimes the law is an ass - in which case we should try and change it. I'd love to see some Iowa style laws come in.

    My final comment would be to draw a strong contrast between "civil disobedience" and a) ignorance or b) rules-are-for-other-people

    Some of folk cycling are actually trying to change laws and attitudes from a well-informed and deeply thought out position. Critical Mass generally meets that criteria.

    But I've yet to see an example of a lone cyclist riding the wrongway down a one-way street meet that criteria.