Advocacy – What Comes First?
Why is there always so much acrimony whenever anyone starts talking about creating/using bike lanes? And why are there so many cries of “you’re crazy” and “you’ll never convince new riders” whenever Vehicular Cycling is mentioned? And we all know that many motorists would just prefer that we disappear and stay out of their way. And Jeez!!! If you start talking about bicycle advocacy – it seems that nobody can agree on anything relating to advocacy!
Most of our readers at Commute Orlando should have heard of John Forester. John’s book, Effective Cycling is a must-read for any transportational cyclist. It is where the term “Vehicular Cycling” originates and VC has been defined as “Cyclists fare best when they act, and are treated, as the drivers of other vehicles.”
Many cyclists agree with this concept, and follow (to some extent) the VC philosophy of riding as a vehicle (car) and following all traffic rules. However, VC advocates have run into stiff opposition whenever voicing their complaints about bike lanes and other parallel, segregated facilities.
But I am not getting into the debate about bike lanes pro or con here.
John Forester has authored a very interesting document in which he tries to find common ground between the VC advocates and the facilities advocates. You can read the entire document here, but I wanted to grab John’s summary and show it:
5.2 Reforming the Traffic Laws
It is undeniable fact that the governmental program for bicycle transportation is largely based on the motorists’ system for restricting bicycling for the convenience of motorists. It is also undeniable fact that the bicycle advocates have misled themselves into supporting the motorists’ anti-cyclist program by demanding more and more of the facilities that implement it. It is not the facilities themselves that produce the anti-cyclist effects. As argued above, it is quite possible, and eminently desirable, to accommodate both cyclists who like bikeway cycling and cyclists who prefer vehicular cycling. The villainy resides in the three prohibitory laws by which bikeway-style, cyclist-inferiority style, cycling is legally enforced:
- The law prohibiting cyclists from riding away from the edge of the roadway
- The law prohibiting cyclists from riding outside a bike lane
- The law prohibiting cyclists from using the roadway when a path is nearby
Just so long as any of those three laws remain in effect, the governmental program for bicycle transportation is an anti-cyclist program designed to make motoring more convenient.
5.2.1 Vehicular Cyclists
Vehicular cyclists understand this well enough, but they need to transfer their efforts from opposition to bikeways to really significant opposition to the three oppressive laws.
5.2.2 Bicycle Advocates
Bicycle advocates must come to understand that they can unify the cycling community only by producing strong opposition to the three discriminatory laws that both make bikeway operation more difficult and dangerous, and require vehicular cyclists to oppose bikeways.
Politicians who support the bicycle program must be made to realize that, unless they tie this support to effective opposition to the three discriminatory laws, they will be exposed as toadying to the motoring interests
Some may quibble over some of John’s facts, and have some healthy skepticism over some of his statistics supporting his arguments. And I personally don’t like the term “inferior”. But I really do like how he has framed what should be the central tenant of a local, state, or national advocacy program: the removal of restrictive laws and the affirmation of bicycles and cyclists as legitimate vehicles and users of the road. That first and foremost — all other advocacy takes a second seat behind it.
Agree or disagree? Your thoughts please on what should be first and foremost in bicycle advocacy…