Bike Facilities and Vehicular Cycling

There is the same diversity of opinion on bicycling issues as there is among any large group of people with a common interest. To clarify where Georgia Bikes stands on the topic of bicycle facilities and vehicular cycling, please see our statement below.

The mission of Georgia Bikes is "to promote bicycling and improve bicycling conditions throughout Georgia." It is our view that, as advocates, we should be pushing for the best combination of laws, public awareness, policies and infrastructure that will achieve these goals.

Nationally, and here in Georgia, there is a small but vocal minority of skilled cyclists who insist there is no place for bicycle facilities and that such facilities actually decrease cyclist safety. Die-hard adherents to this "vehicular cycling" philosophy argue that since bicycles are considered vehicles, we should focus solely on public education, "Share the Road" campaigns, and enforcement of the three foot passing law.

On the other side of the debate are those who point to the impressive share of trips made by bicycle in cities like Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Portland, and other places where physically separated infrastructure creates welcoming, safe spaces for bicycling by all ages and abilities. Our own statewide survey in 2011 found an overwhelming majority of Georgians who would love to ride for fitness and transportation but who are justifiably concerned about sharing space with fast-moving motor vehicle traffic. Numerous studies point to the un-met needs of those who are interested in bicycling but concerned for their safety.

In our view, effective advocacy is a hybrid of both approaches.

All motorists and people driving bicycles should know their legal rights and responsibilities and should operate in a courteous manner that respects everyone's right to the public roadways. Where well-designed bike facilities do not yet exist, where they are poorly maintained or unusable, or where they do not safely serve an intended destination, bicyclists should be familiar with the core principles of vehicular cycling to ensure that they are riding responsibly and defensively:

  • Obey all traffic signs and signals
  • Ride on the right-hand side of the road with the flow of traffic, never against it from Bikeyface.com
  • Signal your intentions, scan and yield before changing lanes or making a turn
  • Maximize your visibility with lights, reflectors, and hi-vis apparel
  • Position yourself in the center of the lane when turning left, avoiding hazards, traveling through an intersection, or when the lane is too narrow to share safely with a motor vehicle
  • Ride predictably and defensively

While these vehicular cycling principles are proven techniques for increasing cyclist safety in shared lane situations, substantial data points to the fact that the best way to increase cyclist safety is to get more people riding bikes. The most effective way to get more people riding bikes is to create conditions that people find safe, welcoming, and convenient for riding. Places that have successfully created such conditions have done so, time and again, through the conscientious planning and construction of a quality, networked system of separated bike facilities that can be accessed and navigated by all ages and abilities.

from Bikeyface.comDespite what you may read or hear, absolutely no advocacy organization in Georgia is opposed to any cyclist's right to use the public roadway, nor is there any legislative campaign existing or planned to diminish your right to ride on the road. That right was a hard-fought gain and is a cornerstone of all present bicycle advocacy.

 

Nevertheless, a strictly vehicular cycling approach fails to address the valid concerns of the majority of potential cyclists, especially in urban areas. Most people are not interested in group training rides and have zero tolerance for being "buzzed" by an angry motorist. Quality bike facilities appeal to their concerns and have been proven over and over again to increase ridership, which in turn makes motorists more aware of bicyclists, causing them to be safer drivers around all cyclists.

We are confident that our programs and advocacy campaigns will benefit the greatest number of bicyclists in Georgia by protecting existing rights to the road, educating motorists and bicyclists on safe, lawful road behavior, and by pushing for urban and suburban facilities that will appeal to the broadest audience of existing and potential bicycle users.