This girl didn't feel like vehicular cycling on Balmoral Road.
This girl didn’t feel like “vehicular cycling” across Balmoral Road. Would your children?

Blog by Ben, a CAA member

It seems not many people are aware in NZ of the great debate that has raged on and off in the cycling community between integrated cycling (also called “vehicular cycling” or “bike driving”) and segregated (or Dutch) cycling.

Integrated cycling can be summed up in one phrase from the Godfather (or Sith Lord, depending on your movie genre and position in the debate) of the movement, John Forrester: “Cyclists fare best…when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles”.

Mr Forester published a book in the 1970’s called “Effective Cycling” which was republished last year. It was very influential at the time but his integrated approach would nowadays be considered a minority view (at the risk of inflaming die-hard integrationists) – especially in the academic world. A great but scathing summary of the debate can be read here, making the case that the integrationist approach is inherently flawed. A more integrationist-friendly assessment of the topic can be found here, arguing that by insisting on separation from other traffic, cyclists are backing themseves into a corner.

Basically, integrated cycling states that cyclists should resist being shunted on to bike paths as if they were children – and should learn to ride on the ride. The phrase “take the lane” would summarise its approach to cycling safety. The fact this approach failed to increase cycling numbers in any significant way, while the Netherlands accelerated to an almost 40% modal share, has apparently not deterred some in the movement at all.

Now, as you may have guessed, despite being a very confident cyclist and actually mostly using the vehicular cyclist techniques (what choice do I have in Auckland?) I am very much in the segregationist camp. This is because I see people all around me, especially women, who are very intimidated by motor traffic and will never get out on the road, no matter how many statistics I put in front of them saying cycling is safe. And those women will not let This is because women in particular need to feel what David Hembrow calls “subjective safety”.

However, I have been swayed to concede that the integrated and segregated approaches can definitely be reconciled by this article. Even David Hembrow likes to emphasise that separated cycle infrastructure is only a very small part of the cycling treasure that is the Netherlands. A lot of Dutch cycling is also done on roads which have just been calmed to create an environment where cyclists and motorists can interact safely. This is basically the concept of cycle boulevards and cycle streets that have been so popular and effective in places like Portland, and which we are only now starting to see in Auckland – and discussion about it will be influenced by the fact that Auckland’s first bicycle boulevard is seen by many as a “second prize” after dreams of separated cycle infrastructure on the main road failed.

So where do you sit in the great debate?

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20 responses to “Integrated vs Segregated: Come to the Dark Side

  1. Hi Ben, good post, thanks for that.

    Integrated v segregated.. that’s a great question, which caused me to dig out my yellowing 1984 copy of the late great Richard Ballantine’s “Richard’s Bicycle Book”. This book changed my life.

    There’s a chapter called “fast is safe” that talks about “riding on the high side”. I put it all into practice and started riding 4 miles daily to university along a four lane road in Edinburgh. Except when it snowed.

    On the question itself, is it an either / or?

    On the one hand, segregated is better, for the cyclist. RB puts it: “For most people the single greatest deterrent to cycling is fear of an accident involving a motor vehicle.. in plain fact, cycling in traffic is dangerous.” He also points out that people attach emotional qualities of ego, status and territoriality to their cars which of course add psychological factors to the fundamental mechanical mismatch between a 1.5-tonne metal cocoon and a cyclist.

    But on the other hand, when I ride my bike (rather than drive) in the road, as RB puts, it I’m also making a kind of political statement.. cycling is fun, keeps me fit, does no damage to anyone or anything, costs next to nothing and is environmentally sustainable. Unlike driving a car.

    So, do I want to see segregated lanes proliferate all over Auckland, like Holland? Yes, of course. Would I use them rather than the road? Yes, most of the time I would go out of my way to use them. Do I want to lose the right to ride on the road? No way.. cars don’t own our roads, people do: including cyclists!

    1. Good point Tim. We want better cycle facilities without sudden, new disadvantages. Germany for example, despite being a quite cycling-friendly country otherwise, has a stupid rule that says that if there are cycle facilities, you MUST use them. Ignoring the fact that sometimes they may be crappy, badly maintained, less direct etc…

      It’s a balance.

      But right now, we are so far away from balance, that you could go for ages building new off-road infrastructure and we still wouldn’t be in balance yet. So lets go for a different kind of integrated – where integrated means “thinking of all cyclists”, not just those who are brave enough to head into heavy traffic.

      1. Or we could just do as the per the Dutch and when we build off-road cycle paths, build them to a standard that enables riders of all speeds to use them. Those kind of facilities are the only ones where you can justify keeping bikes off the road Indeed, from what I’ve read and seen, the roads are usually narrowed in order to build the off-road paths so there is intended separation for the good of all.

    2. Just reiterating what Max said – yes I dont want to see cyclists marginalised either. Obviously the road works for some types of cyclists and that is great. But we will never get the critical mass (that then creates additional safety for cyclists) with the VC approach.

      And we definitely need both approaches as not every street needs or is suited to separate cycle infrastructure. Lowering speed limits and calming traffic can create a great walking and cycling (and driving) atmosphere where we can all relax and enjoy the ride. Auckland drivers just seem to think they are in a F1 race at all times with someone timing their drive.

  2. Integration, Sharing & Caring.
    New infrustructure requires old & the new coming together. Practices of the past which dont work, cause havoc remove. Structures which are a unification of Sharing & Caring within modes of transport brings about a new fresh mindset. Where separation is a ‘Must Do’….then separate the monsters of metal, Carbon machines of the past into their own quarters…just let us Cyclist live from fear of being trampled upon, hit from behind, used as tar vs stones material.

  3. I’m not a woman, or inexperienced, but I don’t feel safe on Auckland’s roads. A painted white line does little to change my perception of danger. Most of my riding involves driving my vehicle to a place where I can ride without worrying about traffic. I would happily ride twice the distance where there is an option of an off-road cycleway.

    Having said that, I am currently in London where I am forced onto the road at times (because I don’t have a car). The proportion of bikes is much higher here, and because roads are generally narrow and congested, drivers are accustomed to travelling slowly. They are much more considerate of cyclists in my perception. Even in moderate traffic it is often faster on a bike.

    I am not confident that Auckland will ever reach this “tipping point”, because infrustructure built for cars is so much better than London, and public transport is so much worse. The lack of population density means that this is unlikely to change significantly in my opinion.

    Personally, I would like to see the majority of new investment in cycling be spent on vehicle free routes.

    1. “I’m not a woman”

      On that note, I have been – deservedly – been slapped down by another (female) engineer once for using a terminology in the line of “less experienced cyclists, women and children” in a report I did for CAA on appropriate cycle infrastructure design around Panmure.

      Implying that confidence or skill relates to age or gender was very problematic, despite a lot of evidence that women cycle much less than men in bad conditions. Or even conflating that experience equals acceptance of worse road conditions – or even necessarily any serious protection against those conditions.

      CAA tries to follow a focus on protecting those least well served by the current conditions. This would be:

      – women (who hate Auckland cycle conditions even more, on average, than men)

      – less confident cyclists, whatever their gender (because we want them to HAVE confidence, and good reason to)

      – less experienced cyclists, whatever their confidence level (because they need the help until they learn the ropes, and because they will be our growth market!)

      – children, whatever their confidence or experience (because they need some extra protection and visibility, and are also, literally our growth market!)

      Now if I only had a catchy way of combining all that without sounding like I am conflating one person of one type with another!

    2. Yes I take both your points and I am not singling out women as example of people who CANT cycle but people who WONT cycle if they FEEL (again subjective safety) unsafe. Women are more risk adverse than men in general.

      One of the best indicators of the success of cycling in a country is the proportion of women. So in the Netherlands about 55% of cyclists are women. That tells you that cycling there is very safe and accessible.

      In the Anglophone world it might be 15-20% (not sure exactly) but certainly it is pretty much an extreme sport for men in Lycra. Which is fine and those people are entitled to their place in the cycling world but it will never get us over that “tipping point” that you mentioned John. The modal share will always stagnate at 1-2%.

      I think you are being a little pessimistic John, though I agree we need the separated cycle ways to get the numbers up – hopefully to double figures which would be a huge achievement. It would be nice to have people coming to Auckland to find out why we are such a cycling success!!

      1. From the 2013 cycle count report:

        Eighty-three per cent of all cyclists observed in the Auckland region throughout the monitoring period were male and 15 per cent were female (both shares stable from last year) [Presume the missing 2% were cases were the surveyor couldn’t identify gender]

        Franklin ward had the highest proportion of male cyclists (91 per cent), while Orakei and Manurewa-Papakura wards had the greatest share of female cyclists (18 per cent each).

    1. Now look how effective and cheap that is, some paint and some plastic bollards. A great example thanks Bryce. I would be great to know what the cost was per kilometre for that. I wonder if we can find out.

      And if it doesnt work, that could be removed in a couple of days.

      1. Seems that it costs US$1.1m for the 1 mile (1.6km) stretch.

        That seems like a hell of a lot for some paint and plastic bollards. Would that also include traffic management?

        Max, can you explain why it would cost so much?

        1. Possibly because of this?

          The safety improvements along the 0.85-mile stretch of Milwaukee between Kinzie Street and Elston Avenue include: a resurfaced roadway; bike lanes in each direction that are protected from vehicular traffic with physical barriers and buffers; improved pedestrian crossings; and increased bike parking opportunities.

          For better or worse, once a road is designated for a cycle upgrade, often more things are done in the same go.

          We had a similar case at the Kingsland cycleway section on the northwestern. Cost 3.7 million for slightly over a kilometre. Of course, a lot of that cost was for noise wall improvements not really related to the cycleway!

          1. Right, so it is the phenomenon often observed on ATB that roading projects are stripped of all extraneous costs and sold as cheap (i.e. Waterview) while PT and cycling have all the costs thrown in so they appear really expensive.

            How can a resurfaced road be included in the costs? That must have been a fair chunk of that US$1.1m? Improved pedestrian crossing are again not really related to the cycling (though of course a great thing).

            The scrum is so screwed in favour of roading in the Anglophone world. Infuriating.

        2. This piece from the article emphasised the point:

          “The Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 sets forth a strategy to achieve Mayor Emanuel’s goal of making Chicago the best big city for bicycling in America. It calls for a 645-mile network of biking facilities to be in place by 2020 to provide a bicycle accommodation within half-mile of every Chicagoan.”

          645 miles before 2020!

  4. Plenty of good points made above. I agree with John, though I too am neither a woman nor inexperienced.. trying to be careful how to phrase that.. anyway the thing is I would also ride twice the distance if there were a quality off road route for my commute. I also agree that investments in that kind of cycle infrastructure are going to have the most impact on those categories of cyclists and *potential cyclists* that Max describes (even more carefully) and that the CAA rightly focuses on.

    Equally though, we need to consider the opportunity cost of every dollar invested, and the pot is so small, ludicrously tiny, almost infinitesimal it seems.

    Plus I tend to think that John’s observation about Auckland’s streets being relatively wider than London’s could work to our advantage.. fact is we have plenty of on-road space. Heaps of it in the ‘burbs. Wild excesses or tarseal, literally 10s of metres wide in places. Absurd really, but there it is. So let’s use it!

    I was thinking about the bollard placement trials in the previous post, where some very low cost but locally significant on-road improvements were done, often on a pilot basis, to dramatically improve the on-road cycling experience.. Could we identify a small number of such improvements around the city? How about one per Local Board? Maybe we could between us coordinate a different kind of low cost on-road improvement pilot in each Local Board area?

    For example, in my area, a particular arterial road comes to mind, that is heavily used by cyclists, is also a school cycling route (or would be) and which has parking on both sides, but I never see more than one car per 20 metres, if that. Along a 1 km stretch, if parking were restricted to only one side, there would be plenty of width for a good cycle lane in each direction, with a decent width of buffer lane on the outsode of each cycle lane and on the inside (the doorside) of the lane on the parking side. I have to believe that some paint.. and maybe some pastic bendy bollards or cats eyes.. could have a transformative impact.

    Alternatively, I could think of road crossings and short sections of footpath that could easily be upgraded to good cycleable standard without any substantial civil works, transforming an intersection or pinch point.

    I know any or all of these would require design and consents and project management and so on. Not at all trivial. But I feel that if we had more tangible examples that were seen to be really effective (i.e. more than just a basic white line in the door zone) maybe all parties could more easily identify best practice, extend the trials, improve them, and copy what works around the city. Today concrete changes sometimes seem too distant and/or tied to massive road building programmes.

    1. Yes Tim I think you are right. The bollards have two advantages, the first is cost and the second is that it isnt permanent (but can easily be made so). This means that opponents have the comfort that if it doesnt work, the new road configuration can easily be changed back.

      I definitely think the bollards should be pursued as a project.

      For me a great place would be the part of Lake Road running alongside the golf course. Bollards would give cyclists more protection there. In fact all of Lake Road could be designated better with plastic bollards but that might bring out the Hulk anger in the residents.

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