Integrated vs Segregated: Come to the Dark Side

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?

Join us

Bike Auckland is the non-profit organisation working to improve things for people on bikes. We’re a people-powered movement for a better region. We speak up for you – and the more of us there are, the stronger our voice!

Suggest a new ride