Are you a Foresterite or a Luskite?
I’m no liar.
A while back, I said I’d report to you all on my reading of Jeff Mapes’
Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities. Ready? Here we go!
In relation to my reading, the question I’m asking all of you, and trying to answer for myself, is this: Are you a Foresterite or a Luskite?
No, we’re not trying to sort out some kind of neo-Soviet political issue. Rather, we’re trying to sort out a long-standing cycling issue. First, a little history is needed.
John Forester is a long-time bicycle advocate who has worked to defend cyclists’ right to public roads since the 1970s. A strong proponent of “vehicular cycling,” in which cyclists behave like motorists, he developed his own cycling education curriculum and wrote the book Effective Cycling.
“Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles,” Forester says.
A Foresterite believes that improved education on cycling in traffic is the answer to the cycling problem.
Anne Lusk is a researcher at the Harvard University School of Public Health, who pushes for separate bikeways that cater to more cautious or less experienced cyclists. She says that it is only the strong, experienced, elite cyclists who are content with the current system and that everyone else is either dissatisfied or simply not cycling.
“Motorists have their space [on the street], pedestrians have their space on the sidewalk, and cyclists need their space too,” says one Luskite cycling advocate.
A Luskite believes that increasing the number of bike lanes and cycletracks will increase overall cycling.
So, while united in their affinity for two-wheelers, cycling advocates have different views on exactly what that aim is and how to reach it. Foresterites might be seen as practical rationalists, seeking to alter their behavior in response to the existing environment. Whereas Luskites might be seen as radical reformers, seeking to create an environment that is congruent with their behavior and values.
The question boils down to which is better for future of cycling: Separate bikeways vs. Vehicular cycling?
Active NCG reader and friend, Pawl, shared with me this super-cool bike movie, which deals with issues closely tied to the Forester/Lusk debate.
There are a lot of social issues tied up in this question too. For instance, Lusk believes that cycling should be a universal form of transportation and physical exercise that benefits people, communities, and the environment. However, by her measure, the current system really only serves healthy, cycling, white men.
“You can’t improve the population of white males that is already skinny,” she says. Instead, she wants to create bikeways that are inviting, safe, and comfortable for everyone.
Forester’s retort: “Contrary to popular belief, cycling in traffic is neither particularly difficult nor particularly dangerous.”
A Foresterite might point out that even with miles and miles of bikeways, cyclists are going to have to enter motorist-centric roadways now and then, so they should be equipped with the knowledge and skills to navigate them. They might point to groups like the League of American Bicyclists, who offer lots of information and courses and are increasingly targeting their education efforts on children—presumably of all colors, sexes, and BMIs.
The issue can also get political. Forester has and continues to lobby for legal rights for cyclists.
“When motorists complain about these damned bicyclists,” he says, “I say, ‘It’s your own damned fault, because you have insisted for 40 years that bicyclists stay out of your way.’”
Meanwhile, Lusk is fighting city officials who, in an effort to prevent cyclist/motorist conflict, reject proposals for bikeways near roadways.
“We could do nothing and not have the cycletrack and nobody would die,” she says in response, “but you have nobody cycling and nobody getting physical activity.”
A sticky issue, no doubt, but if you had to pick one—Foresterite or Luskite—which are you?