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The Book
Introduction - Contents - Reviews - Publication & Purchase Details
North American Edition

Definition: Vehicular cycling

The style of cycling taught in Cyclecraft is sometimes referred to as vehicular cycling. This is cycling in accordance with the rules of the road as an integral part of traffic. Vehicular cyclists seek to cooperate with other drivers, to mutual benefit, while always being prepared for situations that might otherwise make them vulnerable. This way of cycling is quite different from acting as a pedestrian when it is more difficult to influence traffic and which therefore much more deference is required.

Vehicular cycling is an American term, but describes the traditional way of cycling in the UK, as practised over many generations. With only a few exceptions (highlighted in this publication), it's achievable by most people and doesn't depend upon the physique of the cyclist.

Although vehicular cycling is most often referred to in the context of cycling on the roads, its principles also define the safest way to cycle anywhere, including cycle paths and other special infrastructure. However, cyclists need to take account of the limitations of some cycle facilities, as described in Chapter 13.


The National Standard for Cycle Training and Bikeability

The content of Cyclecraft is closely associated with the National Standard for Cycle Training and Bikeability – the Department for Transport's national cycle training programme. Each new edition of Cyclecraft benefits from feedback obtained as a result of development of both the National Standard and Bikeability.

Who will benefit from Cyclecraft?

Cyclecraft is intended for:

The content could also be useful to other road users and those involved professionally with road safety, driving instruction and the design and use of the highway network, in order to understand the principles of good cycling and the difficulties that cyclists sometimes face.

Most reasonably fit people should be capable of learning the skills that are taught. However, a key consideration is that you should become competent at each stage before progressing further, taking care not to proceed too quickly, nor beyond your capabilities at any time. Gradual acclimatisation to cycling in traffic is the best approach, getting used to more demanding traffic situations one by one. People who are particularly slow, timid or nervous may need patience and perseverance to learn the more advanced skills, but they are encouraged to try, and to seek the help of a National Standard cycle training instructor if necessary.

The advice given in Cyclecraft applies to all types of cycle in common use, although the limitations of some may make it difficult to tackle some of the more advanced manoeuvres. Chapter 3 compares the characteristics of various types of machine, and other chapters refer to significant differences in riding technique as necessary. For most of this guide, however, it's assumed that you have a large-wheel multi-geared hybrid, road or touring bicycle, as these types are the most versatile for cycling in traffic.

Introductory Chapter   Extract from book

Cycling for health, enjoyment and you

Cycling is a wonderful activity. It is the most efficient means of travelling, a pastime that can be enjoyed by young and old alike, one of the best ways to maximise health and well-being and a completely sustainable mode of transport. Almost everyone is able to cycle and, for a child, learning to ride a bike is an important landmark in their development as an independent person.

Many people would like to cycle or to cycle more. However, the traditional myths that cycling is hard work and slow have been augmented in recent years by the perception that cycling is also inevitably unsafe. Many people fear riding in today's traffic, on roads too often designed primarily for motor vehicles, and feel that there is little cyclists can do to protect themselves from the hazards present.

Experienced cyclists know otherwise. They know that by controlling their machine correctly and using appropriate riding techniques, cycling can be not only safe but also fun. Learning to ride efficiently means that cycling is seldom strenuous and is frequently a very speedy means of getting about, particularly in towns. One of the key challenges for someone learning to cycle is to overcome the prejudices and misconceptions that have become part of cycling folklore.

Research has clearly demonstrated that the modest risks in cycling are hugely outweighed by the health benefits; cycling regularly is the single most effective action you can take to increase your life span. Cyclists, on average, live longer than non-cyclists and experience much less ill health. They are 12 times less likely to die of heart disease. Whatever the negative effects of sharing the roads with heavy traffic, it is evident that, on balance, cycling leads to longer and healthier lives. Moreover, when you choose to cycle rather than to travel by car, everyone benefits from reductions in pollution and congestion.

If you learn to cycle skilfully you will enhance your ability to use the roads in safety. Although you will encounter much bad driving, most of it can be anticipated and its effects avoided. Surveys suggest that competent cyclists are much less likely to be involved in a conflict, and vulnerability generally decreases as a rider's skill and experience increase.

How Cyclecraft can help you to cycle well

Cyclecraft teaches cycling technique in a similar way to how someone is taught to drive a car – that is, how to learn the skills and confidence to ride with traffic, not fear it. It aims to maximise your safety and riding efficiency, while minimising inconvenience to others and wear to your machine.

Advice is given on how to deal with all common road situations, recognising how impractical it often is to avoid the more difficult ones. It follows the supposition, well endorsed by skilled riders, that the only way to be safe is to learn to control a cycle as a vehicle and to read and respond to what is going on around you. For this reason the cyclist is frequently referred to as a 'vehicle driver', for that is what you must be. Cyclecraft also outlines the problems experienced by other road users; by taking these into account, you can react in the ways most likely to benefit your journey.

This guide doesn't excuse the bad behaviour that is sometimes evident on today's roads; nor does it excuse some road designs that can be particularly difficult for more vulnerable road users. Conditions for cycling should improve in future, but in the meantime anyone wishing to cycle has to come to terms with present circumstances. Also most cyclists could do more to make themselves safer, for they sometimes make conditions more difficult than they need be. Although motorists are most often primarily at fault in crashes with adult cyclists, many conflicts could be avoided by the cyclist riding more diligently. Children, too, can achieve similar levels of safety by cycling skilfully. Cyclecraft is therefore all about how to deal with the existing and imperfect state of affairs, rather than lamenting the fact that conditions could be better.

Cyclecraft isn't concerned with setting examples to others. Although a skilled rider will often do this as a matter of course, a cyclist is too vulnerable to follow rigid rules irrespective of the risk. Cyclecraft shows how to respond to actual conditions rather than acting as a strict rule book.

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