John Forester (cyclist)

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John Forester (born 7 October 1929) is an American industrial engineer specializing in bicycle transportation engineering. A noted cycling activist, he is known as "the father of vehicular cycling",[1] and for creating the Effective Cycling program of bicycle training along with its associated book of the same title. His published works also include Bicycle Transportation: A Handbook for Cycling Transportation Engineers.[2]

Early life[edit]

Born in East Dulwich, London, England, Forester is the elder son of the writer and novelist C. S. Forester and his wife Kathleen. He moved with his family to Berkeley, California, in March 1940 and attended public schools there until after his parents' divorce, when he finished high school at a preparatory school on the East Coast.[3] Thereafter, he attended the University of California at Berkeley,[3] starting as a physics major, but graduating with a Bachelor's degree in English in August, 1951.[citation needed] Following a brief stint in the U.S. Navy in the early 1950s during the Korean War, Forester eventually settled in California to become, as he describes, "an industrial engineer,[4] a senior research engineer, a professor, and, of all things, an expert in the science of bicycling".[3]

In April 1966, Forester's father died. The unexpectedly large estate, its contents, and its disposition proved to Forester that his father, whom he had loved and admired, had consistently lied to him for years, and strongly suggested evidence of another secret life. That discovery was a traumatic experience, and led to his biography of his father, Novelist and Story Teller: The Life of C. S. Forester.

Cycling advocacy[edit]

From early childhood, Forester had been a passionate cyclist.[3] Following his father's death, his attention increasingly focused on cycling, racing and brevet touring.[citation needed] In the 1960s, he and his wife divorced, and he met Dorris L. Taylor, a visiting cyclist from Minneapolis.[3] Taylor and her daughters moved in with Forester the following year and joined him in his pursuit of cycling.[3] In 1973 Forester dedicated himself to full-time cycle advocacy.[citation needed]

Forester first involved himself locally, arguing against the installation of segregated bicycle facilities in the city of Palo Alto, facilities that were based on Netherlands designs adapted for American use and had been recommended to the California Department of Transportation by two researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles. His first published article appeared in the January/February 1973 issue of Bike World, a regional Northern California bimonthly magazine.

In May 1973, his focus broadened as the Food and Drug Administration (later the Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC) issued extensive product safety regulations for bicycles. Originally intended only for children's bicycles, the regulations were soon expanded to include all bicycles except for track bikes and custom-assembled bicycles. In October of that year, Forester published an article in Bike World denouncing both the California Department of Transportation and the CPSC. He targeted the new CPSC regulations, especially the "eight reflector" system, which required front, rear, wheel and pedal reflectors. The front reflector is placed at the location for a bicycle headlight, which it replaces. However, motor vehicle drivers who are about to cross the path of the cyclist would not see the approaching cyclist because the headlights of their motor vehicle do not shine onto the front reflector of the bicycle, often resulting in a crash. (Only if the bicycle is directly in front of the car and only if the bicycle is headed the wrong way, will the car's headlights illuminate the bicycle's front reflector, until the inevitable head-on crash.)

After the rules were finalized, Forester sued the CPSC. Acting as his own lawyer (pro se), Forester did not understand that United States federal law did not grant jurisdiction to the appeals court to review the technical merit of the rules (a so-called "de novo" review) unless the procedure used to create the rules was flawed. The CPSC argued that a challenger must prove the process was "arbitrary and capricious." The judge ordered a de novo review of the rules; threw out four of them, but left the "eight reflector" standard untouched.[5] Forester, emboldened by this partial success, proceeded to launch further challenges to administrative rules in court, but did not duplicate that early success.

In addition to legal advocacy, Forester is known for his theories regarding cycling safety.[6] His Effective Cycling educational program, developed subsequent to his research demonstrating that integrating motorists and educated cyclists reduces accidents more than creating separate bicycle lanes, was implemented by the League of American Bicyclists (formerly, the League of American Wheelmen) until Forester withdrew his permission for that organization to use the name.[6]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Aschwanden, Christie (November 2, 2009), "Bikes and cars: Can we share the road?", The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles), "Forester is the father of the "vehicular cycling" movement -- a philosophy that views the bicycle as a form of transportation that belongs on the streets alongside cars." 
  2. ^ Forester, John (1994). Bicycle Transportation: A Handbook for Cycling Transportation Engineers (Second ed.). Preface: MIT Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-262-56079-5. "This book is the third form of my book on cycling transportation engineering. A first version appeared under the title of Cycling Transportation Engineering Handbook (Custom Cycle Fitments, 1977), and the first formal edition was Bicycle Transportation (The MIT Press, 1983)." 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Forester, John. My history Forester Website. Accessed November 1, 2007.
  4. ^ State of California, Department of Consumer Affairs. "John Forester, Industrial Engineer, License # 236". Board of Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists. 
  5. ^ "Forester v. Consumer Product Safety Commission". 559 F. 2d 774 - Court of Appeals, Dist. of Columbia Circuit 1977. Retrieved 27 November 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Smith, David. The bicycle driver. Cranked Magazine #5, pp. 22–25. Accessed November 1, 2007.

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