© 2011 ed. Amy Walker
On Bicycles collects fifty cycling pieces, collecting in categories on why biking is awesome, how gear can make it better, how biking can improve cities, and how citizens can make a more bike-friendly community happen. But it's not just about the process of getting on a two-wheeled contraption and rolling away into the sunset, because the authors often look at bicycles in the context of community.
Bicycles make good neighbors; they're quiet, except for that pleasant whooshing sound; they don't fill the air with noxious byproducts (except for coffee breath), and they're accessible to everyone while making everywhere more accessible. Accessible to the handicapped? The aged? The pregnant? Yes, yes, and yes. Bikes can be modified. They're versatile machines that can adapted to haul cargo or even serve as a taxi. Their mechanical workings are far simpler than that of a car, and are all out there in the open to see. Anyone can learn to repair a bike, and the process of tinkering and succeeding is an empowering one. Bicycles can bring people together; several interesting pieces I saw here referenced bicycle collectives, shops where people volunteer labor to help others learn to repair their own bikes, and sustaining themselves by offering repairs for free. There are also bike parties, apparently.
Travel by bicycle has its perils, like dogs, but cyclists feel their surroundings as they pass through them. They can smell the air, watch small spectacles like clouds drifting across a pond, and genuinely feel the ground beneath them. There's a reason motorcyclists refer to cars as cages. Bicycles allow their riders to make snap decisions -- if they see something they want to investigate, that's it. They can. They don't have to spend time slowing down and toodling about for a parking space, by which point the initial spark of interest may have expired. Bicycles are also uber-efficient: they use much less space than cars, they can plug into multimodal transport networks more easily than cars, and they don't chew up pavement or guzzle gas. Oh, and they're fun.
If you cycle already, like myself, then this book is a bit of preaching to the choir -- but it covers so much ground there's bound to be something new to discover. For the person who is only curious about bicycles as not just a bit of transportation, but as a part of their life, this is virtually perfect reading.
- The Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities, Jeff Mapes
- The Green Metropolis, David Owen