57 of 75 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Okay, I love cycling. I average between 60 to 100 miles a week. I don't race. I don't train. I ride mostly in the Los Angeles area. I go to the doctor, the store, the post office. meetings. I am an urban cyclist. And when I talk to my fellow drivers, many tell me how much they would love to get on a bike, but with the traffic they are just too afraid. Robert Hurst, author of "The Art of Cycling" likes that these people are too afraid to cycle. He wants you to be too afraid to cycle. There is nary more than a passing mention of the joy of cycling in here. What Robert wants to tell everyone is that cycling is dangerous, deadly and that you will get hurt, badly, and that if you do, you are lucky. I'm not joking. It is all disguised within the book, because Robert first gives us a nice potted history of cycling, motoring and urban growth patterns in the 20th century. Then he gives his "invocation," where he says it is our duty to show others how "easy it is" to ride in the city. Then he states, "Ride with fear and joy." What follows for the next 200-plus pages is a whole lot of fear. He starts by telling us that our streets are really not suitable for riding, that we have bad pavement, potholes, cracks, seams and waves. His advice: find a route, memorize it, and don't vary from it because if you do, you are taking your life in your hands. Scared yet? Oh, it gets better. Next, Hurst wants to tell you how to ride your bike in the city. His first pronouncement is that if you ride with the traffic laws, you can expect "a few trips to the MRI room." Great! What rules are we supposed to follow? Hard to say. Maybe blow through Stop signs (a common activity for cyclists at empty 4-ways), but mostly, he implores riders to just ride scared. No driver is predictable. And if they hit you, it is probably your fault. He announces that you will get "doored" (have a car door open into you as you ride). You will get hit. You will be injured. A lot of his ultimate advice is basic city cycling technique, but it is buried under a mountain of fear-mongering. Slowly, part of Hurst's problems come into focus. The later you get into the book, you get a better idea of the chip on his shoulder. He rants against "strict" vehicular cycling (a term I didn't really know before reading this book)--that is cycling as traffic in the middle of the lane, stop at ever sign, signal like a car without blinkers. I have no stake in with the vehicular cyclists. But Hurst also begins poking at the notion that cyclists should be visible to drivers. He argues that you can't count on visibility with reflective vests, lights, etc. And here is where things really go off the rails. You can literally see where either the publisher or someone said, "Robert, old boy, you can't go around recommending that people cycle at night, in the city, with no lights on their bikes." But, in fact he does. "Riding at night without lights is not only possible, it can also be a very instructive drill." Oh! One might learn a great deal by performing brain surgery on yourself, too! He decries "the alter of Visibility". Mr, Hurst, cars hit things they don't see. Ride to be seen. Light up your bike and body at night. Riding without lights is not a good idea for anyone. Of course, at the end of his ode to light-less riding, he states that he was only speaking theoretically and "the author must insist" on proper lighting. I think by "author" he means "the publisher" or "the editor". He goes on to detail the dangers of riding with fellow cyclists ("highly experienced cyclists," he snobbishly states, "will express a preference for riding alone.") Then comes Chapter 4. This chapter is all about bicycle injury stats! Ready to ride now? Maybe you should know that "Clearly the pain and danger of cycling has been underrepresented in many statistical surveys." Whee! Oh, he claims that all injury stats are pretty bogus, and waxes poetically about the likelihood of getting road rash, a broken collar bone and severe head injuries. Think I'm joking? "Road rash is a precious gift. Road rash is your friend. Bask in it, appreciate it, love it." You can't make this stuff up. His point is that you will be a safer cyclist after planting your face on the pavement, going to the ER or just getting a square meter of skin rubbed off your body. Or maybe you will just quit before you fall. Because, according to Hurst, you will fall, and get hurt. He has more good news: that helmet you wear, it's junk. If I had to bet, I'd bet Hurst doesn't use one. He devotes a few pages to "the helmet controversy" initially painting it as bike riders thinking that their helmets will somehow protect them from a 60 mph impact with a Ford F150. He begrudgingly admits that helmets were made to protect cyclists heads from impacts in the 10 to 15 mph range (this being the actual maximum speed of the vast majority of cyclist falls). But he's right there to let you know that there could be accidents where the helmet could do more damage than good, one where the helmet gets caught on a bumper and you head gets twisted. Oh-kaaay. This is like the extremely rare group of accidents in a car where the seatbelt does more injury to the occupant than the impact would have. Sure, there is a miniscule chance of having that accident, but it is about as good as winning the lottery. Again, he says "wear a helmet" with the someone-told-me-to-say-this tone of the scolded child. Ready for more good news? Hurst puts in a couple of pages listing all the poisons in car emissions, then details special ways for cyclists to breathe. I'm not joking. He asks the question, "does air pollution cancel the health benefits of cycling?" His "joy of cycling" answer? "Who knows?" This is a quote, folks. Yes, he does go on to state that he thinks its better to ride, but by this point (page 197), he has either scared his readers or pissed them off or both. He makes swipes at biking clothes. He rails against panniers (bags that attach to racks on the front or back of a bike), even citing "anti-pannier" sentiment. Okay, you've read my rant. Here's my response to the book: Cycling is great fun. Wear a helmet. Wear bright, reflective clothes. If you might be out anywhere near dark, have good lights in front and back and if possible clipped to you and your helmet. Signal to drivers. They appreciate it. Respect others on the road as you would want them to respect you. Pay attention when you ride. But ride. Explore. You've never seen a place the way you will see it on a bike. It is a wonderful, visceral experience. There is no right or wrong bike: 27 speed or fixed gear or BMX--just ride. I didn't mention Hurst and his long rant on the lack of safety of bike paths (which he ultimately supports, in a way), but use these. Get your kids out on them. Go slow before you go fast. But feel the wind on your face. Cycling is really not as dangerous as Hurst wants you to believe. It is a joy, and fear is not and should not be the motivation for being a safe cyclist. Respect is the key for safety. Cyclists get enough uninformed fear-mongering from non-cyclists. We don't need it from a supposed advocate. One last warning: Do not get this book for a beginning cyclist! It could easily paralyze them from ever riding again. This book is a real shame.