The growing popularity of riding a bicycle for transportation has seemingly left the industry and popular media casting about for a way to categorize the phenomenon. Using a bicycle for getting to work, taking the kids to school or running errands around town has been assigned labels that include commuter, cargo and utility. Even “slow” cycling. How refreshing that Elly Blue, the Portland-based writer, commentator and bike lane veteran, calls it what it is in her new book: Everyday Bicycling.
For those who have already made cycling part of their lives, and most especially for those new to two-wheeled transportation – and here, I can’t help thinking about all those who pulled bicycles from storage in the wake of Hurricane Sandy – Blue’s compact primer is a gem.
The same common-sense and inclusive approach that informs Blue’s popular blog Taking the Lane, shines through in Everyday Bicycling. Reading this well-researched volume is like sitting down over coffee with the author, who confides in thoughtful detail, secrets to making cycling a practical, safe, economical and fun feature of daily living. This lines up with Blue’s own experience: In her book, she expresses pleasure in and acknowledges the community of cyclists who helped her learn and gain confidence over her past 15 years of riding. Blue also shares this important bit of advice:
“You will at times encounter people who have strong and often loud opinions about every aspect of how you ride…Listen to them if you like, but don’t let their opinions and theories override your own experiences, knowledge and needs.”
The book is divided into six chapters on topics including how to ride, integrating cycling into daily life, buying and maintaining a bike, carrying cargo, family bicycling and advocacy. While some information about defensive riding in urban centers, basic maintenance and what to wear will be familiar to those who have read other guides, there is plenty to chew on here. I particularly enjoyed the sections on carrying things by bike, including fragile items, weather-specific tips and road etiquette. The final chapter on organizing rides and engaging in local advocacy is particularly useful and timely as cycling continues to gain momentum as a smart transportation alternative.
Although few new books would anticipate their own obsolescence, Blue’s does so with gusto, looking to the day when cycling is so ordinary and taken for granted that people will just hop onto bikes and ride every day “without needing to read a book like this one.”
Also recommended: Click on the link to read our review!