The Enlightened Cyclist (Review)

The Enlightened Cyclist (Review)

Hey, I like BikeSnob’s writing – he’s a blogger who is going big with his books. Good for him.

He also writes in a witty, flowing fashion.


(You knew there was a but coming)

The Enlightened Cyclist is a look at the idea of commuting by bike (something I do two to three times a week) (see my bike blog on this site for my postings). I love cycling in the worst city in the United States for bikes. The weather is hot and/or rainy, the motorists are reckless, pushy and distracted. But it’s riding, and that’s brilliant. Beats the alternative (banging your steering wheel in rage at the motionless car ahead of you).

BikeSnob tries to spin this off into a long-view take on cycle commuting, coming up with an explanation that commuting has always been with us (from the eviction from Eden to the tribal expansion to the westward movement to everything in between). That, he says, is “commuting”.

But… I don’t agree with that assessment.

He goes on to categorize bad behavior by cars (all of which I’ve experienced) and bad behavior by cyclists (which I’ve seen). In this, he takes the line that it’s nobody’s fault, humans are humans, and can’t we just get along?

Okay, I agreed with his idea that nobody is “bad” yet cyclist are “better”; we are “enlightened” commuters because we commute with joy in our hearts. We have obtained a higher level of commuter consciousness, being more aware of our environment and ourselves. Also, that throwing anger at other commuters (in the form of a shouted “cocksucker!”) doesn’t help. I agree. There is much of this the reader can carry away, rethinking his or her behavior while making the daily run from A to B.

I’m not sure I consider the playing field “level” for blame, however. Motorists are guilty of a great deal of things – inattentiveness, criminal negligence (i.e. the typical texting cocksucker), reckless endangerment, all those things. Every year, motorists kill hundreds of cyclists. The worst a cyclist can do is make a motorist take his car to the bodyshop (oh, and feel “sad” about what he did to that poor, poor cyclist. Really, I didn’t see him at all).

Yes, this is a pet subject with me. Maybe I’m just not that “enlightened”. Maybe I’m pissed at being threatened and endangered for years (often for nothing more than a person trying to get into a store parking lot a little quicker). The simple fact of the matter is this: Curious cyclists might read this book. Typical motorists will not. They don’t care. If they cared, they’d look at the last near miss and death brush they caused, go home, shudder over a stiff drink, and say, “Jesus Christ, but I was a total cocksucker today”. But they won’t. They are typical motorists. They’ve been driving for years and yet they don’t know how to signal and how to turn their lights on in the rain (and sometimes even the dark). They are beyond any “teachings”.

Look, don’t take this wrong. This is a good book, a funny and breezy read. If you’ll ride, you’ll enjoy it (if only from the storytelling of BikeSnob’s own near misses). He makes some good points. Read his thoughts, consider his points, and figured where you’ll take it.

If you ride, you probably think for yourself. Do it here. But enjoy the book. It’s fun!


(Postscript – gotten some comments about my salty language in this one. Well, I was following the Author’s running joke about that word and its common use between cyclists and motorists. Using it here was probably over the top. I’m waiting to hear back from Mom on this one…)