Bike Nation: How Cycling Can Save the World
by Peter Walker
published by: Yellow Jersey Press, rrp £12.99, in the UK
reviewed by Andy Brown
For an online magazine advocating the idea of riding a bike for the sheer joy of it you would expect the Just Ride the Bike team to be advocates of Peter Walker’s book, Bike Nation: How Cycling Can Save the World. So, here’s the short version of this book review. We agree with Pete. Buy this book.
Even if you don’t get past the first few chapters the arguments he makes, backed up with excellent, thorough and what feels like good old fashioned journalistic research are superb. It is unlikely anyone who is not a fan of cycling will buy it – but you could either use the arguments Walker outlines when arguing with the anti-bike lobby down the pub, or give them a copy. Yes, it is that good.
It is the book that everyone keen to champion bike riding will have dreamt of writing. What’s more, the timing is right – and it cements Walker's place in the hierarchy of wise cycling pundits. He states, with some conviction, that a revolution on the roads is approaching. The publishing blurb asks: is it time for drivers to give way? Walker takes the reader on a balanced journey around the world, exploring the varying attitudes to cycling on our highways. But whilst it is a journey, you are never in doubt about its destination and conclusions.
Publisher: Yellow Jersey (6 April 2017)
You will be reassured by the educational visits to the shining examples of Amsterdam and Copenhagen, where cycling culture is an intrinsic part of the approach of politicians and officials. You might be frustrated by the descriptions of the less welcoming roads of Britain, USA and Australia, where cycling can still be a terrifying experience.
Walker’s skill is pointing up the lessons learned by the Dutch and the Danes and comparing them to other nations. He reveals the missed opportunities made by planners and he clarifies why there might be the odd bit of aggression towards the cycling community. At times, like a decent challenging ride anywhere, it is not always comfortable. But like a ride on a bike it is inspiring and ultimately positive – so in theory good for your mental health.
And if the book doesn’t work for you – get on your bike. After all, he states that “people who commuted by bike had a 40 per cent lower chance of dying during the fifteen-year course of the project than those who didn’t. That’s not far short of a miracle. "If these benefits could be administered in an injection, it would be considered one of the greatest medical breakthroughs of all time.” That is one of my favourite quotes, which I intend to use in an argument sometime very soon.
Buy this book. It is brilliant.