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Peter Walker may just have written the most convincing argument ever seen for 'how cycling can save the world', but I fear that he may also have wasted his time. Unless something unprecedented happens, the only people who are likely to read this book are those who already agree with the sentiment, but the people who need to be persuaded will probably never be aware that it exists.
It is doubly frustrating when the case presented for us becoming a 'Bike Nation' is so comprehensive, clear, and compelling: 'the book is ultimately about everyday riders [dressed in ordinary clothes], and the astonishing and varied ways in which they can transform the urban environment and way of life for the better'.
Chris Boardman has contributed to many books, but nearly all relate to his previous careers; in his new capacity as a campaigner for cycling facilities and a supporter of utility cycling, he states that 'Peter Walker has written the book that I wanted to write' – which is a more valuable endorsement than anything that I can say.
Like many of you, I use both bikes and cars, and like to think that in the right circumstances there is a place for both; unfortunately most of the interactions or debates between the two groups (such as those often reported on this website) seem to involve people who have no appreciation for the other party's position. This may be through a simple lack of understanding '' or possibly because some people always behave like twats, regardless of what they are doing.
While you rarely get the chance to put your point of view across in such situations, if you did want to rehearse what you wished you had said at the time, this book will be a godsend. Walker provides invaluable information on every discussion that you are likely to encounter when making the case for cycling, and from the chapter headings you can tell that he gets right to the point: examples include 'The miracle pill: bikes make everyone more healthy', 'Fear and near misses: the battle to feel safe on the roads', 'Why cyclists are hated', and 'If helmets are the answer, you're asking the wrong question'.
That last one questions the idea of making helmets use compulsory, 'or even to overly encourage them as a supposed safety panacea' – and is likely to be the most contentious, even (or should that be especially?) among those who have not read it.
This book should be sufficient to convince rational people that we would all benefit from a society that is less centred on motor vehicles and more open to the benefits of cycling, and it gives useful examples of how things have been made to work better. The Dutch experience is normally quoted at this point, but it is reassuring to hear about the many other success stories.
As part of his research Walker travelled across the world, and reports on an episode of the Australian television programme Family Feuds, which 'pitches two teams of families against each other to guess the most common answer to largely inconsequential questions put in advance to a panel of the public'. The question was 'What is something annoying that a cyclist might do?' The most frequent answer was 'Ride in your car lane'. What?
That sums up why things need to change, but also the size of the challenge. You and I are likely to agree with virtually everything that Walker advocates, but unfortunately there are plenty out there who don't – and probably never will.
Excellent book that makes a strong case for how society benefits from an increase in everyday cycling
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bike Nation How Cycling Can Save the World by Peter Walker
Size tested: paperback
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
From Yellow Jersey Press:
A revolution on the roads is approaching. Is it time for drivers to Give Way? Guardian news correspondent, Peter Walker, takes us on a journey around the world, exploring the varying attitudes to cycling on our highways.
Visit the shining examples of Amsterdam and Copenhagen, where cycling culture is an intrinsic part of the approach of politicians and officials. How have these cities made provision for cyclists and what are the extraordinary benefits?
And then take to the less welcoming roads of Britain, USA and Australia, where cycling can still be a terrifying experience. What are the tragic mistakes being made when planning and developing cities, and how do these mistakes lead to aggression towards the cycling community?
Millions of us find ourselves frustrated by the motor mentality and fighting for our rights to ride. This brilliant, shocking investigation will prepare you with all you need to know to confidently claim your place on the road.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Title: Bike Nation
Author: Peter Walker
Publisher: Yellow Jersey Press
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It comes across as a sensible and level-headed campaign, and not from the lunatic fringe.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Anyone who supports the arguments will love this book, and that is how I have scored it; those who would never agree with the proposals will want a much lower score - but they won't read it anyway.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,