A few months ago I reviewed The Bikeable Church, authored by cyclist, urbanologist, and missiologist Sean Benesh. Benesh’s most recent work, The Bohemian Guide to Urban Cycling, broadens the scope to track and examine both the urban cyclist, and the city he cycles in.
If Benesh wrote this book for anyone, he wrote it for me. I’m an engineer with a bent toward land-use planning and transportation issues, an enthusiastic urban cyclist, and a former (as of just a couple of months ago) owner of a transportation-focused bike shop. The book is probably for you too, if you are interested in bikes and people.
From helmet use to land use, and from planning your ride to finding your tribe, Benesh takes the reader on a wide-ranging ride to look at everything you have typically pondered about urban cycling, and then on to a cargo bike full of issues you didn’t know were issues. About the only thing not addressed is how to wrench on your ride, but that is well covered in other books and online. This unique book stands apart.
Throughout, Benesh is concerned about making the connections between how and why we ride (and why we don’t ride) and our urban context. He is concerned to help the reader “understand where we ride and the influences, changes and happenings in cities that impact this conversation on urban cycling.”
The read is loose and conversational, but the material will keep your mind engaged (no coasting!) as it variously reflects Benesh’s academic credentials and his practical from-the-saddle perspective, gained from mile upon mile of pedaling his singlespeed around Portland (and other cities).
From suggestions on what to wear (bottom line: “…just be yourself, be comfortable, and wear normal stuff”) and what to ride (bottom line: a bike), to discussions about gentrification and the bicycle as a vehicle of empowerment, Benesh offers a fresh and interesting perspective on how a bike shapes, and is shaped by, the urban environment.
For the urban cyclist who wants to dig a bit deeper into their understanding of how they fit in to the flow of the city; for the wonk who relishes putting all the urban land use and transportation puzzle pieces together; and even for the newbie cyclist who just needs some encouragement to pull the bike out of the garage, The Bohemian Guide will be a worthwhile read. You are guaranteed to learn something, and I’m pretty sure it’ll be with a smile. Go ride.