Book Review: How Cycling Can Save the World
Cycling could save the world, and very quickly. If we all switched to bikes for the trips for which bikes are excellent, we would be healthier, be happier, and live longer in a friendlier, cooler, and less polluted world. How we get from here to there is the subject of Peter Walker’s marvelous book.
A lifelong cyclist and reporter for the Guardian, Walker explores how a basic change in infrastructure creates a change in mindset: “This is one of the oddly fascinating things about infrastructure. It’s not the most alluring of words, reminiscent of power lines and sewage plants. But traffic infrastructure has a huge capacity to shape the way people move about and live, especially in a city.”
“Global experience over the decades has shown that if mixing with the motor traffic is your chosen bike environment, then almost all your cyclists will constitute a small group who are mainly young, predominantly male, and disproportionately gung ho.” Instead, Walker is looking to expand that sublime feeling of cycling in noticeably happier places like Denmark or the Netherlands, countries designed for cycling—a feeling that provides “a sense of my body untensing slightly. It is cycling as a relaxing pleasure, not an invigorating thrill.”
Walker’s book is packed with intriguing information: “If you want to get away with murder, do it in a car” because courts go lightly on people who run over cyclists. And he examines fears you didn’t think of: that wearing a helmet encourages drivers to pass closer to you. But the bottom line is this: “Every year about seven hundred Americans die on bikes, a figure that could and should be significantly lower. But over the same period at least two hundred thousand of their compatriots die from conditions linked to a lack of physical activity.”