65 of 67 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2004
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I found this book to be nothing short of a godsend. With over 30 years of cycling experience, I felt comfortable and competent cycling in traffic, at least in most circumstances. But this book was recommended so many times, I decided to read it anyway. At first, it didn't seem like a big deal. It all made sense, and seemed to describe how I already rode, perhaps with a few subtle differences.
But as I began to incorporate these subtle changes in my own riding the results were amazing. My relationship with car drivers completely changed. Instead of interacting with them once in a while -- only when necessary -- I became an integrated participant with the rest of traffic.
It is impossible to explain in words how just subtle lane positioning changes, and a new attitude, can make such a radical difference in one's cycling experience in traffic. But consider what Forester conveys in this simple statement: "Between intersections, position yourself according to speed; at intersections, position yourself according to destination". You may think you do this already, but based on the fact that I almost never see any cyclists do this consistently, I can almost assure you that you don't. And I'm not talking about kids and "recreational cyclists". I'm talking about experienced commuters, and experienced club riders and racers. Only a very small percentages of cyclists actually behave like a (slow) vehicle driver consistently. Much of the time on the road is spent in space "left over" by motorists, riding too far to the right, not positioning at intersections according to destination (THINK about what that means), etc. etc.
"Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles" - John Forester
This book is for you if any of the following is true:
* You want to learn to LOVE to ride your bike in traffic, not just tolerate it.
* You're tired of motorists passing you and then cutting you off when they turn in front of you, or motorists coming from the other direction cutting you off when they turn in front of you (believe it or not, if you read this book you will learn how to stop them from ever doing this to you again!).
* You are comfortable riding in bike lanes passing stopped or slow car traffic on their right.
* You think that you should assume that you're invisible to motorists, and ride accordingly.
* You don't think you should position yourself away from the edge of the road, often in the path of motorists coming from behind, in order to be more visible and predictable.
* You don't feel safe riding in traffic.
* Your greatest fear is that you will be hit from the rear.
* You don't know that almost all bike-car collisions are caused by, or could have been prevented, by the cyclist.
* You feel safer riding on shoulders and in bike lanes than "out" in the regular traffic lanes.
* You're rusty on what the laws are regarding cycling.
* You believe the best thing that can be done for cycling is building more bike lanes and bike paths.
* You've never taken any courses on cycling in traffic (like LAB's Road 1 course - see bikeleague.org).
* You don't believe cyclists have the same rights on the road as do motor vehicle drivers.
* You ride on the side of the road opposing traffic (like a pedestrian should walk).
* You ride on sidewalks.
* You value your life and want to ride your bike accordingly.
This is not the perfect book. Forester does tend to ramble, and some of the advice I don't agree with (like you don't really need a rear light at night, just a rear red reflector and a good front light). Also, some of the material, like on equipment and racing, is dated. But the chapters on riding in traffic are timeless and priceless, and so TRANSFORMATIONAL that they alone make this a 5-star book.
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2001
I used to think I knew how to bicycle. Right. After reading this book (over 8 years ago) my eyes were truly opened as to how a truly competent cyclist should operate. Even fifteen years of regular cycling for transportation and fun did not teach my half what a single reading of Effective Cycling did about using my bicycle effectively as part of traffic flow. This book cuts through the preconceptions and misconceptions about bicycle riding. After understanding and practicing the techniques Forester gives in the book, your experience of riding will be totally transformed in a way you cannot imagine. You will feel confident about handling just about any situation on a bike--rotaries, making left turns on multilane divided roads, passing through major intersections--not because you are being foolhardy but because for the first time you truly understand how to negotiate them properly and more safely than you ever did in the past, using the same traffic principles that govern the behavior of all other vehicles on the road. I can't think of many traffic situations I didn't feel confident riding in in the 8 years since I read and began applying Effective Cycling to my riding. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2000
This book is unique in its focus on the technique of sharing the road with motor vehicles. His accounts of run-ins with various government bodies are also enlightening, even though I grew impatient around the third or fourth time he recounted his experiences modifying the Uniform Vehicle Code.
His advice about equipment, diet, and the other mechanics of bicycling needs to be taken somewhat lightly. Even though this is a "second edition", much of the material in the book is considerably older. On the other hand, the fundamentals of safety (visibility, lighting, traction, lane placement, risk factors) are invariant over time.
Mr. Forester has a definite axe to grind, and this book does it quite effectively. He adds a definite splash of common sense to the fine technique of road riding: don't let other vehicles take your lane away from you, don't surprise them, safety always first, slower traffic keeps right. The safest way to bicycle on the road is not necessarily the one that educators, legislators, or law enforcement officers think it is.
This book is a must-read for any cyclist who ever shares the road with a motor vehicle.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2008
Effective Cycling contains a lot of very valuable information. Unfortunately, half of the book is mostly repetitive axe-grinding and random opinions. I would have given the book a higher rating if these necessary half were not thoroughly interwoven with the unnecessary half.
It bothers me that Forester complains about others using unsubstantiated, anecdotal evidence, because he uses plenty himself. For one example, his brief discussion of recumbent bicycles is so absurd that it should have been left out. His double-standards regarding fact vs. opinion and logic vs. emotion greatly undermine his arguments.
That said, a reader with a critical eye and a tolerance for hot air can separate the wheat from the chaff.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2000
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I knew instinctively that the road belongs to me just as much as it does to any other vehicle operator. I knew the rules of the road apply to me as a bicyclist. John Forester showed me HOW these bits of knowledge apply in the real world. More importantly, he showed me how to apply them safely and (yes, I'll say it) effectively. Riding a bicycle in traffic is a matter of negotiation with all other users of the road. If a rider inspires confidence in those other users, s/he will be safe; if the rider is erratic or hugging the last inch of pavement along the shoulder, s/he will be treated as illegitimate. John reinforces my sense of a rider's right to be, even though he is thoroughly opinionated. He sometimes diverges to side topics to the point of silliness. But "Effective Cycling," a book designed to be used as a text for safe cycling courses, is a complete treatise on normalizing the bicycle (and its operator) for the real world. If you ride in that world, or would like to, this book is worth your time and consideration.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2003
This is it -- the bible you need if you're going to be a cycle commuter, or just someone who rides more than 10 miles on a weekend. JF takes you the next step from simply pedal pushing, puts you in the league of pedal "twirling", and shows you how to:
1. Be a vehicular cyclist (ride on the road with cars without getting killed, honked off the road or intimidated.)
2. Ride on "longer" trips -- more than the few miles you can do without any clue -- by eating right, drinking right, and pedalling right.
3. Cycle commute, and enjoy doing so -- what you need and what you don't.
4. Basic repair and maintenance.
and, most importantly, how to "grow" as a cyclist. There are so many things that I know instinctively now (e.g., how to keep cadence high) that enable me to go further, easier, safer and faster that I wouldn't know where to begin.
If you're the kind of cyclist who wants to use their cycle to live better, this is the book for you. Mine's grease stained and well thumbed. (Also an enjoyable read.)
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2000
Seven years ago, I decided to pull my bike out of the basement, tune it up and start riding to work. That has been one of the best decisions I have ever made for my health. I went looking for a good general book on cycling. Picking up Effective Cycling was one of the best reading decisions I have ever made. Forester is a strident advocate of equality for cyclists on the road. But he backs it up with statistics and logic. His arguments are centered around what makes cycling safest. In the last seven years, I have logged thousands of miles, most of it in rush hour traffic. In that time, in part thanks to this book, the closest I have come to an accident has been an encounter with an unseen pothole.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This review is written narrowly for those who already have either the previous "Big Blue" or "Fat Yellow" MIT editions and are are wondering whether it's worth it to spring for this new edition.
Although listed as the "seventh edition," there are really three major versions of Effective Cycling. The 1975 mimeograph book, which was tweaked around and reissued several times, a 1984 MIT edition ("Big Blue") and a 1993 MIT Edition ("Fat Yellow"). How is this new version different?
By the time "Fat Yellow" was published, it suffered from three problems: 1) its technology was out of date (for example, it hardly mentioned mountain bikes); 2) too much of the book was made up of screeds, old-time war stories, and personal axe-grinding; and 3) its riding advice was closed and totalistic--as Orwell once put it in another context "everything that's not required is prohibited." All three have improved a little around the edges, almost always by cutting away, less often by adding, never by changing. The impression one gets is that they were grudging changes.
The format of the book is smaller, so the text is shorter. Most of the reduction seems to have come from the mechanical section. The discussion of derailleurs, for example, never even mentions brake-lever shifters. So much of the technical discussion in Big Blue and Fat Yellow had become obsolete that it appears the solution chosen was just cut it out. Forester is famous for his complaint that when he sat down to write the 1975 edition he couldn't find an American book that properly discussed how to fix a flat in detail. Well, that's just about all that this new edition DOES discuss in detail. (And as to that complaint, well, see Jeff Mapes's book Pedaling Revolution.)
As far as the screeds and other silliness, it is clear that an editor or editors have been at work. Some of the worst passages, such as "its a war, not a contract negotiation" are gone. But his personal take on a Roswell UFO, the so-called "cycling inferiority complex" is now actually given a purported cross reference to the DSM-V manual. (In fact, it and "wages of sin is death" logic upon which it is based were plagarized from comments made by Hon. Ernest Maples, M.P. in a paper "The Future of the Bicycle in a Modern Society" in the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Mfgrs. and Commerce Journal, Jan. 1968). The "Cycling with Love" chapter (aka "How to Use Your Bike to Pick up Chicks") section is still there. It still opens with Forester's assertion that his wife's disapproval of his cycling was largely responsible for trashing their marriage, even though I interviewed his son Geoffrey in 2010 for my biography of Forester, and Geoffrey told me that he never detected any hostility on behalf of his mother to either his or his father's cycling.
Forester's rogue's gallery is getting pretty gray-haired: Bill Wilkinson is retired and Fred DeLong (along with Jim Konski and Hal Munn, one of the true inventors of vehicular cycling) is dead. However, Andy Clarke is still hammering away and John Pucher has dedicated his emeritus-status years to working on his pro-EuroStyle philosophy (he will have an edited book by MIT out this fall). It is interesting that there are no names added. This reinforces my suspicion that new edition is mostly "Fat Yellow" edited over by a group of "friends of John" who were primarily interested in smoothing over its roughest spots and excising its technically out-of-date material. In this they succeeded. However, little new has been added, and certainly nothing has been reconsidered, nothing reevaluated. It's still 1938 and George Herbert is due around the bend at any moment . . .
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 1995
Whatever your involvement in cycling, you'll want to read
*Effective Cycling*. You'll learn about every aspect of
riding, from selecting equipment to touring to riding in
traffic. Find out what kind of accidents really happen
to cyclists, so you can learn how to avoid that sort of
accident, and stop worrying about accidents that almost
never happen. (Like being hit from behind.)
Forester is one of the world's foremost experts in traffic
cycling, and he designed the *Effective Cycling* program
which is taught by the League of American Bicyclists. A
similar program is the Can-Bike Skills program of the
Canadian Cycling Association. Both courses teach traffic
cycling skills and use *Effective Cycling* as the text.
I consider the "riding in traffic" chapters to be most
important. You'll learn where to be on the road (which lane?
how far from the curb?) and where to be within your lane (right?
middle? left?) - all of which depends on what sort of road
you're riding on. You'll learn how to change lanes properly
in any traffic condition, how to gain cooperation from motorists,
how to prevent acccidents from happening to you, and how to
avoid an accident that's coming your way by using emergency
If you are going to buy only one cycling book, *Effective
Cycling* should certainly be the one. While you're at it,
buy a gift copy for every cyclist you love.
Forester's *Effective Cycling* techniques work. I ride in
busy city traffic every day and it's easy and fun.
This I owe in large part to *Effective Cycling*.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2001
John Forester is the patron saint of bike commuters and VC types. I have been cycle commuting for 24 years now and still need to pull my copy of Effective Cycling from the shelf. It is a tonic and elixer that will get you going on your bike. Anytime I get discouraged or get stuck on a fine traffic safety point (or any cycling matter) I get out my copy of Forester. John's book is the ultimate. I had his earlier homemade editions of this book from the start. Without them I would have floudered. This current edition is a joy to pick up, to hold, and to read. If you do not have this book, you have missed the boat! So what if John happens to irritate you at some point in his book, get over it! This is the book that will save your bacon!