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Effective Cycling (MIT Press) Paperback – April 20, 2012
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John Forester's Effective Cycling continues and expands his mission to make bicycling easy, enjoyable, rewarding and responsible. He recognizes that most US authorities put cyclists into an inferior status, and therefore into a dilemma, and conveys to them the attitude and the rules with which they can be appreciated and responsible road users. This book should be read by all cyclists, and especially by all 'authorities.'(David Gordon Wilson, MIT Mechanical Engineering; author of Bicycling Science)
I have used previous editions of Effective Cycling as my go-to source for some 35 years. It is comprehensive, based on irrefutable logic and scientific data, and easily understandable.(Bill Hoffman, former Director, League of American Bicyclists)
As a lifelong bicyclist, I didn't realize my eyes were wide shut with respect to bicycling matters until I first read Effective Cycling, fourth edition, in 1988 at age 30. John Forester's seminal, expansive, and tireless work in educating bicyclists and protecting the rights of bicyclists as drivers of vehicles has been incalculably valuable to me and countless thousands of others who pedal for fun and utility.(Wayne Pein, Bicycling Matters)
About the Author
John Forester is a bicycle transportation engineer and the author of Bicycle Transportation: A Handbook for Cycling Transportation Engineers (MIT Press). An experienced cyclist, cycling advocate, and onetime racer, he lives in Lemon Grove, California
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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By the time "Fat Yellow" was published, it suffered from three problems: 1) its technology was out of date (for example, it hardly mentioned mountain bikes); 2) too much of the book was made up of screeds, old-time war stories, and personal axe-grinding; and 3) its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 . . .
One of his points about bicycle mobility seems very straightforward - if bicyclists try to get treated differently than motorists they will, but only for the worse not better. A good example is bike lanes and paths. Where bicyclists fight for bike lanes and paths and get them it is usually at the loss of being able to freely travel on the roadways. Personally I am in complete agreement with him in this area. The problems with bike lanes and paths are many, but my main issue is that they quickly become multipurpose: pedestrian and rider. These multipurpose routes are just plain dangerous. Pedestrians have no concept of "right of way" or consideration for moving vehicles (bicycles) on these routes. If adult bicyclists learned to drive the "drive your bike like a car on the roadway" methodology Forester describes, all bicyclists would have a better safer environment because car drivers would get used to bicycles being on the roadways. The government also needs to require that motorists learn that bicycles have the same rights to use the roadway as cars.
My personal belief is that if you are the type that would rather ride on a car free path, taking your time, riding slowly while smelling the flowers, so be it, enjoy yourself riding and watching out for pedestrians and dogs and other uncontrollable distractions, but, do so at your own loss and not at mine. Don't fight for your right while removing mine to freely ride my bicycle on the roadways, with the cars, at the pace, and speed I want to travel.
I got the impression that Forester seems to think that other pro-bicycle writers and lobbyists are sellouts; especially ones who champion bike lanes on the roadways. These roadway bike lanes are another route that is extremely dangerous for bicyclists. They are usually along the side of a roadway forcing bicyclists to make all their left turns thru moving traffic, or they are behind the right side of the road parked cars making each and every intersection a danger zone.
Forester sat on a few committees and was involved in some of the early states-created bicycle laws and programs, and as such is probably one of the first pro-bicycle people responsible for the government's review of bicycle usability in US cities.
Most readers will find a great deal to learn reading his books, and probably just as much to criticize as well.
If you are a firm believer that the only way to safely travel on a bicycle is to be on a separate route than cars travel on then Forester is not for you, but, you should try reading him because you will probably learn a thing a[or to that might possibly change your mind.