I’m sure you’ve been asked this question by a non-cycling friend: “Hey. You bike. I was thinking of biking to work: what should I do?” That friend might not know that that question, depending on his or her knowledge of the bike, can require a book-length answer. Yvonne Bambrick has written the book that can provide that answer.
The Urban Cycling Survival Guide is for the commuter. It has a rundown of the equipment you need and strategies for making your way through a city. I was particularly interested on how Bambrick would treat the discussion on helmets. Whenever I’ve seen her riding around Toronto, it’s without a lid. But unlike those riders who avoid helmets out of vanity or simple negligence, Bambrick has put thought into what the helmet means. She’s on record speaking out against mandatory helmet laws, saying they deter people from riding and the pursuit of such laws takes away from actually making streets safer for cyclists. In her book, she touches on these points, but approaches the politics and safety elements in a balanced way.
I also like her on-road strategies, especially her discussion of the pedestrian-style left turn. It can be a practical way of getting through a busy intersection. But because it involves the crosswalk, it puts you into territory not meant for the bike. I always defer to others when I’m on a crosswalk. Bambrick’s instructions are spot on: “Yield to oncoming traffic, stay out of the way of pedestrians trying to cross, watch for right-turning vehicles and wait for the green light to ride your bike through the intersection in the new direction of travel.”
The Urban Cycling Survival Guide is a great primer for riding in the city. Even riders who are comfortable navigating traffic could learn something from a writer who’s thought about the nuances of city cycling.