I got a review copy of The Urban Cyclists Survival Guide in the mail the other day. It’s a new book by Los Angeles based author James Rubin and published by Chicago-based sports book publisher Triumph Books.
I haven’t delved completely into the 250 or so pages of advice and tips; but the book’s packaging has already caught my eye due to how it makes bicycling seem like a risky and life-threatening proposition.
At the very least, the book sends mixed messages to potential riders (and buyers). On one hand, the book’s success relies on more people choosing to ride bikes. The headline of the back cover reads, “Shed Pounds and Save Money by Riding Your Bike to Work.”
However, the cover image shows a man doing a full, over-the-bars endo into the side of a car. The image echoes the tone of the title itself, with its focus on “survival.” Is that the type of words and imagery that will encourage someone to ride?
Also on the back cover are six “Survival Tactics” which include: locking techniques to thwart, “bicycle bandits”; how to choose “safe helmets and clothing”; what you need to know about sharing streets with, “road-raging drivers”; and legal tips from a lawyer on what to do “when” (not if) “you’re hit by a car.”
I hope my 8-year old daughter doesn’t get her hands on this book. Already cautious while we ride together, she might get downright scared.
A look at the chapter headings in the contents proves that the entire book is framed upon “How to survive” your decision to ride a bike in a city.
Scare-inducing tone aside, the book is full of great information on the nuts and bolts of becoming competent and confident on a bike in America’s car-centric urban areas. Stuff like pannier and cargo options, what accessories might make your ride more enjoyable, how to choose good routes, and so on.
And don’t get me wrong, newbies should be aware of the responsibility that comes with operating a bicycle alongside cars and trucks; but it seems to me like publishers (who are not alone in making bicycling seem more dangerous than it is) should be a bit more careful to not scare them out of the decision before they even make it.
(Disclosure: I sold several photographs to the publishers of this book and they appear throughout the chapters.)