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Tracing the History of the Bicycle and Its Impact on Society (November 2016): The Philosophical Cyclist

By Duncan R. Jamieson

The Philosophical Cyclist

Whether you use the bicycle to make your living, to take you to your living, or to escape from your living, there is something for every rider in Jesus Illundain-Agurrusa and Michael W. Austin’s edited volume Cycling-Philosophy for Everyone. You do not need extensive knowledge of either bicycling or philosophy to enjoy, learn from, and be entertained by these incredibly diverse essays. David Horton, Paul Rosen, and Peter Cox have compiled an interdisciplinary collection of essays in Cycling and Society on how social scientists understand and interpret the past, present, and future of cycling.

Garth Battista’s edited volume Bicycle Love: Stories of Passion, Joy, and Sweat is a collection of essays on the emotional attachment of people to their bicycles. Daniel Behrman writes of his extensive cycling experiences in Paris and New York in The Man Who Loved Bicycles. He believes the automobile is choking the city, whose salvation rests with the bicycle. Writing with style and grace, he presents a Jane Jacobs view of the city, in which the bicycle playing a central role. Bella Bathurst’s The Bicycle Book is an eclectic study exploring the diverse and unpredictable world of cycling. Donato Cinicolo has created a photographic collection, Me and My Bike: Portrait of a Cycling Nation, of those who love their bicycles, from geeks to freaks, retired postal workers to racers. Robert Penn is clearly a person who loves his bicycle, as he traveled around the world to build his dream bike. It’s All about the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels is an introduction to the history and technology of the wheel. For a technical discussion of how the safety bicycle has shaped society, Wiebe E. Bijker’s Of Bicycles, Bakelites, and Bulbs is excellent.

In their collection of essays, Culture on Two Wheels, concentrating on the bicycle in literature and film, Jeremy Withers and Daniel P. Shea analyze the shifting cultural significance of the bicycle. Mike Magnuson explores types of cyclists, from tattooed messengers to hipsters on street bikes to Lycra-clad weekend warriors in Bike Tribes: A Field Guide to North American Cyclists. Louis Gerard Mendoza made an eight-thousand-mile bicycle journey around the perimeter of the United States to learn firsthand how Latinos are faring here. He describes this experience in A Journey around Our America: A Memoir on Cycling, Immigration, and the Latinoization of the U.S. Robin M. LeBlanc has an ethnographic study of Japanese women in Bicycle Citizens: The Political World of the Japanese Housewife.