I finished the book and will be back here on my usual sporadic basis. It's quite a unique book really. People ask what is this thing about and I have to pause and stare off into the distance for a few seconds trying to figure it out. Not too sure.

It's about the history and future of bicycling in America. Much of it consists of unstable rantings, which is generally good, I've found. Inspiration came from Thomas Paine, the Unabomber, Nietzsche, Eldridge Cleaver, Sitting Bull and assorted pamphleteers, jailed and un-jailed. Just kidding about the Unabomber, by the way. Included among other highly objectionable pronouncements are endorsements of sharrows, Idaho-style bike law liberalization, and 'bike highway'-like paths; and questionings of all kinds of transportation-related follies, from the Toyota Prius to the bail-out of GM and Chrysler. I viewed it as a sort of rescue attempt -- attempting to rescue the bicycle from the clutches of those who have possessed it, the bicyclists. An attempt to free the machine from the heinous cultural bog into which it's been sucked. I think the publishers (Falcon) like the title 'The Cyclist's Manifesto,' but I am hoping for something that better reflects my preference for the machine over its often insufferable jockies: 'The Bicycle Manifesto.' Whatever it's called, look for it on the shelf some time spring '09.

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I made a concerted effort to ground this book in the first-person accounts of people who were actually there, wherever and whenever there happened to be. It begins with the recollections of Hiram Maxim, an avid bicyclist who was one of the earliest developers of the motorized carriage and had his first inspiration for it while riding his bike home from his sweetie's house. (Hiram Percy Maxim, in addition to being one of the most important pioneers of the auto age, is considered the Father of Amateur Radio; he also invented the silencer and was the son of the Hiram Maxim who invented the fully-automatic machine gun, a.k.a. Maxim gun, among other things.) We also hear from Major Taylor, Frances Willard, Colonel Tsuji (the human liver-eating sadist who masterminded a bicycle invasion of Malaya in 1941) and other interesting figures in the history of the bicycle. By no means is it intended to be a comprehensive history or explanation of anything. It's a collection of stories and rants that I hope, taken together, will provoke skepticism of long-held assumptions, provide some wider understanding of some very muddled issues and maybe leave the reader with an appreciation for the bicycle that they didn't have before. Either that or it will wildly confuse and suck any vestiges of actual knowledge from readers' brains, like an intracranial wet-vac.

Pictured here are Henry Ford and Barney Oldfield with the 999. I believe that was taken at the Grosse Pointe horse racing track, in 1902. Ford, Oldfield and the 999 are all important characters in the book, as they were in The Art of [Urban] Cycling. Oldfield is the driver and the 999 is the car that changed motoring for good in America, they took it from the dandies and gave it to the bad-asses. The 999 was the least bicycle-like car ever created at the time, although it was still put together in the back of a bike shop. And Oldfield of course, like many 'chauffeurs,' was a bike racer. What you are looking at in this picture is the beginning of everything from NASCAR to Monte Carlo.

The large photo is Tom Cooper, one of the best bike racers of the late 1890s, looking like grim death behind the wheel of his Matheson, circa 1905. Cooper was an extremely important figure in the history of American transportation, and a racist nemesis of Major Taylor. He would roll his Matheson while racing around Central Park later that year, killing himself and two passengers. More later...

 
RELATED: THE CIRCLE OF POWER, WEIRD LITTLE BOOK.
 
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THE ART OF CYCLING: STAYING SAFE ON CITY STREETS  2014

The legendary traffic safety manual has been revised, updated and expanded. This book contains the collective street knowledge of the world's most experienced riders, all wrapped in historical context like a spicy truth burrito. Read it and pass it on!

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