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Bike Snob returns with 'The Enlightened Cyclist'

The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 05:57 AM

"The Enlightened Cyclist," by Eben Weiss (Chronicle Books)

"The Enlightened Cyclist" aspires to be a kind of bible for bicycle commuters. They will laugh, weep and identify with almost every detail.

It's also the kind of book that motorists and pedestrians should read but probably won't, either because they just don't care or because they hate cyclists.

Author Eben Weiss understands this.

"It's hard to be truly compassionate if you don't know what it feels like to be disliked," he writes.

"Cyclists do not have this problem, because nobody likes us. Drivers think we're smug dorks who slow them down, pedestrians think we're deadly scofflaws, and neither of them has much trouble imagining a world without us."

Weiss made a name for himself with his blog, Bike Snob NYC, which attracts a couple of hundred thousand page views each month and boasts some 30,000 followers on its RSS feed.

When Weiss started blogging in 2007, bicycling was exploding as an alternate means of transportation in New York and elsewhere across the nation.

The convergence of better bike lanes with the growing fascination of hipsters for brakeless fixed-gear bikes — once exclusively the province of the velodrome — allowed Weiss to surf his way to success, snagging a column in Bicycling magazine as well as a couple of book deals.

In his first book, "Bike Snob," Weiss simultaneously celebrated and skewered bike culture and its attendant absurdities.

In "The Enlightened Cyclist," he shifts his satirical gaze slightly to the joys and indignities of bicycle commuting.

Weiss starts by reminding us that all commuters want the same thing: "To be happy, and to not get killed."

Then he details all the ways this goes wrong, ribbing drivers, pedestrians and, yes, even cyclists for their contribution to the chaos that reigns on many city streets.

Automobiles kill far many more people each year than bicycles, but people tend to take car accidents for granted — more of an obstacle on the way to work than a reason to display any real concern for the victims. Meanwhile, cyclists are held with only slightly less contempt than terrorists.

And even though Weiss defends cyclists as the "Chosen Commuters," he is quick to add, "that's not because we're better. Really, it's mostly an accident, like getting called for jury duty."

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