Hurst writes about bikes as they fit into mostly US history, and mostly as they pertain to transportation. I don’t really have a head for history, but Hurst brings out those little ironic or amazing details that make history fun and memorable.
The “Manifesto” part of the title comes in when he debunks practically every article of faith on both sides of the car vs. bike debates. And I love him for it. He disses bike lanes and vehicular cyclists. Points out that cycling is a little more life-threatening than driving (per passenger mile) and ridicules the US helmet cult. The myths fall right and left. “The more cyclists there are the safer it gets,” a recent clarion cry of us advocates, looks a lot less plausible after Hurst gets done with it.
You might get mad at someone so aggressively goring your sacred cows (if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor), but he also writes with such humility and humor that I, at least, found him more charming than annoying. I had to chuckle out loud every few pages, and I don’t find that very often with books about transportation policy.
Finally, his recipe for fixing what’s wrong with transportation is almost absurdly simple: “Drive less.” But rather than just prescribe the diet, he makes a strong case for why you probably want to drive less anyway.
I read this from my local library, but I’ll be buying a copy to refer back to and to share with my friends.