The Man Who Loved Bicycles, Daniel Behrman (1973)

A series of essays an recolections about life and the culture of cycling as a form of transport by a perceptive US writer, living in France in the early 1970s

Harper’s Magazine Press 0-060120350-5 Quarto130pp $6.95

“The bicycle is a vehicle for revolution. It can destroy the tyranny of the automobile as effectively as the printing press brought down despots of flesh and blood. The revolution will be spontaneous, the sum total of individual revolts like my own. It may have already begun.”

So writes Behrman, an American scientific writer “existing in Paris and living in Brittany” in the early 1970s. The book contains far more than pro-cycling invective, however. It is a catalogue of intelligent reflections and ruminations on France in that period. He is a fine writer with moral fibre and an eclectic ear for scientific snippets. The treatise is laced with personal stories and remissness.

Reading the book today, however, (I read it in around 2004) the book does throw up some questions. Where did these pieces of writing come from – they read as though they might have been magazine articles, and who was Behrman?

That the book itself does not answer them however, does not make it any less enjoyable a read.

PS May 08

His New York Times obituary fills in a few of the gaps.

A version of the whole text of this book can be found here – although it is clearly a breach of Behrman’s copyright.

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