From 2004 to 2008, Phillip Barron wrote monthly columns on bicycling for The Herald-Sun newspaper in Durham, N.C, the best of which have been compiled into his new book, “The Outspokin’ Cyclist.”
Barron, an avid cyclist who now lives in Davis, wrote about issues ranging from solo mountain biking to how to bike in the snow to why bike lanes should exist.
Barron gave the growing Durham cycling community a legitimate voice.
“It was unusual for a newspaper to publish a column on biking. For cyclists to have a voice in that space, it validated the community,” Barron said.
“When I started writing the columns, they had just started their citizen committee on how to make Durham bicycle-friendly. They hired their first bicycle planner and repaved roads. That was a big coup for us, to get that commission.
“By the time I moved away, there was a strong cycling community. We developed a much more coherent and politically strong mountain biking community.”
After a serious cycling accident, Barron took a hiatus from the road and stopped writing his column. When he moved to Davis, however, the bike culture encouraged him to start pedaling again — and he took a look back at his columns from Durham.
“We pulled together 30 to 40 columns that ended up in the book. We chose the ones that had mass appeal,” Barron said. “I hope in some way readers will see themselves in the books. I also hope they enjoy an expression of what it means to ride a bike on a regular basis. They were designed to be short, simple, easy-to-read pieces.”
Barron began working on his column “to get away from what I’d written before.”
“I would get frustrated that my work revolved around 2,000-year-old problems,” said Barron, who majored in philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The columns were brief in comparison, and a relief from his university work.
“I was using simple, non-technical language that everyone can identify with,” Barron said.
Accessibility is a theme that runs throughout all of Barron’s columns.
“One thing that emerged that I didn’t really intend was that it became a column about everyday cycling, like cycling to grocery shopping. It’s common here, but not so common on the East Coast,” Barron said.
In his column, Barron also discussed local issues, such as bike trails and widening roads, making sure to include cycling news.
But Barron believes that biking — beyond the politics — is also simply fun.
“One of the reasons I started mountain biking was that it’s a way to see the world from places you can’t get by car,” he said. “It’s a unique perspective.”
“The Outspokin’ Cyclist” is available online in paperback from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Books A Million. It is also available as an ebook from Amazon (for the Kindle) and from Goodreads.com in epub (compatible with the Nook, iPad, iPhone, Sony Reader, Kobo and other epub reading devices).
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