The Immortal Class

Sunday, April 24, 2005, at 11:25AM

By Eric Richardson

A couple weeks ago Alan told me to check out Travis Hugh Culley's book The Immortal Class. It took me a while to get through, but yesterday during my field trip I ripped through the second half. From one of the editorial descriptions on the Amazon page:

When unpublished playwright and director Culley found it difficult to earn a living in the creative arts, he took a job as a bike messenger. This is the story of his adventures on the streets of Chicago. The author's descriptions are so vivid and apt that it is easy for the reader to imagine himself pedaling at breakneck speeds through crowded intersections and along sidewalks. More than a mere joy ride, this book is a window into the bizarre and cultlike world of the bike courier and, more significantly, a passionate plea for more sensible city planning.

The first 250 pages is Travis' story, and it's a captivating one. But yesterday it was the last fifty pages that really got me. That's where the story shifts to being more about the relationship between cars and the bicycle, and how the two of them relate to the road. The story from chapter ten -- where a cyclist is seriously injured due to road crews not marking a construction zone, but then isn't allowed to sue for medical expenses since bicycles are not an "intended" user of the roadway in Illinois -- isn't directly applicable to California, where bicycles are considered vehicles. Still, though, both it and the last few chapters highlight the tenuous hold cyclists have on their rights. Even if you don't have time (or interest) to read the whole book, I highly recommend these last pages.