Dave Reid
Book Review

Pedaling Revolution

By - May 27th, 2010 01:05 pm
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Pedaling Revolution by Jeff Mapes

Pedaling Revolution by Jeff Mapes

Jeff Mapes, author of “Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities,” provides an in-depth history of cycling, and looks at how cycling is changing U.S. cities for the better.  Although in the U.S. cycling has long been viewed as a recreational activity, he appropriately ties together the rise of urban biking with urban planning in a story that needed to be told.  The story goes a bit like this, cycling isn’t just about the spandex clad road racer or an activity left to children, it is about an office worker commuting to their job, a Portlandite picking up his or her groceries, an American using a bicycle as part of their life, and how that change has just begun to come about.

Chapter after chapter explores how cities such as Portland, Davis, and New York City have been able to increase ridership by making cycling an appealing option.  For example, in Portland the city has spent many years building bike infrastructure such as bike boulevards, bike boxes, and bike sharrows and has then seen a significant increase in ridership follow.  In New York City separated bike lanes and buffered bike lanes, have been developed on busy streets to make riding a bike in New York traffic more palatable to the occasional rider.  U.S. cities and cyclists across the U.S. point to European cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam as models to be learned from as they have implemented or pioneered many of these infrastructure items and cycling related policies that have encouraged significantly higher ridership numbers than seen in the U.S.

Another key of focus of the book is its discussion of the politics of cycling.  There’s long been a conflict within the cycling community over vehicular cycling and separated cycling.  Vehicular cycling advocates, lead by John Forester, argue that cyclists ought to ride in the street and act car like, whereas the other end of the spectrum argues for separated bike facilities.  This conflict has played a role in shaping U.S. cycling policies and has potentially deterred ridership for decades, as has the debate over the safety of bike lanes, bike helmets, and should bicyclist recognize stop signs.  Despite these conflicts, and the conflict between automobile drivers and cyclists the movement has grown to be more open to policy and infrastructure improvements that now make the connection between cycling and American cities stronger than ever before.

And although, as Mapes points out, the U.S. has seen a renewed interest in biking before this time “cyclists are changing American cities.”

Categories: Book Reviews

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Pedaling Revolution”

  1. Nick Aster says:

    WHY are they using a giant red flag on the cover of that book? As a daily cyclist, I get it, and I love seeing cycling becoming more popular and having better infrastructure built for it. The book sounds great. Here’s the problem:

    Lest we judge a book by its flag….

    There’s nothing that will set the teabag/right wingers off more that something that can be construed as socialist or communist – regardless of whether it actually is – than “revolutionary” talk and big red flags. This shouldn’t even be a political issue at all, but unfortunately, there’s a real risk that it will become one and suffer for it – especially if government money is being used for bike infrastructure and so on…. maybe I’m over-reacting, but I would have chosen a different cover and tittle for sure!

  2. Dave Reid says:

    @Nick I didn’t even think about the cover, good point wow…. As far as the title I’m sure it was picked for the double meaning.

  3. Jeff Mapes says:


    Thanks for the insightful review. I hope the cover isn’t too off-putting. You’re right about the double meaning, although that wasn’t the sole reason I picked the title. I do indeed think there is a potential for a revolution when it comes to the use of bicycles for transportation. And that led the publisher to choose this eye-catching cover.


    Jeff Mapes

  4. Dave Reid says:

    @Jeff Nice! Thanks for visiting UrbanMilwaukee.com! I hadn’t even thought about the cover until a commenter pointed it out. Personally, Pedaling Revolution, quickly got added to my permanent library as it was very enjoyable, and on right on point.

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