What if I told you that there was a way to simultaneously combat global warming, reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, solve the obesity epidemic, save lives, improve air quality, reduce congestion, strengthen community, reduce social isolation, and personally save you an average of $8,000/year, all while bringing you the joy and happiness of your youth?! You would probably think that I was high! Well I am sort of – the natural endorphin and adrenaline high I get from riding my bike!
Many of us have fond childhood memories of riding our bikes, building jumps, toting friends on our handlebars, or just having the freedom to explore our own neighborhoods. A few of us have re-discovered the joys of cycling (road and/or mountain) for sport and recreation, but who knew that the bike is such a versatile tool and all-round comprehensive solution for saving the planet, improving community, and making us healthier, wealthier, and happier all at the same time!?
The book “Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities” by Jeff Mapes explores the many benefits to bicycling, while listing the numerous obstacles between us and two-wheeled utopia. These are larger and faster roads designed exclusively for automobiles, sprawling single-use development that increases the distances between origins and destinations, safety concerns, cultural inhibitions, and good old-fashioned laziness (yes I have been guilty of driving to a destination only a block away when carrying heavy loads or to avoid cold weather.) Fortunately, thanks in part to this book, I have a sense for the bigger perspective, and a little more motivation to ride my bike!
The book chronicles the who, what, when, where, and how of communities across the country (and globe) that are working to make their roads bike friendly. Beginning with a comprehensive history of cycling in America, Mapes goes into great detail about the political aspects of biking, the numerous and sometimes competing factions within the biking community itself, and key players at state and federal levels who are lobbying for bicycling improvements to be included as legitimate transportation infrastructure.
Of course, what bike book is complete without extensive discussion of the Netherlands; Portland, Oregon; and Davis, California; which are well represented. There are also examples of how average American cities and towns are working to increase the share of bikes on the roads, including New York City; Los Angeles; Chicago; Flagstaff, Arizona; and Marin County, California. The book goes into great detail on the cultural shifts, grassroots efforts, laws, and actual infrastructure that are aspects of the same goal. It includes a basic discussion and examples of bike lanes, bike boxes, cycle tracks, rails-to-trails, and bike-share programs to name a few.
What makes this book distinctively different from your typical bicycle primer are the stories of individuals and bike organizations that are at the grassroots level of an exciting cultural shift. From the well known and controversial Critical Mass, to rolling bike block parties like Midnight Ridazz and bike co-ops like Bicycle Kitchen (both in Los Angeles, California) bike enthusiasts are growing their own support networks and working to convert new members while raising general bike awareness. Who knows, maybe a Bicycle Summer (that’s a month-long bike festival) or Naked Bike Ride (self-explanatory) will be coming to a town near you!