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Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities Paperback – March 1, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oregon State University Press; First Edition edition (March 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0870714198
  • ISBN-13: 978-0870714191
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #425,251 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a time of climate change and car-worship, bicycle riding has become a political statement and a policy issue, with its own grassroots movement working "to seize at least a part of the street back from motorists." After a dry but brief history of the bicycle and its political significance (Susan B. Anthony said bicycles have "done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world"), Mapes reports from the world capitals of bicycle culture. Mapes explores Amsterdam, marveling at the ease with which cyclists, motorists and pedestrians share the road. In San Francisco and New York City, he finds cycling groups at their most hip and radical, and joins them on a "Critical Mass" protest, in which cyclists take to the streets en masse to block traffic and take over rush hour streets; they've caused siginificant headaches for the NYPD, especially during the 2004 National Republican Convention. Focusing largely on the cyclists themselves, Mapes puts a passionate and pragmatic face to the "new urban bike movement" while connecting the dots between cycling culture and a host of quality of life issues.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


In a world of increasing traffic congestion, a grassroots movement is carving out a niche for bicycles on city streets. Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities explores the growing bike culture that is changing the look and feel of cities, suburbs, and small towns across North America.

From traffic-dodging bike messengers to tattooed teenagers on battered bikes, from riders in spandex to well-dressed executives, ordinary citizens are becoming transportation revolutionaries. Jeff Mapes traces the growth of bicycle advocacy and explores the environmental, safety, and health aspects of bicycling. He rides with bicycle advocates who are taming the streets of New York City, joins the street circus that is Critical Mass in San Francisco, and gets inspired by the everyday folk pedaling in Amsterdam, the nirvana of American bike activists. Chapters focused on big cities, college towns, and America’s most successful bike city, Portland, show how cyclists, with the encouragement of local officials, are claiming a share of the valuable streetscape.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 21 customer reviews
Thank you Jeff.
Jonathan T. Harding
This book has many features and stories which any cyclist can relate to.
Dustin Bessette
My car's battery is now dead!

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Bart King on March 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
A few confessions. First, I fall into the ideal reading demographic for this book. I own bikes. I ride bikes. And I am very interested in transportation issues, particularly as they pertain to bicycles. When Tom Vanderbilt's extraordinary book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) came out, the first thing I did with it was turn to the index and look up all the references to bicycles. (You say "nerdy" and I say "wonky"!)

And I live in the American Mecca (or "Amsterdam") of bicycling, namely Portland, Oregon, as does author Jeff Mapes.

But my most dramatic confession is this: I'm only halfway through Pedaling Revolution. (Eep.)

But at this point in the journey, the rest of the book could be printed in Swahili (I have nothing against the language, besides being unable to read it) and this would still be a five-star read. Why? Well, in a general sense, Mapes has done a fine job of giving me a historical context for the evolution of the bicycle in our society. Fair enough, but surely other books do the same?

They do. But Mapes brings a professional journalist's chops to this assignment. He peppers his account with interviews and human interest angles, and he knows the value of both a well-placed anecdote and statistic. To put it crudely, while Mapes' research was clearly Herculean, he doesn't let you see him sweat.

I'll be back to edit this review upon book's completion, but here are a few specifics that stick out in my mind this far:

By one UCLA professor's estimate, the sum total of all the parking spaces in the U.S. take up an area about the size of Connecticut. (Remember, that doesn't count roads!) Ouch.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan T. Harding on July 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a very well written and readable book. As others have noted, it is interspersed with a interviews, anecdotes, and other journalistic elements that make for an entertaining read. For a non-fiction book on a relatively narrow topic like bicycling, it's certainly a page turner. I am already an avid bicyclists and a proponent of utility bicycling, but I am also a suburbanite in the not-so bike friendly South-east US. At first this book had me day-dreaming about living in Portland or Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but by the end I am inspired to engage in my own community for more liveable bicycle friendly streets in Charlotte, NC. Thank you Jeff.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By J. Grattan VINE VOICE on June 24, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author, not a hard-core cyclist by any stretch, after discovering in the 1990s that his city, Portland, OR, had a substantial bicycle network of roads and paths, began commuting on his bicycle to his job as a political reporter located only a few miles from his home in central Portland. His dedication to bicycle commuting led to this investigation of the extent to which bicycles have become utilitarian vehicles in other cities. The book looks at individual commuters as well as support structures and agencies that facilitate commuting by bicycle. While bicycle commuting is noticeable in some cities, it is an overstatement to say that a bicycling revolution is taking place in the US.

In reality, a few cities in the US, some small, some large, most with special demographic and geographical circumstances, all with concerns of congestion and environmental degradation, and, most importantly, the coincidence of having cycling-centered officials in city planning and transportation departments, have been able to make cycling safer and more enjoyable through a variety of measures such as creating bike lanes along existing roads, improved signage, and in some cases special bikeways. However, the author admits that the peak of bicycle ownership in the US actually occurred in the 1970s. The percentage of commuter trips on bicycles, even with recent upticks, still remains quite small in these few locales. The author does not squarely face the fact that, in the current architecture of American communities, places of work, living, and shopping are not co-located, which makes bicycle usage most impractical. There is no getting around the fact that our communities and lives are integrally tied to the automobile.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Wesley D. Cheney on August 11, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
More than likely, most folks who pick this book up commute to work on their bike and make it to Critical Mass every month or so. Jeff isn't going to turn any suburbanite SUV drivers into fixie hipsters...but that's not the point.

I live in a city with a bike culture in its infancy. It's inspiring to read of how bicycles have been integrated into other cities; to learn from both the success and failures of others.

If you've been a regular reader of Bicycling Magazine, Dirt Rag, or even the Associated Press, then you'll probably have a few moments of deja vu: "Wait a minute, haven't I read this before?" Jeff is a professional journalist, and so the themes, if not content, of his shorter works have been recycled and collected into a larger tome.

I haven't finished "Pedaling Revolution" yet. The book was just so darn good that I had to get out and ride my bike!
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