- Paperback: 248 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (February 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594514631
- ISBN-13: 978-1594514630
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,563,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Pedal Power: The Quiet Rise of the Bicycle in American Public Life 1st Edition
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“This is vital reading for anyone with an interest in environmental issues, community action, or grassroots politics. Highly recommended.”
“Whereas the preponderance of cycle books currently in print deals with either its recreational or mechanical aspects, Pedal Power is the first to make a comprehensive case for bicycling’s acceptance as mainstream rather than fringe. … [The book] is persuasive in repositioning the conception of bicycling less in sentimental or iconic terms, and more as an essential vehicle of choice for the 21st-century green era. It is a credible effort, and one hopes that a large audience outside the circle of the bicycling community will be sufficiently inspired to integrate bicycling into its mode of living and life values.”
―Martin Zimmerman in Urban Land (July 2008)
“Wray aptly illustrates the struggle faced by those promoting the bicycle as a viable transportation alternative. … [he] provides bicycle advocates a template for understanding and organizing cycling interests so they can address concerns at the local, state, and federal levels. Pedal Power should be required reading for cycling advocates for the insight it provides to the issues, personalities, and projects that have shaped, and will continue to shape, the state of American bicycling.”
―Bradley Beck, Out There Monthly
“Pedal Power is an uplifting read that tells the stories of people, organizations, and a movement whose time is rapidly approaching. When the aberrations of the automobile age have passed, we will wonder how we ever lost the common humanity, simplicity and love of life embodied in the heroes so delightfully profiled in Harry Wray’s insightful book. Thank you, Harry Wray, for telling the stories of unsung but true American heroes who gently challenge conventional wisdom and eschew cultural norms.”
―Andy Clarke, League of American Bicyclists
"From improving air quality, overcoming social isolation, reducing carbon emissions, improving fitness . . . the bicycle solves more problems than any other technology I know. Harry Wray has the story right and tells it well. Pedal Power is a book for cyclists, moms, dads, policy wonks, and everyone who wants to solve many problems while creating none."
―David Orr, Oberlin College
"What an original and refreshing book! Wray deftly interweaves his own and others' experiences as bicycling enthusiasts with insights from political philosophy and American socio-political history to generate a compelling account of what bicycling can mean for America's future."
―Elaine B. Sharp, University of Kansas
About the Author
J. Harry Wray is a bike enthusiast and Professor of Political Science at DePaul University in Chicago, one of the bike-friendliest cities in the nation. He received his B.A. from Whittier College and his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, where the country roads sparked his interest in biking. Now he teaches courses in which students bike through every side of the city of Chicago―from the South Side to the lakeside―and shows them how politics, economics, and the environment combine to affect culture and be affected by it. Wray’s previous books include Sense and Non-Sense: American Culture and Politics (2000), and, with Robert D. Holsworth, American Politics and Everyday Life (1986).
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Top customer reviews
"Pedal Power" is a fascinating analysis of society, bicycling and politics. Harry Wray's enthusiastic introspection of cycling in America will convince any skeptic that a relatively small investment in biking infrastructure can have positive effects in a multitude of current American issues.
What I like best in this book is about one-third of the way through. You could
* follow several Chicago-area utility bicyclists on their daily commutes and errands;
* learn what motivates bicycling advocacy honcho Randy Neufeld,
* visit with a group of counterculture types who ride around Chicago on bicycles and glean most of their material possessions from dumpsters,
* read pocket biographies of politicians who champion bicycling causes, including members of the U.S. Congress,
* Read some useful descriptions of the history and workings of various local and national bicyclists' advocacy organizations.
But Wray's discussion of cultural issues wanders far from bicycling and from hard fact. Culturally-mediated perceptions are so important to him that he literally holds Ptolemaic (flat-earth-centered) and Copernican (round-earth, sun-centered) astronomy equally valid (see page 11). Wray clearly is not cognizant of bicycling research literature, for example he says that special bicycle traffic signals increase efficiency and safety. They increase safety only if they are obeyed. They usually reduce efficiency, and then often are not obeyed. On page 24, he says "I am absolutely serious about feeling less vulnerable to some violent act on a bicycle than in a car." This is transparent nonsense!
Page 30 begins a chapter about Amsterdam, where scofflaw bicyclists, as Wray acknowledges, are the norm. They serve the same traffic-calming function that scofflaw pedestrians commonly do in crowded cities. But Wray doesn't address an important difference, that North American, British and French cyclists more generally expect a climate of equal rights and responsibilities as vehicle operators.
The following chapter covers - take a deep breath - American materialism, individualism, inequality, capital punishment, the lack of guaranteed health care, the weakness of the labor movement, television watched alone, mass consumerism, the Super Bowl as a national religious rite, and the American dream of a house with a fenced backyard with a patio, and car. Wray predicts a resulting "culture storm". Time will tell... In any case, only the last paragraph of this entire chapter is about bicycling.
Then there's the useful stuff in the middle of the book, followed at the end by a couple more chapters about global warming, ill effects of motor vehicle use, and societal benefits of bicycling.
Wray and his editors got on my nerves rather quickly with sloppy writing. This is on page 17: "[S]truggling up the mountain, the smell of pine was unmistakeable and exhilarating" -- this from a tenured university professor! Wray's sloppiness with language can lead to confusion He frequently uses the word "bike" instead of "bicycle" even when misreporting a proper name, for example "Congressional Bike Caucus" and "San Francisco Bike Coalition." He calls the Cyclists' Touring Club (U.K.) the "Bicycle Touring Club".
And so on. Enough. I like Jeff Mapes's book Pedaling Revolution better.
The pro-bike movement would be better served if it was more inclusive.