I got to read a couple books this summer and besides Harry Potter 7, this one was probably the most riveting. Jeff Mapes, a Portlander and journalist explores bicycling as a political movement and where it can take us in Pedaling Revolution.
The book caught my eye on the shelf in Powell's that I visit most often and having read one of its inspiring chapters and having some hot-off-the-press store credit in my pocket I couldn't resist. Mapes' writing is very engaging and clear. I found his chapters on bike advocacy history easy to read and very enjoyable. The middle of the book deals with personal experiences he has had visiting people in cities across the country that are trying new things with bike transportation. Amsterdam, Portland, Davis and New York City are a few he explores. These chapters in particular I found inspiring as an individual trying to get a grasp on how to contribute to bike politics and policy constructively. This may not have been their primary purpose, but these chapters helped me see the issues that cyclists and policy makers are facing in some of the most developed bike cities in the world and how that relates to struggles in cities I live in. The last chapters on health and safety were wonderful (and unbiased) and I would highly recommend them to anyone in a position to make local bicycle policy. One concept that was particularly revealing had to do with cyclists breaking traffic laws. I'm sure you have experienced the following:
You're riding along civily, stopping at stop lights, using the turning lanes, yielding to pedestrians when suddenly, whoosh! a cyclist, no helmet, passes you on the right, blows through the red light and hops the opposite sidewalk. You can just feel the sarcastic remarks oozing from all of the cars around you. It's almost maddening to be 'represented' by someone who has such a different approach to traffic laws, and lets face it, when you hear honest people complain about bikes in the road, cases like this abound. Jeff Mapes brings up a few great points that help explain some of this erratic behavior. Cars have a very definite space on the road, as do pedestrians, and the laws governing the use of automobiles is quite consistent in my experience, state to state. It's very clear that a car is a vehicle, and that pedestrians are not, but what is a person on a bike? Clearly a vehicle, yet almost never given space on the road. Not a pedestrian, but able to ride on sidewalks, walk the bike, carry it up stairs and even board trains and buses in many cities. No wonder many cyclists pick and choose which laws to follow, because it hasn't really been that clear historically how bikes should behave. How many of us as pedestrians cross the street despite the glowing red warning after we're certain no cars are coming? If a red light doesn't change because the sensor won't pick up the metal in a bike frame, do you run the light after it becomes clear it never will? The bicycle is struggling for a place in our societies and is still a little homeless. Most city officials have little experience dealing with bike laws or policy.
Helping make people aware of the issues and successful solutions being employed around the world brings us just a bit closer to the visionary 'bike friendly society' we all seek after and only Amsterdam and Copenhagen have discovered. :-)
I highly recommend you order yourself a copy, read it and then share!
happy biking! (and reading)