Pedaling Revolution

‘Pedaling Revolution’ is the title of a new book on bicycling in the U.S. by Portland journalist Jeff Mapes.  It’s a pretty comprehensive look at the state of everyday cycling (not bike racing), whether it be urban commuting or riding bikes to school.  Mapes takes a look at what’s going on in Portland, NYC, Chicago and Davis, CA among other places, in terms of the different approaches to making cities more bike-friendly. He also has a chapter on the evolution of cycling in Europe, particularly the Netherlands and Copenhagen.  One thing that seems true is that in Europe bicycling is not nearly as politicized as it has become in the U.S.; people there are happy to drive cars when it makes sense and they can afford it, but also respect cyclists on the road because they’ve been there in the past, and their kids are probably on bikes today.

I hadn’t realized that there is a major debate that’s been going on for years, about whether the best approach is to create separated bike lanes (as they do in the Netherlands, for example) or not.  Those against argue that there is increased danger at intersections when bikes come out of these lanes and surprise cars (especially right turners).  On the other hand, many people say that they would ride more if they had access to safer bike lanes.  One point that does seem pretty well proven by now is that the more riders there are on the streets, the more generally safe it gets to ride, presumably because drivers become much more aware of the possibility of cyclers.

Here in Portland, there are some devoted bike lanes, but also a set of so-called bike boulevards, that don’t have painted lanes, but are low-traffic streets that are set up with stop signs on cross streets to allow pretty quick cross-town bike rides.

Well worth a read for anyone interested in the topic.  I didn’t think much about the title when I bought the book, but it’s actually quite clever.  Here’s a blog entry from the designer of the cover.

While on the topic of bicycling, I must note that the NYT’s love-affair with Portland continues, with a story on Friday titled “Portland, Portland Style: Touring by Bicycle” by Matt Furber.  Here’s a taste:

For visitors, it’s possible to land at Portland International Airport and hop the MAX Light Rail to start a city tour.

“You can just load your bike on the train and head into town,” said Don Shepler, a Portland-trained chef who, together with his wife, Erin Zell, runs Galena Lodge, a Nordic skiing retreat and summer hiking stop in southern Idaho. The couple enjoy returning to Portland for biking-and- food tours.

“The last time we were there we rode to a bunch of different restaurants on Alberta Street,” Ms. Zell said. “We’d enjoy a drink and appetizers and ride somewhere else.”

Days of clear weather come and go this time of year, but it never really rains that hard, Mr. Shepler said, adding that he liked the flow of bicycle traffic in Portland. “On the side streets with bike lanes you’re on the grid, and you can just go,” he said.

Update:  One other thing on this topic:  a new magazine on this topic just got started, and it’s called Bicycle Times – ‘your everyday cycling adventure.’

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