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Pedaling Revolution

How Cyclists are Changing American Cities

Jeff Mapes

Publication Year: 2009

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

Published by: Oregon State University Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 7-26

From New York’s Williamsburg Bridge to San Francisco’s Market Street, rush-hour traffic jams—those iconic emblems of American life—teem with millions of cars, trucks, and buses. At first glance, only the increasing miles of congestion and the stylized curves of the cars distinguish twenty-first-century gridlock ...

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1 How Cyclists Created a Political Movement

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pp. 27-60

In the early 1970s, the American bicycle industry was caught flatfooted by a mysterious phenomenon: sales were suddenly skyrocketing. The famous Schwinn Bicycle Company, surprised as anyone by the surge, was forced to ration its dealers. Retailers scrambled to import European bikes. An industry once focused on children’s bikes retooled to meet the new demand from adults for ...

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2 Learning from Amsterdam

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pp. 61-88

Roger Geller’s eyes danced with pleasure as he intently watched the street scene along the Amstel River on an unseasonably warm and sunny day in Amsterdam in late fall. An elderly couple leisurely pedaled in unison along a lane of cobblestones and casually turned left onto a busy bridge that leads over the river. Another couple, with a toddler nestled on a ...

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3 Creating the New Urban Bike Culture

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pp. 89-118

As I knocked around the urban bike world, Phil Sano—or Rev. Phil, as everyone called him, because of his mailorder divinity degree—became a Zelig-like figure to me. I showed up at a mini-bike chariot race, and there he was, never giving up no matter how often he’d get whacked off his chariot by a foam-covered lance. I would see him hanging with the bike ...

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4 Davis: Creating an American Bike City

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pp. 119-140

I’m fresh off the turnip truck, so to speak, on my first morning cycling around Davis, and it doesn’t take long for me to realize: the drivers here are incredibly mellow. They surrender the right of way with the same eagerness that people open doors for someone in a wheelchair. A couple of drivers even looked exasperated when I waved my thanks, as if they were saying, “Just ...

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5 Portland Built It and They Came

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pp. 141-168

For one ridiculous moment, I felt like a teenage girl rummaging through her closet looking for the right top. Should I wear my spandex and enjoy the rush of speed on my feather-light road bike? Or should I go in casual wear on my comfortable hybrid, which I usually ride to work? Nope. I finally settled on a T-shirt, hiking shorts, and my mountain bike. ...

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6 Biking in the Big Apple

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pp. 169-194

I slowly pedaled over the Brooklyn Bridge, dodging photosnapping tourists as I watched the skyscrapers of Wall Street grow closer on a fine spring day. Still uncertain of my safety on the Manhattan streets, I planned to play it safe by scurrying over to the East River bike path as soon as I came off the west end of the bridge. But I saw a cyclist ahead of me ride straight down ...

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7 Overcoming the Safety Barriers

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pp. 195-225

I never knew bicycle bells could sound so mournful. Like a funeral dirge, the sound echoed off the buildings as I joined several hundred cyclists for a memorial ride up one of Portland’s busiest boulevards, West Burnside Street. ...

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8 Health and the Bicycle

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pp. 227-246

Fortunately I have never had Elvis-sized food issues. But I am a pretty typical American male. I was a beanpole-skinny teenager who gained the “freshman ten” when I went off to college and discovered that nobody in my dorm’s cafeteria stopped me if I wanted to eat three grilled cheese sandwiches. Then I joined the pound-a-year plan, gaining weight slowly enough that I hardly ...

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9 Bringing Kids Back to Bikes

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pp. 247-265

It was a fine spring morning and the neighborhood around Sacramento Elementary School was filled with large packs of children walking to school. For anyone of my generation, growing up in the 1960s, it was an ordinary sight. Except on this day, there is an undeniable air of excitement around Sacramento school, which is on the eastern edge of Portland. The kids were ...

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Epilogue, Acknowledgment

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pp. 267-276

Susan Zielinski was speaking at one of those wonkish transportation seminars at New York University when she threw everyone a curve by suddenly putting up a slide of a woman’s legs in sexy fishnet stockings. It was her attention-getting way of illustrating the future of urban transportation. The idea, she explained, is that people ...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 277-282


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pp. 285-288

E-ISBN-13: 9780870716386
E-ISBN-10: 0870716387
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870714191
Print-ISBN-10: 0870714198

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: B&W photos
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 794701189
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Pedaling Revolution

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • City and town life -- United States.
  • Cycling -- United States -- Safety measures.
  • Urbanization -- United States.
  • Cycling -- Europe.
  • Cycling -- Europe -- Safety measures.
  • Urbanization -- Europe.
  • Urban transportation -- Europe.
  • Urban transportation -- United States.
  • Cycling -- United States.
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