Monday, April 26, 2010

REVIEW: "Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities"

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You want to love Pedaling Revolution, but as Jeff Mapes himself points out in his introduction to the book, bike riders find "physical fitness, low-cost transportation, environmental purity -- and, still all too often, Wild West risks of sudden death or injury." Which takes us to the note I received from our resident engineer and on-hands test rider, Ken Thiessen:

Regarding my book review on Pedaling Revolution, I started of with the best of intentions then was diverted by a text chapter review for my former professor, three deaths of friends and family this winter, executorship of a substantial and messy estate and finally, I crashed hard on my bike last summer and this past fall I had two near misses with vehicles on my commute to work.

I feel like I am no longer such an advocate of utility bicycling as it remains far and away the most dangerous thing I do and seems irresponsible given the responsibilities I must put first. I have fallen from the choir and I don't feel like I can champion the cause that Jeff Mapes puts forward, which is what I really wanted to do.



Even in Portland, the bicycling routes are awkward and confusing patches placed on top of an already complete and integrated car transportation infrastructure. On my six mile commute, my bike route quits seven times at roadway sections too narrow to allow a bike lane, over three bridges, and a Y-fork in the road. In these sections, I become a vehicular cyclist and I hope the cars know why I am in the lane. There is a safer scenic route available to me but my commute then takes twice as long. I do take the scenic route on my way home.


There you have it bike lovers. Even in Portland. OK Ken was under a little stress for a while, but he claims he married a terrific woman a few months ago. Not only that, I sent them my new book/dvd on massage. In other words, Ken is a happy guy! And as a trained engineer, he can maintain a steely Zen detachment even while holding forth on the advantages of wooden bike frames. I've known Ken for many bike rides and I've never seen him lose his cool. Once it turned out that we were 20 miles from town and the rainy season ahem... hadn't actually ended. Ken took that as a perfect opportunity to demonstrate how much faster his carbon fiber bike was than my steel framed model.

We all dream of a bike-friendly society with few gasoholics and fewer fatties. Kids will ride bikes to school again. People will shop, commute, worship and date by bike. Geriatrics will cruise around the woods and parklands in groups of eight or ten on a sunny Sunday afternoon just as they do on all over Holland.

Must we get out there in traffic and die to make this happen?