Pedaling Revolution describes how cycling enthusiasts are changing the transportation culture throughout the United States, focusing on the usual suspects: Portland, Davis, San Francisco, with the mandatory look at Amsterdam thrown in. The style is occasionally plodding, awkward even, but the book is interesting in gauging the progress that has been made by advocates of alternatives to cars. What emerges is that the issue is not so much cars versus bicycles but rather how cities and especially suburbs are planned. The reason why Amsterdam or Davis can be so successful is that they cover relatively small areas. Having biked in Amsterdam (which I would highly recommend as a thrilling tourist activity) I’m convinced that the Dutch are not fitness fanatics or eco-warriors: bikes are simply faster than cars there, and finding a parking space for a car would be near impossible. In contrast, denizens of the typical suburb would be hard-pressed to use a bike to go to work or run errands — although, as the author stresses, bikes would be eminently practical for the many short trips we take, including for children to go to school sicne most live within a mile or two of their schools.
The best comment in the book is that bike riding must become hip if we want the phenomenon to go beyond the committed fanatics. I’ll keep riding my old bike around town and boasting of how much faster I can travel since I never have to look for a parking space, but I’m afraid I’m not cool enough to make bike-riding fashionable.