Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Robert's Mini Bike Book Review: City Cycling, Edited by John Pucher and Ralph Buehler

Review by Robert Leone

Twenty-one contributors combined to create fifteen chapters for this MIT published 2012 book targeting urban planners who believe bicycles are the new black. The overall emphasis is on separated bicycle facilities, but there's other stuff, too. For example, there's a chapter on the “Health Benefits” of cycling that's clearly based upon studies of folks who've integrated a little riding here and there into their daily lives, not enthusiast amateur athletes. A more oblique chapter only a cost accountant would love, “Effective Speed,” factors the time spent earning vehicle ownership into the question of how fast one travels. It's an idea whose earliest expression seems to come from Thoreau. Another surprising chapter focuses on the design of “Bicycle Equipment and Its Role in Promoting Cycling as a Travel Mode.” Separate chapters address the distinct concerns of women and children propelling themselves on roads and paths, safety, and combining bikes and public transportation. Surprise: Most European transit systems don't allow bikes on board, but have enough station parking that many people have bikes at both ends of their routine commute! Bike sharing gets a chapter. Most interesting for advocates are three separate chapters comparing development of facilities and ride share in small cities (including California's own Davis), big cities, and “Megacities.” One of the latter, Tokyo, is not a hotbed of separated facilities or traffic calming systems simply because surface street speeds are already quite low, but the more than 800,000 bike parking spots at rail stations attract 37% of the region's bike rides. City Cycling is a valuable and timely concentration of the past decade and a half of research on the impact of cycling, cycling infrastructure, and people who ride bikes. The well-stocked references are great aids to searching for the original papers and presentations. This book will date quickly, but for a frozen portrait of the best information and comparisons available now, I know of none better.

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