Sarah Goodyear, 12/12/2012
In their new book, John Pucher and Ralph Buehler come right out and state their belief in plain English: "Cycling should be made feasible, convenient, and safe for everyone." The editors of City Cycling, just published by MIT Press, aim to further that cause by gathering together as much data as they could find to support their case that "it is hard to beat cycling when it comes to environmental, economic, and social sustainability."
This is not a book of impassioned arguments or heartfelt polemics. Pucher and Buehler are academics, the former at Rutgers University and the latter at Virginia Tech. The 19 contributors to the book are also academics. Each chapter is followed by multiple pages of references and citations, and the entire book underwent peer review. City Cycling is unabashedly pro-bike, but its authors aren’t relying on gut feeling. This is all about the numbers.
Cycling advocates pushing for better bicycling infrastructure on streets around the world are accustomed to meeting with skeptical audiences. They will find a lot of ammunition here, much of it gleaned from studies of nations such as Germany and the Netherlands, where cycling is a routine part of daily life. Divided into chapters on subjects such as health benefits, safety, bikesharing systems around the world, cycling for women, and cycling for kids, the book marshals an impressive and fascinating assortment of facts, figures, trends, charts, and diagrams.
While City Cycling probably won’t convince the most hard-core bike haters, it has the potential to help change the debate about how biking fits into the transportation system in countries such as the U.S., where it has traditionally been perceived as marginal. This thoroughly academic approach could be just what we need to move the conversation forward.