Bike books are generally shunted to the back of the books stores, relegated to the sports shelves or dying a slow death in the 'transportation' section. But political reporter Jeff Mapes of The Oregonian is enjoying unexpected popularity with his first title: Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities. If in real estate location is king, in non-fiction titles timing seems to be everything. While the pedal revolution is not quite upon us, could brisk sales of Mapes' urban biking book - its publisher Oregon State University Press says sales are brisk - be an indicator that the city cycling movement is moving towards critical mass?Dedicated cyclist David Byrne reviews Pedal
In the New York Times review of Pedaling Revolution, cyclist and musician David Byrne (who has his own book about cycling out in fall) says Mapes book audience is "not likely to reach beyond the already converted" in the biking world. The United States, Byrne says, is as much a car culture as ever.
Yet bikes sold better than cars in the first half of 2009, and while the fall of GM may not signal the end of car culture, but it does signal the end of car culture as we knew it. Continuing congestion and CO2 concerns will get more people on their bikes, I believe. Maybe not in every city, maybe not in every country. But bikes will play more of a role as people realize the car is no longer the clear winner for personal mobility.
Mapes points out in the book what we've talked about at TreeHugger: when more women get on their bikes (in roughly equal numbers to men), that's the signal that city biking has become an equal-opportunity transportation method. We're not there yet: in Portland, premier bike city, there's a roughly 70/30 split of male to female riders.
"[Mapes'] extensive research (he took a six-month sabbatical from The Oregonian to immerse himself in bike culture, bike advocacy and bike politics), solid reporting skills, and anecdotal-infused personal style have combined to stitch together a story that, so far, has been largely unknown to all but wonky advocates."
Is that enough to turn an urban biking book into a bona fide best seller? Well, Maus at BikePortland reports that OSU Press' Associate Director Tom Booth said Pedaling Revolution is the publisher's "fastest selling title ever."
Post script: Carlton Reid's Bike to Work, meanwhile, has enjoyed nearly 140,000 downloads - definitely an online best seller!
Read more about city biking at TreeHugger:
Ten Reasons Not to Bike to Work. All Debunked. Threefold.
Book Review: The Cyclist's Manifesto
In Copenhagen, Bicycles Overtake Cars