Book Review: “Pedaling Revolution” by Jeff Mapes

I recently had the pleasure of reading Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities by Jeff Mapes (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2009). Mr. Mapes is a political reporter for the Oregonian, and he put together a great overall look at American bicycle culture.

pedaling revolution

Mapes gives a pretty thorough overview of the major (and some minor, but influential) players in the U.S. bicycle advocacy movement and traces the history of our bicycle culture and advocacy progress from the early 1970s to the present. All the high points are covered: politicians such as Jim Oberstar (D-Minnesota), John Forester of the vehicular cycling movement, advocacy groups like the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation (now called the Active Transportation Alliance) and Bike Portland, the Critical Mass movement, even Reverend Phil of Bike Porn Tour fame. This gives the reader a good picture of how modern bike culture developed.

As with many such books, a trip to Amsterdam, the fabled bicycle mecca, was included. Mapes is careful to point out that although bicycling is ingrained in Dutch society (as it is in Copenhagen, Denmark…the “other” mecca), many of the real developments didn’t happen until the the late 1960s for both areas. And, Mapes points out that both Amsterdam and Copenhagen are not without their car problems; despite barriers such as high sales and ownership taxes and the cost of fuel, car miles have increased.

Pedaling Revolution has chapters on safety issues, describing many U.S. cities as “in that awkward period where utilitarian cycling has become visible but still not mainstream”. Mapes touches on some of the vehicular cycling vs. dedicated bicycle infrastructure points in this chapter. There are also chapters on getting kids back on bikes and health considerations (the American decrease in physical activity and subsequent explosion in obesity and diabetes epidemics). The health chapter does not focus its sights squarely on the motor vehicle as villian, but Mapes is careful to list it as one of many contributing factors to the health crisis facing U.S. cities.

Overall, the book is a good read — complete, well-researched and sprinkled throughout with fascinating experiences and interactions between the author and people involved in bicycle culture at all levels. Add it to your booklist; it’s worth checking out.

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Florida Bike Month…Just Days Away!

As many of you may know, Florida celebrates Bike Month in March rather than May like the rest of the country.

To kick things off, the folks at Tampa BayCycle have (finally!) announced a schedule of events taking place in March. Here are some of the highlights:

–Tuesday 3/2 Free tickets to Lightning game for those arriving via bicycle, sponsored by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

–Thursday 3/4 Street Skills workshop (brown bag, 12 – 1pm), sponsored by Sprinkle Consulting, RSVP to Karen Kress .

–Friday 3/5, 3/26 Bike to Work Day — Join experienced cyclists coming downtown from all directions with a morning meet up at Indigo Coffee.

Words for Wheels free bike giveaway contest opens (due 3/22).

–Log your miles to compete in the Commuter Challenge.

–Discounts at CityBike Tampa when you mention “Tampa BayCycle” (varies each week).

–The Downtown YMCA is even offering free use of the locker room for cyclists throughout the month. And don’t forget our 2nd annual Tampa Twilight Criterium and ECO.Festival on 3/27.

Hope to see some of you out there during Bike Month and at some of these events. With luck, I’m going to try to cover the Twilight Criterium like I did last year.

Shameless Self-Promotion…For a Good Cause!

Some friends and I will be riding in this year’s American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure. Our local event is on March 7th at Ft. Desoto, Florida.

This is the first charity ride I’ve done in a LONG time…probably more than 20 years have passed since I’ve done one.

Anyhow, if you’ve got some extra dollars burning holes in your pockets, you can help support the cause by sponsoring me. Donations are 100% tax-deductible. If you’re interested in helping fight diabetes and want to kick a few dollars towards this charity, please click here and select the “Click Here to Sponsor Me” link in the left-hand corner. Thanks in advance!

LAPD to be trained on the rights of bicyclists

It looks like L.A. bike commuters have gained an ally from the LAPD and Councilman Rosenthal:

Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck told a group of bicycle advocates that department-wide training would be implemented to highlight the rights of bicyclists on the road and ensure that officers know how to deal with incidents involving bikes.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl, chairman of the transportation committee, said it was a “historic first� to have the chief of police listening directly to the experiences of cyclists and promising reform.

“Today is the beginning of a new day with the LAPD,� Rosendahl said. “My hope is that six months from now an officer will know the rights of cyclists as well as the rights of motorists.… I think the LAPD, like pretty much the citizenry in general, has had the car culture.�

You can read the entire article here.

I’m pretty sure that the lobbying from our friends from the LACBC had something to do with it. The LACBC is a great resource for us Angelinos, check out their site at http://la-bike.org/index.html.

Review: Nikwax Tech Wash and TX-Direct

A winter’s worth of riding through slush and grime had made my pannier rain covers nasty. I’d rinse them off with clean water every few days, but they had gotten deeply stained with road grime and they started losing most of their water repellent properties. It’s hard to see in these photos, but the inner surface that faces the wheels was really dirty, even after rinsing them off in the sink.

Our friends at Nikwax were happy to send us some sample-sized products to try out. Tech Wash is a special detergent made for washing water-repellent material.  It’s supposed to help lift stains out and clean the surface without diminishing the waterproofing properties of GORE-TEX and similar textiles. In fact, it’s supposed to help revitalize them a bit. We’ll see. These rain covers are FILTHY and leak water. I also added my waterproof ski shell to the mix. One of these containers is supposed to be good for up to three garments.

After Tech Wash, the pannier covers were notably cleaner, with only a few really deep stains remaining. I let them dry completely before taking this photo, then I put them to the test with some water spray.  Some parts of the rain cover shed water while it permeated other parts. The rain covers were clean, but their waterproofing was too far gone. My ski jacket repelled water like new, though!

I ran the rain covers through the wash again, this time with NikWax’s TX Direct wash-in Waterproofing solution. This milky substance is added directly to the washer (or to a sink full of water) without any detergent, and you “wash” already-clean waterproof gear in it to revitalize its hydrophobic properties.

I once again dried the rain covers out, and then performed the same test with water spray. Even after 5 minutes of water sitting on the rain covers, nothing was soaking through.

That was about a week ago, and they’re still repelling water. Hopefully, after being treated with NikWax, they will last through the rainy spring season that’s on the way.

Nikwax has a wide range of products for cleaning and refurbishing technical clothing. This includes scrubbing cleaners for cycling/running shoes, Base Wash for deodorizing and restoring the wicking and breathability of your base layers, and spray-on waterproofing agents. I may try some of these other products in the future, but for now, I’m quite pleased with TX Direct and Tech Wash.

Please read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.