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First look at “Pedaling Revolution”, a new book by Oregonian reporter

Posted by on January 5th, 2009 at 12:10 pm

The cover

This morning I received an advanced copy of a long-awaited new book by Jeff Mapes; Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities.

Mapes is the senior political reporter for The Oregonian (he also writes a politics blog) and, while I’ve known about this project for a long time, he’s kept the details secret. I’m excited to dive into this book and see what he’s come up with.

For the past few years, I’ve watched Mapes tote around his notebook interviewing folks in the local and national bike scene. But this book goes far beyond Portland’s borders. Mapes’ book shares the impact of bike culture and activism in places like New York City, Davis, Chicago, and others. He also has a chapter titled, “Learning from Amsterdam”, based on his findings from a trip he took to that bike mecca back in 2005.

As expected, Pedaling Revolution includes a lot of information about Portland. Chapter 5 is titled, “Portland Built it and They Came”.

National Bike Summit

Author Jeff Mapes, taking a breather
at the 2007 National Bike Summit.
(Photos © J. Maus)

For more on the book, here’s the blurb from the publisher:

From traffic-dodging bike messengers to tattooed teenagers on battered bicycles, from riders in spandex to well-dressed executives, ordinary citizens are becoming transportation revolutionaries. In Pedaling Revolution, Jeff Mapes traces the growth of bicycle advocacy; examines the environmental, safety, and health aspects of cycling; and explores the growing bike culture that is changing the look and feel of cities, suburbs, and small towns across North America.

Tom Vanderbilt, the so-hot-right-now blogger and author of the mega-hit book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says about Us), had this to say about Mapes’ book:

“Writing from Portland, the hub of the American cycling renaissance, Jeff Mapes…makes an admirably clearheaded, convincing and, ultimately, humane argument for making more room for the twowheeler, in our lives and on our roads.”

Jane Holtz Kay, author of Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America and How We Can Take It Back, says:

“Finally, the bicycling movement gets the serious examination that it deserves.”

Mapes’ book comes a year after Pedal Power by J. Harry Wray, another book about bicycling’s rise as a cultural and political force in America.

I’ll share more thoughts about Pedaling Revolution once I’ve read it. The book is published by Oregon State University Press and it is set for release on March 20, 2009. It’s not available yet, but bookmark this page on to buy the book and support at the same time!

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • bikieboy January 5, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    ok, Jonathan, get reading –!

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  • Scott Mizee January 5, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    looking forward to reading this…

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  • matt picio January 5, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Awesome – someone needs to tell Powells, and the Multnomah County Library, because the title doesn’t show up on either site.

    Perhaps the book hasn’t already been assigned an ISBN number…

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) January 5, 2009 at 3:35 pm


    the book won’t be avail. until March. I got an advanced copy from the publisher (a common thing in the publishing world) so that I can read it and then have a review ready once it’s on the shelves.

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  • Matthew Denton January 5, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    And it normally takes a couple weeks between when a book comes out, and when the library has got it into the catalog and onto the shelves. There are exceptions, (they had ~300 copies of the last Harry Potter book on the shelves the same day you could buy it in stores,) but with the library buying 200,000 books a year, sometimes these things just take time…

    But if you want to tell the library about a book they should carry:

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  • matt picio January 5, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Jonathan (#4) – sure, but many book releases are in the database long before the release date. For example, John Michael Greer’s book “The Long Descent” was in the database 4 months before the release date. Either the book hasn’t been assigned an ISBN yet, or the publisher isn’t doing a very good job promoting the book.

    Just checked

    So, the book does have an ISBN – Mapes’ publisher should be telling Powell’s about it – someone in the marketing chain isn’t being as effective as they could be.

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  • matt picio January 5, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Matthew (#5) – Thanks for the link!

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  • matt picio January 5, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Sorry for the multiple posts,

    I should have looked more closely at the page before criticizing the marketing of the publisher. The publisher is Oregon State University.

    Anyway, someone should suggest it to Powell’s.

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  • Micki Reaman, OSU Press January 5, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Thanks for putting out the early word about the book! It can be pre-ordered now from the University of Arizona Press (distributor of OSU Press titles) at 1800-426-3797 or online at
    Powell’s will soon be taking orders for the book as well–Jeff Mapes will read at Powell’s (1005 W Burnside) on March 19, 7:30 p.m.

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  • Donna January 5, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    The more people who suggest this book to the Multnomah County Library, the more likely it will be that they order more than one copy…

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  • Spencer Boomhower January 6, 2009 at 1:30 am

    I found this on Powell’s:

    by searching for the ISBN. Not much to see yet though, just a publisher’s blurb!

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  • Patrick Valdez January 6, 2009 at 9:12 am

    I tried finding this at Powell’s in Beaverton but no luck. It sounds like something I’ll really enjoy reading so hopefully there is a local book store with a copy.

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  • Curt Dewees January 6, 2009 at 11:49 am

    This is going to be a very well-researched book, by someone who really knows what he’s talking about. Not only is Jeff Mapes an experienced journalist who did dozens and dozens of interviews with transportation thought leaders from all over the United States, he is also a daily bike commuter — riding from his home in the NE Portland/Alameda Ridge-area to the Oregonian headquarters in downtown Portland and back. Mapes really *lives* the bicycling life!

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  • Scott Mizee January 7, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    so, Elly and Jonathan… can you post the link of how we can buy this book through Powells and therefore support at the same time?


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  • Bill Stites January 7, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    Thanks to Jeff for all the hard work that goes into such a book.
    I look forward to reading it, and will be sure to buy it through Powell’s to support BP.o

    Another gem in the sparkly chalet of Portland, I’m sure.

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  • Matthew Denton January 8, 2009 at 8:23 am

    I don’t believe that how many copies are bought is affected by how many requests there are for it, (especially for a book that isn’t even been published or reviewed yet: lets face it, sometimes even though a subject matter is interesting, and the author is good, the book itself can be awful,) I think that more requests just means that someone at the library has to read through more requests…

    And in any case, the decision on how many copies to buy is heavily based on the circulation of books similar to this, such as: Pedal Power: the quiet rise of the bicycle in American public life with maybe an (upwards) adjustment based off the fact that it is an Oregon author… And so the real message here is: if you want to see more books about a certain subject in the library, you should read the other books they have on that subject.

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  • Pat Malach February 11, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Can’t wait to read it!

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  • Scott Mizée March 1, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Just picked my copy up Thursday night at Powells.
    According to their online link right now, there are only 3 copies left. I’ve been really enjoying the book so far! What are others thinking?

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  • Elly Blue March 1, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Or check out the book at Powell’s via this partnered link and help support BikePortland with your purchase! Thanks everyone.

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  • Scott Mizée March 2, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Thanks for posting the partner link, Elly. I have a question. When I was at Powells, I asked them if I could buy in store to benefit BikePortland as a partner and they didn’t have any idea how to do that. Do you know how? It would really be great to browse in person and still benefit BikePortland. Thanks!

    When’s Jonathan publishing his review?

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  • Elly Blue March 2, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Scott, thanks for the question.

    I’m pretty sure you can’t use the partner program in-person — the closest you can get to that is shopping online and instead of having the books shipped to you, choose to have them held at your local Powell’s for pickup.

    But I’ve asked about it anyway — maybe there is a way to do that.

    Jonathan’s working on writing up the book — look for it soon…

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  • Dr Larry Myers July 12, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    reading this book facilitated my completing a rewrite of a monologue collection called “Bicycle Centaurs.”

    the biking play was composed as I sat in the windy free street space at Castro and Market Streets in San Francisco..then there is that new vortex smack on the cover of bike rag! yes!

    my play “Environmentalists Seance” about the Berkeley tree sitters debuted at Theater for the New City before I was crippled & paralyzed 4 months..up & hobbling now..wanting wheels so I wrote “Centaurs:BIKE FREeDOM! BIKE BREATH!

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