Reviews

“A measure of any book is whether it makes you think beyond its pages, and ‘Bike Battles’ did just that for me. . . My dad used to tell me that if I got only one thing out of a book—an interesting fact, a point of view I hadn’t previously considered, something helpful to my life or just entertainment—the book was worth its cover price. By that standard Bike Battles is a bargain. . . The book ought to give today’s bicycle advocates a sense of their place in history and make them proud to continue the battle.”

— Grant Petersen, Wall Street Journal, April 2015

“. . .the book provides in scholarly but very readable style an analysis of cycling as it serves as a locus of conflict over the use and ownership of public commons. What, he consistently asks, are the various forces that serve to shape the use and non-use of the bicycle in ever-changing contexts? . . . Longhurst is also very notable for the diversity of sources he uses to unfold the cultural constructions of cycling, especially referencing film and TV, both documentary and popular. By using popular sources he constructs a convincing argument for the infantilising of the bicycle (and concurrent removal from transport debates) . . .  Consistently he shows how new cultural meanings could be attached to the bike through public discourses and how these meanings can be shifted quite rapidly when larger political questions demand . . . although bikes are the primary material theme of the book, they are a means to illustrate larger social, cultural and political processes . . .”

— Peter Cox, The Journal of Transport History, March 2017

“Longhurst’s conceptualization of the road . . .should inspire mobility scholars beyond cycling historians. . . Longhurst’s accounts build on a truly innovative use of multiple sources, from legal texts, design manuals, and newspaper articles to sitcoms and traffic education films. These chapters are pleasant reads and convincing narratives. . .  In going beyond the present, this book helps us understand why motorists so often consider the road as their birthright. It is not because of an oft-claimed American love affair with the car, Longhurst asserts, but because of those multiple lost bike battles during the past hundred years.”

–Martin Emanuel, Transfers 7:1, Spring 2017

Bike battles provides a well-researched foundation into many of the issues of bicycle planning today, and is especially valuable by framing the battles as more than just legal rights.”

— Peter Furth, Transport Reviews, March 2017

“Longhurst’s Bike Battles . . . contributes to an important, ongoing dialogue about the moral and legal rights of cyclists to use public roads, and the viability of public taxes as a tool to achieve that end. In particular, his concluding arguments about the predicament of cyclists’ present-day path-dependency in cities are forceful.”

— Robert L. McCullough, Old Wheelways: Traces of Bicycle History on the Land, (Boston: MIT Press, 2015), 351.

“En la introducción, Longhurst expone su argumento de forma clara y concisa, y a continuación se lanza a analizar distintos episodios de la historia de las calles con una prosa ágil, manteniendo la conexión con su tesis general, y retomando la idea en las conclusiones. . . El libro es una encantadora historia ambiental de las bicicletas en las calles y carreteras americanas desde 1870, escrito con un estilo fluido, con una sólida investigación archivística, un uso original de las fuentes documentales y una edición generosamente ilustrada. . . . Bike Battles puede aportar una nueva y fresca mirada a las calles y carreteras. Para afrontar los dilemas actuales y los planes futuros, es posible encontrar inspiración en el pasado.”

— Santiago Gorostiza, Antropología Experimental, September 2016

“Longhurst provides general readers with a sprightly history of the political and legal battles over cycling from the late nineteenth century to the present . . . The bicyclists currently navigating traffic-choked streets, inhaling exhaust and darting between behemoth SUVs, like many other aspects of the contemporary urban landscape, Longhurst asserts, represent the legal and institutional legacy of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.”

— Bruce J. Schulman, Reviews in American History, September 2016

“. . . an accessible and highly readable story of the bicycle that will be relevant to a wider urban and transportation planners, municipal officials, and especially to those advocating for redesign of roads to include bicycles and other uses. . . . this work seeks a usable past to help advocates understand the legal and cultural contradictions before them. Above all, in its thoughtful conclusion, Bike Battles asks us to interrogate roads as common resources . . . Scholars will find here a promising direction in writing about public policy history—with a strong reliance on popular culture, including films—in cases where traditional archival sources are highly incomplete. . . the author has taken us on a legal and cultural ramble on the American road as well as given us a useful model of engaged and responsible urban history scholarship.”

— Joshua Lupkin, The Journal of American History, March 2016

“Reading Bike Battles is like riding down a smooth path with some unexpected sightseeing along the way. The writing is accessible and fun to read. Longhurst incorporates clever references to popular culture . . . Especially relevant to a generation of students who are more likely to consider forms of transportation beyond the car, this book is a promising addition to a history, urban planning, or environmental studies class.”

— Margot Higgins, Environmental History, June 2016

Bike Battles is an enjoyable read that highlights important historical conflicts that shaped our current roadways. It is accessible and appropriate for any undergraduate class or person interested in bicycling. . . . Longhurst also breaks down concepts in order to not trip up non-academic readers. For instance, he defines policy in regards to politics, and also offers up an understandable definition of imagined communities . . .  his variety of sources should be commended. Not only did he employ the traditional archival, governmental, and newspaper primary sources, but he also analyzed education films, “cranky letters to the editor in small town newspapers,” slapstick silent films, vaudeville play bills, and “forgotten 1950s sitcoms from the more obscure corners of the Internet”.

— Lindsay Parks Pieper, Sport in American History, June 2016

“Carefully researched, thoroughly documented, and very engaging, this is a book that everyone who travels needs to read and understand. . . Highly recommended.”

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, October 2015

“The present-day boom is built on renewed bicycle commuting in the cities. With the uptick in cycling comes a struggle for space on what Longhurst calls “the road as commons.”

“The road is shared, community-funded and exhaustible,” Longhurst writes.

“We’re getting to the point that it’s difficult to imagine building more highways and more lanes in America cities,” Longhurst said, as he discussed the present-day boom and the need for people to figure out new ways to get across town.”

— Bill Glauber’s profile in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 26, 2015

“[Y]ou should absolutely buy and hold [Bike Battles] up as a righteous rebuke the next time someone complains that ‘the war on cars is real.’ Longhurst maps out the perfect storm of American consumer trends, policy decisions, and historical events that led to that car cutting you off downtown just now”

—Megan Burbank, Portland Mercury, June 3, 2015

“These colorful references, coupled with Longhurst’s light and natural writing style, make “Bike Battles” easy to read.”

— Joe Garvin, City Living Seattle, June 12, 2015

“In six chapters, [Longhurst] traces the history of what is essentially road-sharing: first horses and carts mixed with pedestrians; then trolleys and buses; then, after WWII, an overwhelming shift, funded by federal highway dollars, to the primacy of the car.”

Seattle Weekly, June 16, 2015

“Bike Battles, a new history of bike culture in the US . . . , tells the fascinating story of the legal and political battles over bicycles on the road. . . Longhurst’s timely study shows that the arguments over bikes and road space are not new and also holds lessons for present-day bicycle advocates who would be wise to avoid the mistakes that scuttled earlier efforts to build bike infrastructure in US cities . . .will be of great interest to anyone interested in the history of bike policy and roads in the US.”

 — Cal Poly Pomona history professor John Lloyd, on his blog Boy on a Bike, July 2015

“. . . a keen, thoughtful and often amusing perspective . . . Intelligent, relevant and enlightening, Bike Battles is what all history should be. The reader needn’t be a policy wonk or a cycling enthusiast to appreciate the lessons, and its array of old photographs and sketches (bike commuters in 1902, “high riders” in Boston in 1880) are delightful. All in all, it’s a worthy ride.”

Jennifer Graham, for The Hippo (New Hampshire alt-weekly), Summer 2015

“[Bike Battles] looks at the bike’s role in pop culture, public policy and infrastructure development since it hit the roads in the 19th century.”

— Amy Goetzman in the Minnpost, June 2015

“An excellent, enlightening new book . . .”

 — Knute Berger, Seattle Magazine, August 2015

“[H]is book, while academically rigorous, is easily accessible to the general public. In fact, I found it a page-turner as would any one who rides a bike on the streets of any American city or rural place.”

— Dave Cieslewicz , Isthmus, August 2015

“Longhurst argues that, dating back to Roman times, roads were a kind of commons — shared by all. “

— Knute Berger, Crosscut, September 2015

“Longhurst tackles this debate between bike riders, motorists, and pedestrians by exploring the different mediums Americans have used to create opinions on the bicycle, such as: popular songs, advertising, films, newspapers, and television.”

— “Best New Bike Books,”  Momentum Magazine, October 2015

 

 

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