The Book

Cover of Las Batallas de la Bici, 2019

Now in paperback from UW PressAmazon, and booksellers! An exploration of the hidden history of bicycle law and policy conflicts in the United States, bringing scholarly research into our current bicycle debates through archival sources and popular culture.  Cloth (2015 ISBN 9780295994680) Paperback (2017 ISBN 9780295742663).  And now in translation from Katakrak Press as Las Batallas De La Bici (ISBN 978-84-16946-33-4).

Americans have been riding bikes for more than a century now. So why are most American cities still so ill-prepared to handle cyclists? James Longhurst, a historian and avid cyclist, tackles that question by tracing the contentious debates between American bike riders, motorists, and pedestrians over the shared road.

Bike Battles explores the different ways that Americans have thought about the bicycle through popular songs, merit badge pamphlets, advertising, films, newspapers and sitcoms. Those associations shaped the actions of government and the courts when they intervened in bike policy. These battles extend from the late 19th century legal fight, to debates over Good Roads and bicycle sidepaths; from the attempt to control the traffic created by the new automobile in the early 20th century, to the “Victory Bike” program encouraging and rationing bicycles during WWII; from the decline of the bike in postwar American suburbs, to the return of the 10-speed in the midst of the 1970s energy crises.

Today, cycling in American urban centers remains a challenge as city planners, political pundits, and residents continue to argue over bike lanes, bike-share programs, law enforcement, sustainability, and public safety. Combining fascinating new research from a wide range of sources with a true passion for the topic, Longhurst shows us that these battles are nothing new; in fact they’re simply a continuation of the original battle over who is—and isn’t—welcome on our roads.

 University of Washington Press catalog page

Table of Contents:



1. GET OUT OF THE ROAD!  The Battle over the Public Roads in America, 1870–1900

2. THE RIGHT SORT OF PEOPLE: The Battle over Taxes, Sidepaths, and Roads at the Turn of the Century

3. THE RULES OF THE ROAD: Bicycling in the Automotive Age, 1900–1930

4. VICTORY BIKE BATTLES: The Debate over Emergency Transport in World War II

5. 1950s SYNDROME: Excluding Bikes from Suburban Streets, Interstate Highways, and Adult Lives

6. BIKES ARE BEAUTIFUL: The Bike Boom, Bikeways, and the Battle over Where to Ride in the 1970s

CONCLUSION: The Road as a Commons