Book review: 'City Cycling' by John Pucher & Ralph Buehler

City Cycling 
Edited by John Pucher & Ralph Buehler
RRP £19.95 

The arrival of this hefty academic tome on city cycling couldn’t be more timely. Politicians in the Western world are, at long last, waking up to the idea that cycling as transport can help address the issues of health, pollution and congestion in our mega-cities.

One of the book’s editors, John Pucher, says one US city is ordering electronic copies of City Cycling for its legislators. Few of them might read all 400 pages, or the treasure trove of useful references, but just a dip into chapters – such as the one on health benefits – is enough to convince that there is now a wealth of evidence to back the contention that more cycling is good for individuals and for communities. Politicians may try to shrug off cycling campaigners, but hard facts from cities in other countries are tougher to ignore.

City Cycling is aimed first and foremost at US legislators and it is frightening to read that some ill-considered US legislation is forcing schools to move out-of-town in search of the required larger land plots with disastrous consequences for active travel to school. The bulk of the book, however, shows planners that big increases in cycle use can be achieved and how this can be done.

Perhaps the most fascinating chapter is that on mega-cities such as New York, London, Paris and Tokyo. Many readers will be surprised that in Tokyo, which has twice London’s population, cycling’s share of all journeys is 16.5%. While London is, at last, planning a cycle hub with several thousand bike parking spaces, Tokyo has a staggering 800,000 spaces at stations and 2.1 million in the city as a whole.

And while we consider more 20mph zones Tokyo has one speed limit in the whole city — 30kph or 19mph. Most cycling there is on shared pavements or quiet streets. Pucher and Buhler, however, highlight the high cost of motoring in Tokyo (4.5 times US levels) as a key factor in the city’s high cycling level. 

Overall, this is a timely and impressively researched book on the benefits of cycling presenting global evidence. It's available for rather less than the RRP if you look online.

Review: Tom Bogdanowicz