Use of bicycles in America and Britain fell off a cliff in the 1950s and 1960s thanks to the rapid rise in car ownership. Urban planners and politicians predicted that cycling would soon wither to nothing, and they did their level best to bring about this extinction by catering only for motorists. And then something strange happened – bicycling bounced back, first in America and then in Britain. Today's global bicycling boom – even the one in the Netherlands – has its roots in the early 1970s.
And this is what I'd like to explore in Bike Boom, a book that will use history to shine a spotlight on the present, and demonstrate how bicycling in the future has the potential to grow even further, if the right measures are put in place by the politicians and planners of today and tomorrow.
TARGET HIT – NOW FOR SOME STRETCH GOALS
Thanks to 320 backers – as of this second on 11th March – my project is safely over the funding target. This means I am now locked in to researching and writing Bike Boom. However, the campaign is still live and there's another 6 days available for people to bag rewards. With more funds I can add more stuff,
£9,000 – All backers of the posted rewards will get a Bike Boom bookmark.
£10,000 – The hardback and softback books will get a 24-page colour plate section.
£12,500 – All backers of the posted rewards will get a Bike Boom poster. This will feature a huge number of people on bicycles with a headline calling for more cycling facilities to be provided in order to cater for the growing demand. Backers can stick this up at home, or they could sneak in to a planner's office and stick it somewhere prominent ...
£15,000 – I'm only printing enough copies of the first edition to fulfil Kickstarter rewards. However, if I reach £15,000 in pledges I'll print an extra 20 copies and send them, gift-wrapped, to individual planners, politicians or other powers-that-be. The recipient list will be up to you – I'll send out a poll to see who should get mailed with books. How about the US Secretary of Transportation or the UK's Transport Secretary?
I'm Carlton Reid and I've been writing about bicycles for 30 years, starting with articles about bicycle travels in the Middle East in the 1980s. I'm the executive editor of trade magazine BikeBiz.com and am the author of nine books, two of which weren't about cycling (but both were written from the saddle of a mountain bike – the Berlitz Discover Guide to Israel, 1993, and Lebanon: A Travel Guide, 1995).
Between 1998 and 1999 I published the general interest On Your Bike magazine which catered to family cyclists and those thinking of starting or returning to cycling. This was for normal people in ordinary clothes, and I even had a Dutch journalist as an employee, who wrote features on Groningen.
While I have a strong interest in cycling for transport (my everyday bike is an Xtracycle cargo bike, not the touring bike seen in the video above) the boom in cycling is much wider than this. Bike Boom will explore all aspects of the growth in cycling – from Hackney hipsters, to tall-bike jousting in Portland, Oregon, as well as the growth of track-cycling in the UK (count the velodromes we have today which we didn't have 20 years ago).
Bike Boom will be available in a Kickstarter-only limited print-run first edition and will also be available as an ePub file and for Kindle devices and apps, and there will be a multi-media iPad version, too.
The first print edition of Roads Were Not Built For Cars was sold out within days and such has been the demand for this quickly out-of-print book I've heard Twitter tales of offline meet-ups between strangers for the book to be borrowed. The iPad edition went to number one in the history category on iTunes. The Kindle edition made it to number one on Amazon.com, in the automotive category.
Roads Were Not Built For Cars has also received rave reviews in the mainstream media, and on Amazon.com and iTunes (it's a 5-star book on both platforms). A purchaser on Amazon called it "outstanding". The Guardian said it was “ … closely argued, meticulously researched ..."
Dr. Robert Davis, of the Road Danger Reduction Forum, wrote: “This book … fascinates with a steady stream of revelatory contemporary views on who roads were for. As such it is … a contribution to the debates we should be having now on transport policy.”
Nick Clayton, one of the world's top cycle historians and founder of the International Cycle History Conference, wrote: ""This volume is the cycle history dissertation for our age … [with] fascinating snippets not noted elsewhere … None of the old cycling myths are regurgitated; the prose and proof-reading are beyond reproach … I cannot recommend this book more highly."
Trials riding superstar Hans "No Way" Rey was brief but to the point: “Interesting read … City councils should take note.”
I would like to think that Bike Boom would be just as well-received. It could also generate a great deal of interest in the mainstream, especially as bicycling is now rising up the political agenda, and the next generation of planners are being taught to plan for mass mobility for growing populations not just mobility for motor cars.
Bike Boom will aim to dig down into historical sources to find out how the Netherlands built a world-class network of bicycle paths – and much of the rest of the world didn't. I'd also like to interview the bicycle advocates and planners of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s (and those of today, too) to hear their stories, and learn from their successes and their mistakes.
Please consider this your invitation to become a backer of Bike Boom. You’ll get a first edition book (or one of the digital versions) as a reward, and you’ll also be along for the ride, helping me to take publishing decisions such as choosing cover artwork, suggesting avenues of research and giving me your opinions.
You'll also get backer-only previews of some of the book’s findings and lots of other insider stuff not available in any other way. Depending on the pledge level you'll also get an invite to the book launch party.
I have some rough ideas about the book's eventual findings but, as I discovered with Roads Were Not Built For Cars, focussed historical research can uncover forgotten facts which can lead to new understandings.
Today's boom is, in many places, not as dramatic as it's sometimes portrayed, witness the many media mentions of "Cycling is the new golf." Nevertheless, cycling is in a very different place to where it was twenty years ago and it'll be very worthwhile to pin down the reasons for its recent growth, even if this growth, outside of the Netherlands, is in pockets rather than widespread. Can those pockets be joined up? What works best for increasing cycle use, infrastructure alone or a mix of infrastructure and other measures? How much of an impact does the societal status of cycling have on levels of cycle use? Does the use of language matter – is it cyclists or people on bicycles? Is there a link between unfettered motor-car use and levels of cycling? What worked in the Netherlands, big national campaigns or lots of smaller local ones? How have cycle touring holidays helped many localities stay afloat? Does a strong racing scene lead to more utility riding? Do die-ins and "White bicycles" lead to more or less safety for cyclists? What led to the success of events such as the Tweed Run and the increasing number of Eroica rides?
If you join me in this Kickstarter journey you'll be an integral part of finding the answers to these questions and many more.
The rewards consist of:
£1+ – no product shipped but you get a warm glow.
£8 – Kindle/ePub file
£17 – Hi-res Kindle file
£19 – iPad file
£19 plus postage – Softback book, mailed to the UK or internationally.
£29 plus postage – Softback & Kindle/ePub file, book mailed to the UK or internationally.
£31 plus postage – Softback & iPad version, book mailed to the UK or internationally.
£32 plus postage – Hardback, mailed to the UK or internationally.
£44 plus postage – Hardback & Kindle/ePub file, book mailed to the UK or internationally.
£46 plus postage – Hardback &iPad version, book mailed to the UK or internationally.
£107 – Patron level. 1 hardback sent to UK or internationally plus any digital file, plus name/logo to be placed at front of book. Only 7 available.
£275 – Presentation in UK, by me, to your club/organisation. Plus 3 hardbacks. Plus name/logo to be placed at front of book. Only 3 available.
£475 – Presentation in rest of Europe, by me, to your club/organisation. Plus 3 hardbacks. Plus name/logo to be placed at front of book. Only 2 available.
£875 – Presentation in North America, by me, to your club/organisation. Plus 3 hardbacks. Plus name/logo to be placed at front of book. Only 1 available.
£1095 – Presentation anywhere in rest of world, by me, to your club/organisation. Plus 3 hardbacks. Plus name/logo to be placed at front of book. Only 1 available.
ALL PLEDGERS ALSO GET: Name can be printed in the book supporters' panel in the book and digital versions. You'll also get backer-only updates.
All pledgers above the £1 level also get an invite to the launch party. Plus a personally signed postcard featuring an illustration used in the book.
When choosing rewards please select the correct mailing option, either UK or international.
Bike Boom will a similar format to Roads Were Not Built For Cars, so that's a crown quarto sized book (19x24cm) with 330+ pages and a 16-page colour plate section.
Where's the project at right now?
I've already started the (very haphazard) collection of materials, but have a lot more to do. I also have a great many libraries to visit, in real life and virtually. Next comes the interviewing. I have drawn up a list of people around the world I want to interview and will attempt to visit them face-to-face. I'm sure Kickstarter backers will suggest more.
It's likely the research phase will last at least seven months. I'll be writing chapters as I go along, but working solidly on the words for at least three full months. Copy editing and indexing will take about a month. My copy editor on Roads Were Not Built For Cars was former diplomat Martin Rickerd and my indexer was Nicola King – I will ask them both to team up on Bike Boom.
Printing takes another month. All told, that's roughly a year. Add on another month for good measure and that's how I determined the publication date being April 2016.
What's the money for?
I raised £17,407 on Kickstarter for Roads Were Not Built For Cars. That sounds like a lot but not when you start to add up the costs. Kickstarter takes a cut, the copy editor has to eat and so has the indexer. For ethical and eco reasons the roads book was printed in Cornwall not China, and this is more expensive. Bike Boom will also be printed in the UK.
Many of the archive illustrations in the roads book were out of copyright and required no payment but many were held by photo libraries and museums, and had to be paid for. The same will be the case for Bike Boom. I'll also be paying photographers for their work – for instance, the back cover shot of all those London cyclists in a less-than-ideal Advanced Stop Line box was taken by Toby Jacobs and he's going to be renumerated.
The cover you see on this page is highly unlikely to be the final one. It's probable I'll commission an artist to produce a different cover. The two elements of the cover for Roads Were Not Built For Cars (artwork and typographical logo) cost me £1200. There's a breakdown of the costs for my previous book here.
But that's not the full breakdown, it doesn't include postage and packing. This is one of the biggest costs of the project after printing.
Can I help in other ways?
Yes, please. It would be wonderful if you could share this Kickstarter project with everybody you know, on Twitter, Facebook, on forums, down the pub, on bike rides, and feel free to email it to friends and family.
Media folk can get more info, and downloadable hi-res pix, via the online press kit.
Risks and challenges
It will take about a year to research and write Bike Boom. The interviews – for instance with members of Stop De Kindermoord (Stop the child murder) in the Netherlands, and with organisers of the original "sportive" rides – cannot be rushed.
Kickstarter backers of Roads Were Not Built For Cars received 72 emailed updates on the progress of the research. I was late with the publication of that book but backers were kept fully informed of the reasons for the delays and were wonderfully kind and supportive.
I learnt a lot from the work on Roads Were Not Built For Cars and plan to use that experience in the workflow for Bike Boom.
The shipping of my first Kickstarter book was a much more difficult process than I'd imagined. I thought, with help from my kids, it would take a week. Nope. It took a month, and so much of it required my input (I signed lots of the books) I was able to farm out very little to my kids (which was to their financial detriment). This time around I have a much better idea of what's required and can plan accordingly. I'll still be signing books – for those who want this option – but I'll be using a fulfilment house. This adds extra expense but is quicker and slicker.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (21 days)