Tag Archives: Bike Battles

April 2016 News, Reviews, and Events


Author David Williams with his mom and fellow author, Jacqueline B. Williams (Photo via AKCHO)

Author David B. Williams with his mom and fellow author, Jacqueline B. Williams (Photo via AKCHO)

Congratulations to David B. Williams, winner of the 2016 Association of King County Historical Organizations (AKCHO) Virginia Marie Folkins Award for Too High and Too Steep. The awards event will be held on Tuesday, June 7, 5:30-8:30 p.m., at the Northwest African American Museum. Read more at the AKCHO site.

Reviews and Interviews

The PBS series 10 Parks That Changed America, featuring Gas Works Park and interviews with Richard Haag and The Landscape Architecture of Richard Haag author Thaisa Way, will air on Tuesday, April 12. Watch the preview and select clips now.
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American Historical Association Conference Preview

We are thrilled to kick off our 2016 conference season with the 130th annual meeting of the American Historical Association in downtown Atlanta, Georgia from January 7-10, 2016. This year’s theme is “Global Migrations: Empires, Nations, and Neighbors,” and we have a great new lineup of history books to show off.

UW Press senior acquisitions editor Ranjit Arab will be representing the Press at booth #1709. If you are attending the meeting, please come by to learn more about our new and forthcoming titles across global, national, and regional histories. Use the #ReadUP and #AHA16 hashtags to follow along with the conference on social media.

Learn more about a few featured and forthcoming titles below.

Emperor Hirohito and the Pacific War
By Noriko Kawamura

Drawing on previously unavailable primary sources, historian Kawamura reexamines the controversial role Emperor Hirohito played during the Pacific War and re-situates Hirohito as a conflicted man who struggled to deal with his role as monarch.

The Portland Black Panthers: Empowering Albina and Remaking a City
By Lucas N. N. Burke and Judson L. Jeffries
Forthcoming April 2016

This history of the unique Portland branch of the Black Panther Party adds complexity to our understanding of the civil rights movement throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Forgery and Impersonation in Imperial China: Popular Deceptions and the High Qing State
By Mark McNicholas
Forthcoming April 2016

Across eighteenth-century China a wide range of common people forged government documents or pretended to be officials or other agents of the state. This examination of case records and law codes traces the legal meanings and social and political contexts of small-time swindles that were punished as grave political transgressions.

Asians in Colorado: A History of Persecution and Perseverance in the Centennial State
By William Wei
Forthcoming April 2016

Wei reconstructs what life was like for the early Chinese and Japanese pioneers and reveals how the treatment of Asian Americans resonates with the experiences of other marginalized groups in American society.

Holiday Books from UW Press

HolidaySale2015It’s a fact: Books make great gifts. They’re easy to wrap, make you look smart, and can transport you to other times and places without you having to leave the comfort of your favorite chair. So, go ahead, give the gift of knowledge. (Side effects may include curiosity and an increased appreciation of beauty.) Whether you’re shopping for history buffs, arts and culture fans, or nature lovers, we’ve got you covered.

To help you in your gift hunting efforts, don’t miss our Holiday Sale 2015. From now until December 31, 2015, get 40% off your favorite University of Washington Press titles with promo code WHLD. Questions? Contact Rachael Levay at remann [at] uw [dot] edu.

Check out our recommendations for the bibliophiles in your life, along with suggested gift pairings:

For the armchair historian/budding geographer:

Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography
By David B. Williams

“Williams does a marvelous job of evoking the cityscape that used to be. He clues us in to the spirit of civic ambition that drove Seattle’s geographical transformations. He methodically chronicles the stages by which its regrade, canal and landfill projects were accomplished. And he’s meticulous about placing his readers on present-day street corners where they can, with some sleight of mind, glimpse the hills, lake shores and tide flats that vanished.”—Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times

Pair it with: A walking tour of Seattle (or the city of your choice)

For the music aficionado:

Classical Seattle: Maestros, Impresarios, Virtuosi, and Other Music Makers
By Melinda Bargreen

“Melinda Bargreen’s Classical Seattle is a who’s who of the city’s classical-music scene over the past half-century, an entertaining recapitulation of interviews she did while serving as the music critic for The Seattle Times and writing for other publications.”—Ellen Emry Heltzel, Seattle Times

Pair it with: Season tickets to a concert series

For the comics fan:

Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime
By Deborah Elizabeth Whaley

This groundbreaking study of Black women’s participation in comic art includes interviews with artists and writers and suggests that the treatment of the Black female subject in sequential art says much about the place of people of African descent in national ideology in the United States and abroad.

Pair it with: A collector’s edition of a beloved comic or graphic novel

For the art lover:

Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection
By Brian J. Ferriso, Kimerly Rorschach, Dawson W. Carr, Mary Weaver Chapin, Chiyo Ishikawa, Patricia A. Junker, Catharina Manchanda, Mary Ann Prior, and Sue Taylor
Published with Portland Art Museum, Portland

“[A] rare and incredible show.”—Jamie Hale, Oregonian

“[This] blockbuster delivers the goods.”—Bob Hicks, Oregon ArtsWatch

Pair it with: A museum membership

For the landscape design nerd:

The Landscape Architecture of Richard Haag: From Modern Space to Urban Ecological Design
By Thaisa Way
Foreword by Mark Treib
Afterword by Laurie Olin

“While the book tells Haag’s story, it also describes the evolution of landscape architecture in the Northwest.”—Columns

Pair it with: A picnic in Gas Works Park or your local sculpture park

For the fly fisherman, woman, and child:

Trout Culture: How Fly Fishing Forever Changed the Rocky Mountain West
By Jen Corrinne Brown

“[T]his is a well-researched, richly detailed history of trout and trout fishing in the Mountain West that, as the author promises, ‘overturns the biggest fish story ever told.'”—John Gierach, Wall Street Journal

Pair it with: A fishing trip or a new fly or rod

For the avid cyclist:

Bike Battles: A History of Sharing the American Road
By James Longhurst

“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. It allowed me to see the last 150 years of riding in America like a mosaic on the wall. I won’t look at parked cars the same way again. 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

Pair it with: A customized bike helmet or high-visibility gear

For the social justice warrior:

Stars for Freedom: Hollywood, Black Celebrities, and the Civil Rights Movement
By Emilie Raymond

Raymond shows how, during the Civil Rights Movement, a handful of celebrities risked their careers by crusading for racial equality, and forged the role of celebrity in American political culture with a focus on the “Leading Six” trailblazers—Harry Belafonte, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dick Gregory, and Sidney Poitier.

Pair it with: The gift of solidarity in the form of a donation to a civil rights organization in the recipient’s name

A brief history of National Bike Month

The author (credit: Sue Lee, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse)

The author (credit: Sue Lee, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse)

I love National Bike Month. It’s spring, and all is right in the world.  Matching the spirit of the season, the many local events of bike month are exercises in light-hearted and cheerful consciousness-raising. They encourage people to ride their bicycles in ideal conditions.

But is there more to it than just a good time? In my research for Bike Battles: A History of Sharing the American Road, I chose to re-examine what some consider a toy and a plaything to find the more complex stories of urban, environmental, and policy history hidden below.  Can we do the same with National Bike Month?

Like many of our national holidays, National Bike Month is an invented tradition, created and modified for changing publicity, marketing, and educational purposes.  It’s part of a pattern of similar events, like Bike to Work Week and Bike to School Day. Some have come and gone, like the 1976 Bikecenntennial tour; others are brand new, like the National Bike Challenge organized by industry-supported People for Bikes.

While there was no national advocacy event in the first bike boom of the 1890s, activists and advertisers still knew that spring was when people wanted to ride. Ads in 1897 declared May “the best bicycle month of the year.” Lest Crescent Bicycles lose year-round sales, the advertisers reminded readers: “Every Month a Crescent Month.”

Advertisement, Harper’s magazine, 1897.

Advertisement, Harper’s magazine, 1897.

In the twentieth century, the postwar history of National Bike Month begins with the theme of safety. Local and state organizers promoted spring “Bicycle Safety Weeks” in the decades after WWII. Many such events were organized in April by elementary schools, police departments, and local chapters of the Optimist Club, a civic fraternal organization. Their intended audience was almost exclusively children.

The Bicycle Institute of America, the lobbying and promotional arm of American manufacturers, got involved in 1956. They designated the entire month of May as “American Bicycle Month,” and raised the event’s profile considerably. But the dominant theme was still safety, and the audience was still largely children: a Wilmington, North Carolina newspaper story citing the BIA assured concerned parents that “bicycling has the best vehicle safety record in the United States.”

April 15, 1956 story from the Palm Beach 'Post.'

April 15, 1956 story from the Palm Beach ‘Post.’

With the celebrated cardiologist Dr. Paul Dudley White as spokesperson by the early 1960s, the BIA began to include themes of infrastructure and adult health: “This day marks the beginning of American Bicycle Month, dedicated to expanding bicycle riding facilities in our Nation . . . that is, bicycle paths, trails, tracks, and better places to ride,” White said in an address read into the Congressional record.  “Let me say . . . that six decades ago when I was a boy, we cycled for convenience, economy, and fun, but not necessarily for fitness.”

By the 1970s and early ‘80s, the event was now National Bike Month, and the rhetoric had shifted to environmental and transportation goals.  For example, North Carolina’s Governor James Hunt “emphasized the bicycle’s role as a ‘valuable tool in saving energy resources and money’” in a 1981 declaration.[4]  The prime mover also changed from the industry-funded BIA to the newly resurgent (but still somewhat disorganized) membership organization the League of American Wheelmen.  Today, the renamed League of American Bicyclists promotes “the many reasons we ride,” and the language is explicitly inclusive: “Whether you bike to work or school; ride to save money or time . . . preserve your health or the environment; or simply to explore your community.”

2015 poster from the League of American Bicyclists.

2015 poster from the League of American Bicyclists.

Even this brief history shows significant change. In the 1950s, safety week events taught traffic rules to children, making it seem that adult cycling for recreation or transportation might be an aberration. New concerns about adult health and environmentalism were added in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but the BIA still continued the focus on children, the major market for American manufacturers. Today the League tries to build advocacy consensus by appealing to all riders: recreational or practical, child or adult.

These events changed according to the politics of the promoters and the concerns of their era. Really only one thing stayed the same: the season.  As the New York Times pointed out in 1957: “These are the days the bicyclist waits for, the warm days but not yet hot days, when clear skies and the burgeoning greenery welcomes people of all ages into the outdoors again.” Which reminds me, I have to go for a ride.

James Longhurst is associate professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and author of Citizen Environmentalists. His newest book, Bike Battles, is receiving national attention.

You can see Dr. Longhurst in our area next month:

When: Thursday, June 18, 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Where: Eagle Harbor Book Co., Bainbridge Island, WA

When: Sat, June 20, 3:00pm – 4:30pm
Where: Seattle Public Library-Central Library, Seattle, WA