A critical look at the political economy of urban bicycle infrastructure in the United States
Not long ago, bicycling in the city was considered a radical statement or a last resort, and few cyclists braved the inhospitable streets of most American cities. Today, however, the urban cyclist represents progress and the urban “renaissance.” City leaders now undertake ambitious new bicycle infrastructure plans and bike share schemes to promote the environmental, social, and economic health of the city and its residents. Cyclescapes of the Unequal City contextualizes and critically examines this new wave of bicycling in American cities, exploring how bicycle infrastructure planning has become a key symbol of—and site of conflict over—uneven urban development.
John G. Stehlin traces bicycling’s rise in popularity as a key policy solution for American cities facing the environmental, economic, and social contradictions of the previous century of sprawl. Using in-depth case studies from San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Detroit, he argues that the mission of bicycle advocacy has converged with, and reshaped, the urban growth machine around a model of livable, environmentally friendly, and innovation-based urban capitalism. While advocates envision a more sustainable city for all, the deployment of bicycle infrastructure within the framework of the neoliberal city in many ways intensifies divisions along lines of race, class, and space.
Cyclescapes of the Unequal City speaks to a growing interest in bicycling as an urban economic and environmental strategy, its role in the politics of gentrification, and efforts to build more diverse coalitions of bicycle advocates. Grounding its analysis in both regional political economy and neighborhood-based ethnography, this book ultimately uses the bicycle as a lens to view major shifts in today’s American city.