Join BikePGH and Healthy Ride on Nov. 10th for a conversation with James Longust.
History professor James Longhurst is the author of “Bike Battles: A History of Sharing the American Road,” which examines debates over bicycles and their place in society since the 1870s. At a time when bikes are increasingly filling city streets nationwide, the book is making a splash with a wide variety of audiences: now out in paperback, it’s been reviewed by outlets from the Wall Street Journal to the Portland Mercury, and Longhurst’s writing has appeared in print in New York Daily News and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Longhurst will speak at Healthy Ride at 7:00 on Friday, November 10. The event is free and open to the public, sponsored by BikePGH.
“Much of this is forgotten history,” says Longhurst. “Since Americans don’t entirely take bicycles seriously, historians haven’t always done so either. So stories about 19th century bike laws, cycle paths in the 1890s, and bicycle rationing in World War Two haven’t gotten the attention they deserve.” According to him, that means that much of what we believe about the bicycle today is based on an incomplete picture of the past.
Longhurst is a 2004 graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s doctoral program in History and Policy, where he wrote about Pittsburgh’s history of air pollution control; he is now an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin in La Crosse. There he studies the history of urban and environmental policy, or the decisions that cities make that change their surroundings.
Over the last two years, Longhurst has been touring by bike, plane, train and car to share the historical context behind the conflicts on the road. He’s biked to book talks around Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon. Since the book release, he’s spoken to bike advocacy groups, urban planners, and readers in places as far-flung as Washington, DC; Wilmington, Delaware; Chicago, Illinois; Missoula, Montana; St. Paul, Minnesota; as well as Madison and Milwaukee in Wisconsin, and a dozen other locations.
The idea to study bicycle history came to Longhurst in 2008 when he first started everyday biking in his home city of La Crosse, Wisconsin. “Riding to work is great, but it reminds you that not everyone agrees on the places of bicycles and cars on the road,” says Longhurst. “Traffic engineers, bike advocates, and politicians all have had their say on the subject. I wanted to add a bit more history to the discussion.”
Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the event.