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The Making of a Bicycle Nation

Japan

M. William Steele

Japan is one of the great bicycle nations of the world, ranking alongside the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark in terms of per capita bicycle ownership and use. This article reviews the history and characteristics of Japan as a bicycle nation. It examines the emergence of a distinctive bicycle culture that offered personal mobility to ordinary people in prewar Japan and traces the contribution of the bicycle to postwar Japan's social and economic development. It reviews postwar bicycle history in: the period of reconstruction and recovery (1945-1956); the period of high economic growth (1957-1973); the period of rapid motorization (1974-1991); and the period of raised environmental consciousness (1992-present). The conclusion seeks to offer reasons for the persistence of Japan's vibrant and pervasive bicycle culture.

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Bicycle Politics

Review Essay

Jennifer Bonham

J. Harry Wray, Pedal Power: The Quiet Rise of the Bicycle in American Public Life (Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2008)

Jeff Mapes, Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2009)

Zack Furness, One Less Car: Bicycling and the Politics of Automobility (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010)

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Is the Kingdom of Bicycles Rising Again?

Cycling, Gender, and Class in Postsocialist China

Hilda Rømer Christensen

and romantic images are linked to the central position of the bike, both as a daily means of transportation and as a symbol of Maoist modernity in the latter half of the twentieth century. The particular image of China as the “Kingdom of the Bicycles

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The Prime, Decline, and Recalling of Rural Cycling

Bicycle Practices in 1920s' and 1930s' Finland Remembered in 1971-1972

Tiina Männistö-Funk

The article studies rural cycling in Finland in the 1920s and 1930s through a folklore survey conducted in 1971-1972. Written memories enable a rare insight in the disappeared practices of bicycle use in the countryside. Comparing the role of the bicycle in the remembered time and the time of remembering, the article furthermore scrutinizes the role of historical narratives in the cultural constructions of the bicycle. Instead of demonstrating a linear, universal decline in the face of motorization, changes in bicycle use and redefinitions of the bicycle are linked to fundamental societal changes.

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Making a Living

Bicycle-related Professions in Shanghai, 1897–1949

Xu Tao

The bicycle so thoroughly transformed transportation in China that the country was known as “the land of cyclists” by the late twentieth century. Concerning the global popularization of industrial products, past research mainly focused on the interaction between the introduced commodities and their nonWestern consumers. In order to take the analysis of the modern transformation beyond Western objects and passive receivers, this article explores how Chinese people came to make a living from bicycles. This investigation traces the manifold transitions of the Chinese bicycle business in Shanghai during the tumultuous half-century from 1897 to 1949.

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The Appropriation of Bicycles in West Africa

Pragmatic Approaches to Sustainability

Hans Peter Hahn

Bicycles have a wide range of functions and roles in West Africa. They have vital functions for everyday necessities, but they also constitute prestige objects. The appreciation of bicycles in Africa started very early, almost simultaneously with their diffusion as consumer goods in Europe. However, the adoption of bicycles followed a specific pathway, which is explained in this article within the conceptual framework of appropriation. Cultural appropriation highlights the significant modifications of bicycles in Africa and the abandonment of some functions like braking. In spite of the technical simplifications, modified bicycles are perceived as having higher value, by virtue of their fitness for the tough roads and their increased reliability. Appropriation results in a specific “Africanized“ bicycle, which makes possible a prolonged usage. This essay argues that the “Africanized“ bicycle constitutes a model of sustainability in matters of transport, one which is not sufficiently recognized in current debates about sustainable innovations.

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Cycles of Cathay

A History of the Bicycle in China

Edward J.M. Rhoads

Introduced into China in the late nineteenth century, the bicycle had to compete with a variety of alternative modes of personal transportation that for a number of years limited its appeal and utility. Thus, during the 1920s and 1930s it took a back seat to the hand-pulled rickshaw and during the 1940s to the pedicab (cycle rickshaw). It was only in the 1950s that the bicycle became the primary means of transportation for most urban Chinese. For the next four decades, as its use spread from the city to the countryside, China was the iconic “bicycle kingdom.“ Since the 1990s, however, the pedal-powered bicycle has been overtaken by the automobile (and motorcycle). Nevertheless, with the recent appearance and growing popularity of the e-bike, the bicycle may yet play an important role in China's transport modal mix. This overview history of the bicycle in China is based on a wide range of textual sources in English and Chinese as well as pictorial images.

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“I Want to Ride My Bicycle”

The 11th Annual Bicycle Film Festival

Sønke Myrda

The Bicycle Film Festival (BFF) has grown from a minor grassroots event to a global “Fest” staging urban cycling events in over two dozen cities worldwide. In its 11th year in New York City, the “BFF” New York (June 22–26, 2011) intends to provide its participants with a “weekend full of bike movies, music, art, street party and after parties,”1 before going on tour around the globe. Festival cities include Amsterdam, Athens, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Milan, Paris, Sao Paolo, Sydney, Taiwan, Tokyo, Vienna.

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"A Denial of Our Boasted Civilisation

Cyclists' Views on Conflicts over road Use in Britain, 1926-1935

Peter Cox

In the interwar period, cyclists, the most numerous road users, came into increasing conflict with motorists. The debate around road safety and casualties reveals significant differences between the social and political capital available to different classes of road users, despite their legal equality. Drawing on the coverage of the conflict by the Cyclists' Touring Club (CTC) through their monthly Gazette and on the parliamentary record, this article examines how cyclists understood the problem of increasing accident rates and the solutions proffered in press and parliament to address them. The paper considers cyclists in terms of class, representation, power, and status. It further examines how these factors shaped perceptions of the issues at stake in the safety debate in relation to the governance of road space and the appropriate behaviors and responsibilities of road users.

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When Bicycles Become both Attitude and Form

Rosanna Dematté

From June 17 to August 21, 2011 the University of Innsbruck (Austria) hosted the group exhibition “L’Italia alla finestra: Außen- und Innensichen” (Italy at window: Outside and outside views), commemorating the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy. The bilingual title focuses on the necessity to consider a country from several perspectives. Seven artists from Italy and Austria, belonging to different generations, were invited to the baroque cellars of the Imperial Palace of Innsbruck to give their perspective and present their work.