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.
M. William Steele
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)
Cycling, Gender, and Class in Postsocialist China
Hilda Rømer Christensen
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” was formed during
After the Second World War, the bicycle was surpassed by the car as the dominant mode of individual transportation in most Western countries. Since the 1970s, however, bicycle use has again gained some support both from the general public and from governments. In the last two decades national governments and cities throughout the Western world, from Norway to Australia and the United States to Germany, as well as the European Union, have launched policy statements and programs aimed at promoting cycling. Policy documents show much optimism about the possibilities to increase the bike’s modal share in transport by means of infrastructural and social engineering. These policy plans have enhanced social scientific and traffic engineering research into bicycle use and its facilitation.
Bicycle Practices in 1920s' and 1930s' Finland Remembered in 1971-1972
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.
Bicycle-related Professions in Shanghai, 1897–1949
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.
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.
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.
Counter-Sporting Victorian Reviving the Carnivalesque
In much of his work, H. G. Wells consciously criticises the conservativeness of contemporary sports such as cricket and emphasises cycling as a recreational sport which contributes to the democratisation of social class and gender. This stance is apparent in Wells's first social novel, The Wheels of Chance (1896) which captures the fin-de-siècle passion for cycling but also its social impact. For Wells, Victorian team/spectacle sports such as rugby, football, horseracing, and boxing are overtly competitive, promoting gentlemen's amateur sportsmanship and masculinity. This essay argues that The Wheels of Chance, by featuring recreational cycling as the main motif and casting an unfit draper as the protagonist, is an indirect criticism of gentlemen's sporting activities. It creates a space of amusement where strict rules are shunned in favour of casual pastime, generating carnivalesque games and performances in the Bakhtinian sense. It explores the author's will to change the social order through the carnivalesque, in the ambivalent depiction of Mr Hoopdriver's bi-cycling as play.
The 11th Annual Bicycle Film Festival
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.