(551) Bikenomics [Book review]

BikenomicsBikenomics: How Bicycling Can Save the Economy
Elly Blue. Microcosm Publishing, Portland, OR. 2013
191 pages, softcover/e-book, $16.95/$9.99 in Canada
ISBN 9781621060031

One of the delightful things about bicycling is the way that as a body of knowledge it feathers into almost any other topic so easily.  This power to cross connect bikes to other realms, namely macro- and microeconomics, community design, human health and well-being, environmental change, political and personal development is well demonstrated by Portland, Oregon resident Elly Blue in Bikenomics.  This is a book we urge suburban-poverty.com readers to buy, read and talk widely about.  Blue is onto something powerful and she backs up her standpoint with a strong array of arguments supported by citations and lived experience.  This is a fine book from a fine mind about a fine thing: that bikes might just save us.

Getting around is a huge topic on this blog and the propositions of suburban poverty are acknowledged and addressed in Blue’s book.  Bicycle economics could ease a lot of the strain on nearly all North Americans by improving their health, bolstering local economies, easing the external costs of fossil fuel use and just making us feel good.

A little more encouragement in the form of modest levels of public investment and we could be pedalling past some of the most serious dangers of economic systems based on oil, real estate bubbles, easy credit, debt mechanisms, fiat currencies and global conflict.  And why not?  Central bankers and their fellow travellers in high finance and government have had their turn at directing things under neoconservative and neoliberal thought regimes for a while now, with rather mixed results.

Blue establishes a pretty sound case for bicycle economics while working through the real and imagined difficulties that hold things back.  At family and individual level the costs of automobility are simply getting to be too much.  At community and national level the costs are mind boggling: from ugly wars in Central Asia to lethal air pollution, accidents, and public debt.  Public health issues from obesity to diabetes and too much sitting in cars and at desks can also be amended by bikenomic approaches.

Bikenomics reflects US experience in several cities and cites a couple of Canadian examples.  The latter included this Toronto study supporting the idea that bike infrastructure boosts human health.  Also close to Blue’s heart is the remarkably efficient way bike infrastructure lifts local entrepreneurs, especially smaller independent ones linked to each other instead of to corporate systems.  While we have a long way to go in Canada and the United States until we see the level of normalization of cycling accepted in the Netherlands or Denmark it looks like we are poised for something of a bicycle renaissance.

Elly Blue’s Bikenomics is almost impossible to argue against given North American reality in 2014; though no doubt those entrenched in the status quo will give it the old college try.  Bikenomics is ahead of the curve, yes, but we hope an alignment between the content of this little blue book and lived reality comes about quickly.

It kinda has to!

Elly Blue’s blog is here: takingthelane.com

Cycling Economies torontocycling.org report on bike lanes & local business
14-page .pdf file

See also: (327) Cyclonomics