The Great Big Cycling, Transport and Traffic Book Roundup

We're doing something slightly different for this week's roundup - instead of blogs, we'll be looking at books on cycling and urban transport in general, perhaps providing a little inspiration for some light(ish!) summer holiday reading.

Perhaps the 'biggest' book of this year so far has been Janette Sadik-Khan's Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution. Written by a former New York City transport commissioner, the book is chock-full of insights and revelations about ways to change streets and roads, as well as familiar stories of opposition. Happily Sadik-Khan's book sits alongside a series of similar books coming out of north America, including Samuel J Schwartz's Street Smarts (another former New York City transport commissioner!), Happy City by Charles Montgomery, the public transport-focused Straphanger, and The Walkable City by Jeff Speck.

For the statistically-minded, X and the City takes a look at the mathematics of everyday transport and planning, while Rush Hour is a study of the simple mechanics of how and why we travel to work the way we do. Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic is a great examination of our attitudes and behaviour when we simply travel around, and how those attitudes can be shaped and changed by the environment.


There's a wealth of books on the story of how our roads and streets have been shaped in the motor vehicle age, including Peter Norton's Fighting Traffic (how pedestrians were pushed out of city streets), On Roads by Joe Moran, which examines the origins of the British road system and our changing attitudes towards it, and of course Roads were not Built for Cars, by Carlton Reid.

Wheels within Wheels examines how the road lobby managed to sway transport policy in Britain, and Car Scapes is a fantastic (and very large) examination of the way the fabric of the country itself was fundamentally altered with the advent of mass motoring, while Autophobia looks at how the United States fell in and out of love with the motor car. Car Wars by Chris Mosey is a fascinating investigation into how road building came to be challenged in Britain, and Death on the Streets by Robert Davis is a forensic examination of how 'road safety' and tackling actual danger are very different beasts.


Books on the joys of cycling are numerous - there's perhaps no better place to start than Pete Jordan's history of cycling in Amsterdam, In the City of Bikes. Jeff Mapes' Pedalling Revolution looks at how cycling, and cyclists, are changing North American cities, while Bella Bathurst's The Bicycle Book and Robert Penn's It's All About the Bike are more philosophical meditations on the experience of cycling. The Dutch and their Bikes is a weighty, coffee table tome full of great photographs and insights on the Dutch cycling experience.

As well as being a prolific blogger, Bike Snob has produced humorous and informative books on the cycling experience both in the United States, and around the world.  There are also plenty of books from cycling's history, providing a fascinating insight into how cycling was viewed in the past - these include The Modern Cyclist (1923), Lady Cycling (1897), Fancy Cycling (1901) and The Winged Wheel, a history of the CTC, and cycling in Britain more generally.

What goes around by Emily Chappell is the story of the ups and downs of being a cycle courier in London, and David Byrne's The Bicycle Diaries is similarly a view from the saddle, but of a series of global cities. Frostbike examines the problematic issue of cycling in winter - how bad it is, and what to do about it - and while warming up afterwards you might enjoy Einstein and the Art of Mindful Cycling


Research on cycling and transport is of course available in book form, and often aimed at the layperson and campaigner, as well as the casual reader. An excellent example is Steve Melia's Urban Transport without the Hot Air, busting myths about transport and showing how easily we could do things in a much better way. You're spoilt for choice when it comes to collections of research on cycling too - City Cycling (eds. Pucher and Buehler), Promoting Walking and Cycling (Pooley et al.) and Cycling and Sustainability (ed. John Parkin) are all worth delving into, as is Traffic Jam: Ten Years of Sustainable Transport in the UK, which examines the success and failures of the New Labour government on transport policy, and (from a similar period) Car Sick by Lynn Sloman. Cycling Cities: The European Experience is newly-released, and newly updated, analysing the history of planning for the bicycle in Europe, with lessons for the future.


Everyone has heard of Jan Gehl, but have you read his books? Both Cities for People and Life Between Buildings are chock-full of insights and revelations about how to transform urban space to the human scale. Making People-Friendly Towns (Tibbalds) looks at town planning at a holistic level, while Mental Speed Bumps examines effective ways of calming traffic and reclaiming urban space.

The highly influential (in both good and bad ways) Traffic in Towns report is well worth tracking down, and, as if to demonstrate that these aren't exactly new problems, there are plenty of books of a similar age that examine how and why we can improve our urban environments, including The Concise TownscapeAccommodating the PedestrianTowns against Traffic and Taming Traffic, both by Stephen Plowden (grandfather of Transport for London's Ben Plowden), and A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings and Construction. Finally, there is, of course, the great Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities, perhaps the foundational text of campaigns against the dominance of motor traffic and grand-scale urban planning.


When it comes to designing for cycling, the gold standard is of course the Dutch CROW manual, which is unfortunately far from cheap! Happily UK design is starting to catch up, and there's plenty of good stuff in the free-to-download LCDS and the Welsh Active Travel Design Guidance, as well as the campaigner-developed Making Space for Cycling.

The American NACTO (the National Association of City Transport Officials) have produced a Street Design Guide, and (delving back into history) there are excellent design tips in the Bicycle Planning Handbook which dates from 1978. Cycle Space by Steven Fleming is a take on architecture and planning, specifically through the prism of cycling, and Cycle Infrastructure is a global roundup of best practice.

Graphic novels

Finally, cycling and transport issues have made it into illustration- and cartoon-form. There's a graphic novel on cycle couriers, as well as one on the way we tolerate death and danger on our streets, and Andy Singer's memorable cartoons are also available in book form.


Have we missed anything? Please do add your recommendations and suggestions in the comments below!


I could perhaps also suggest Donald Appleyard's Livable Streets (1981) as an inspirational text describing how vehicle traffic hinders human interaction and the activity levels shrink on a street level - a couple of graphs from the book replicated here: