Bike Battles

A Conversation with James Longhurst

History professor James Longhurst will be holding a book talk with BikePGH and Healthy Ride this month as part of a trip to his alma matter Carnegie Mellon University. His book, Bike Battles: A History of Sharing the American Road, 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.

 This event is free and open to the public, sponsored by BikePGH and Healthy Ride.


“[Y]ou should absolutely buy and hold [Bike Battles] up as a righteous rebuke the next time someone complains that ‘the war on cars is real.’ Longhurst maps out the perfect storm of American consumer trends, policy decisions, and historical events that led to that car cutting you off downtown just now”

—Megan Burbank, Portland Mercury, June 3, 2015


“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 II 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 for a special $20 rate. We hope to see and hear from you on November 10th.

Event Details:

Friday November 10
Healthy Ride
3328 Penn Ave
7PM – 9-PM


Limited time remaining!

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