I’m on the wonderful Kirby Larson’s blog talking about nonfiction back matter. Please visit!
Our family lived in the Netherlands for several years. We owned a car but seldom used it. It was much, much easier to navigate our ancient town by bike than by car, and with bikes parallel parking was never an issue (though finding an empty bike rack sometimes was!). Two of our children were born while we lived there, and they hated their carseats. Even when the cold North Sea wind blew, they much preferred riding in their bike seats to being cooped up in the car. And our family’s dependence on bicycles was not quirky or unique. For all of our neighbors, bikes were the standard of transportation. So I was astonished to read Pedal Power and learn that it was not so many years ago that bicycles were not the go-to form of transportation in the Netherlands.
In this nonfiction picture book, Allan Drummond traces the history of the bicycle on Dutch streets. He profiles Maartje Rutten, one of the bicycle activists who agitated for traffic changes in the 1970s. He shows, especially in illustrations, how children participated in the protests (and I loved the back matter photographs that show children activists). He makes it clear that change didn’t come about because of a single protest but because of protests and actions over time. This is a wonderful addition to his other books about environmental change, like Green City, and I personally found it very inspiring that such a pervasive cultural change could occur in such a relatively short time.
In the back matter, Drummond talks about his own connection to bicycle community, about traveling to Amsterdam to interview Maartje Rutten, and about the ways bicycles have become important in other cities.
I’ll be returning the copy of the book that I read to my library later today. And I’ll be doing it, of course, on my bicycle.
Pedal Power: How One Community Became the Bicycle Capital of the World by Allan Drummond. Farrar Straus Giroux: 2017.