Profile for James Longhurst

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Specialty area(s)

public policy, urban environmental history, transportation and bicycle history, and the social and cultural history of modern America

Brief biography

Before coming to La Crosse in 2008, I lived in New York, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Idaho.
Here on campus, I volunteer some of my time with the McNair Scholars program, teaching a GRE prep seminar and advising grad-school-bound students. I also work in active transportation advocacy on campus and in the community, with groups like Bicycle La Crosse and Active Wisconsin; I'm a member of the Committee on Transit and Active Transportation of the LAPC.
I enjoy running, biking and kayaking. I often spend summers near Lake Superior, or on a bike somewhere in Minnesota or Wisconsin.

Current courses at UWL

Fall 2021:

HIS 110: Reacting to the Past

HIS 320: Introduction to Public and Policy History


Ph. D. History & Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, (Pittsburgh, PA) 2004
M.S. History & Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, (Pittsburgh, PA) 1998
B.A., U.S. History, Linfield College, (McMinnville, OR) 1994

Teaching history

Here at UW-L, I teach a variety of courses reflecting my interests in environmental history, the history of 20th century America, and public and policy history. My degree is in history and policy, a scholarly approach that is intended to produce historical research that can be useful in understanding public institutions and policy choices in the present. As such, I often discuss the links between past and present in my classroom, something that policy analysts call "path dependency" but that I like to call "history". This is particularly evident in my classes on environmental history and urban policy.

In support of the Topical Emphasis in Public and Policy History, I work to bring together the contributions of many faculty members working to further this new academic option for UW-L students. Public policy is the study of the strategies, actions, and problems faced by decision makers, ranging from taxation to infrastructure to social welfare, and I am interested in how those decisions about public policy are made, generally on the level of cities. I'm particularly interested in urban history, environmental politics, the form or design of cities, and the creation of institutions concerned with local, municipal, or state policy matters. I mostly address these topics in the United States, and in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Professional history

"The history that lies inert in unread books does no work in the world." Carl Becker, "Everyman His Own Historian," The American Historical Review Vol. 37, No. 2 (Jan., 1932), pp. 221-236.

Research and publishing

I am the author of Bike Battles: A History of Sharing the American Road, published by the University of Washington Press in 2015, released in paper in 2017, and in translation by Katakrak Press as Las Batallas de la Bici in 2019. Widely reviewed and promoted, this book targets a popular audience with new scholarly history of the bicycle's policy and legal battles in American cities. There's more information available on the website. I've recently published “'Such business will be impossible': Mitsubishi Trading Company and the roles of design and tariff policy in the American bicycle market (1933–1938)," in the Journal of Transport History, as well as "Reconsidering the Victory Bike in World War II: Federal Transportation Policy, History, and Bicycle Commuting in America" in the Transportation Research Record, and a Journal of Policy History article titled "The Sidepath Not Taken: Bicycles, Taxes, and the Rhetoric of the Public Good in the 1890s."

My previous research project focused on the rise of local environmental organizing in the United States and Pittsburgh in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I used one environmental organization, Pittsburgh's Group Against Smog and Pollution or GASP, as a case study of the impact of new federal legislation and judicial philosophy on local organizing, implementation and enforcement. This resulted in the 2010 publication of Citizen Environmentalists.



James Longhurst, History, authored the article "“Such business will be impossible”: Mitsubishi Trading Company and the roles of design and tariff policy in the American bicycle market (1933–1938)" in The Journal of Transport History published on May 1 by Sage Journals. The article uses previously-neglected WWII sources to examine the internal business decisions, tariff policy pressures, and persistent racial biases in the 1930s to understand a missed opportunity to import unique adult-oriented bicycle designs into the American market, and how that failure shaped bicycle commuting culture into the 21st century.

Submitted on: May 9



James Longhurst, History, authored the chapter "Bikes for Children, Cars for Adults: Postwar American Transportation Culture and the Legacy of Moving Images" in Transportation and the Culture of Climate Change published on Oct. 1 by West Virginia University Press. The chapter examines the portrayal of bicycles in American popular culture in the 20th century, and resulting difficulties for meaningful responses to global climate change.

Submitted on: Oct. 21, 2020



James Longhurst, History, authored the article "Street Privilege: New Histories Of Parking And Urban Mobility" in The Metropole, the official blog of the Urban History Association, published on Wednesday, April 29 by the UHA. "The history of parking provides a remarkable exposition of who has the privilege of occupying urban space, and who does not," writes Longhurst, imploring urbanists to think more broadly about parking.

Submitted on: April 29, 2020



James Longhurst, History, presented "Keynote Address: The Interstate Bicycle Network that Doesn't Exist: Sidepaths, the 1890s, and Bicycle Advocacy Today" at People for Bikes workshop on Oct. 31, 2019 in Santa Barbara, California. The PlacesForBikes Workshops are a nationwide series of helpful, inspirational single-day training events for city leaders working to improve bicycling in their communities.

Submitted on: Nov. 6, 2019



James Longhurst, History, presented "Bike Battles: Lessons from the Past to Plan for our Mobility Future" at World Resources Institute's Ross Center for Sustainable Cities on Oct. 21, 2019 in Washington, DC. The WRI Ross Center and the NUMO (New Urban Mobility ) Alliance sponsored Longhurst's presentation, tracing the contentious debates between American cyclists, motorists and pedestrians over the shared road, as well as what the evolution of our transportation system and the ways we are planning for our future mobility mean for the bicycle.

Submitted on: Oct. 21, 2019