History of British roads book set to be a viral hit thanks to Kickstarter.com


Drivers who believe that roads were built for them might be shocked to learn that roads were not built for cars. The book, ‘Roads Were Not Built For Cars’, exceeded the target for crowd-sourced funding by a margin of 270%, not to mention that it’s supported by Automobile Association’s President, Edmund King.

Even though the book hasn’t been written yet, the author of ‘Newcastle upon Tyne’ is considered to already have a hit read in his hands. His roads history book has already raised £11,000 on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter.com. and there’s still another 17 days to go before the campaign ends. ‘Roads Were Not Built For Cars’ originally aimed for funds of £4000 on Kickstarter and now has GBP11,070, 270 percent beyond target. Projects on Kickstarter are only funded once a self-imposed target is reached.

Reid is the executive editor of BikeBiz, a bicycle trade magazine, and has been researching his history book for two years.

“I wasn’t expecting the book to do so well, so fast,” said Reid. His target of GBP4000 was reached in less than 20 hours. This success caught the eye of staff at the US-based Kickstarter.com and they included the book in the company’s weekly global email, which highlights three projects from around the world. Reid’s book was plugged alongside a nail-painting service and a photography project, both from America.

Kickstarter’s email said: “Most of us make use of roads every day without thinking twice about where they came from, or even why they exist. In his new book, Carlton Reid explores exactly that, delving into the history of roads in the US and UK, their place in a society, and their roots in cycling.”

‘Roads Were Not Built For Cars’ is due to be published in August. It will show in great detail how motoring owes a great deal to cycling, something that may come as a surprise to many motorists. In a video for the Kickstarter campaign, Reid interviewed passers-by all of whom said a busy four-lane highway in Newcastle must have been designed for motorists. In fact, it was built to the current width in 1838 and was only later retrofitted for cars.

For instance, it was cyclists, and not motorists, who first pushed for high-quality road surfaces. In fact, the Roads Improvement Association of the UK was created by cycling organisations more than ten years before the first motorcar was imported into the country. And in America, the Good Roads movement, started by cyclists, later led to the creation of the US Department of Transportation and many “motor lobby” organisations were, originally, started by cyclists.

Reid said: “Cyclists were written out of highway history in the 1920s and 1930s by the all-powerful motor lobby: Roads Were Not Built For Cars tells the real story, putting cyclists centre stage again.”

Edmund King, President of the Automobile Association and Visiting Professor of Transport at Newcastle University was one of the first supporters of the book, having helped Reid secure research funding two years ago.

King said: “Some drivers think that they own the road so might be surprised when they hear that roads were not built for cars. Carlton’s fascinating insight into the origin of roads hopefully will break down some of the road “ownership” issues and help promote harmony for all road users whether on four wheels or two.”