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Straphanger recognized with prizes, nominations! Named one of 's Best Books Amazon. In the 20th century, our greatest cities were almost ruined by the automobile. Only a global revolution in transportation can bring them back from the brink. The automobile has encouraged obesity and social isolation, destroyed public space, encouraged fossil-fuel driven foreign wars, and undone the fabric of once great cities. Those are some pretty heavy accusations, but Taras Grescoe makes the charges stick with a compelling mix of reportage, cutting humor, and historic research.
But Straphanger isn't just another screed against the car. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Straphanger , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews.
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Jul 03, William Cline rated it did not like it. Offers a few quick outlines of American transportation history, as well as anecdotes about specific cities, but all this book really amounts to is a guy who loves transit talking about transit to his transit-loving readers for a few hundred pages. There's no thesis here, and despite a long bibliography, few hard facts around which one could be built.
Some of the facts that do appear are suspect, particularly Grescoe's figures for U. Maybe he's quoting a different source that used different survey parameters, but without in-line citations there's no easy way to tell. His characterization of vehicular cycling as "suicidal" shows ignorance of his subject, or at best unwarranted credulity of Mikael Colville-Andersen, who is quoted repeatedly in the chapter about Copenhagen. Combined with some annoying deficiencies of editing, including incorrect uses of "sheath" when he meant "sheaf" and "doughty" instead of "dowdy" presenting the usual moral quandary , one comes away having read a flimsy piece of pop pro-urbanism rather than anything substantial.
Update Oh, and it seems his quotation of Margaret Thatcher saying, "A man who, beyond the age of twenty-six, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure," appears to be a misattribution. A columnist for the Guardian also failed to find evidence she ever said this. Apr 17, Ken rated it really liked it Shelves: finished-in , nonfiction , contemporary. Here he provides a history of each city's mass transit, where they stand now in their progress or lack thereof of moving people quickly, conveniently, and relatively cheaply, where they hope to go in the future, and what and who are the obstacles.
To achieve this, Grescoe meets key personalities of the mass transit scene in each city, interviews them, and weaves their words into the chapters. He rides buses, subways, bicycles, bullet trains, and electric trams, describes the experience, and gives us a feel for what it would be like to live in each of these cities today consider it a scouting report if any of them are on your radar as possible places to move to. He builds a passionate, yet reasonable and realistic, argument against the automobile. He identifies freeways as the nooses that strangle cities, destroy neighborhoods, undercut attempts to resuscitate urban life.
He celebrates the renaissance of city living, the fact that the post-Baby Boomer generation is migrating back to urban centers and questioning the "American Dream" known as the "suburb. There's a certain appeal, a certain charm, to thriving, safe neighborhoods in a city that include easy access to trustworthy, clean, and safe public transportation, with all one's shopping needs within miles of your home. If this sounds unrealistic, Grescoe's description of cities like Tokyo, Copenhagen, and many others not mentioned in chapter headings Strasbourg, for instance proves that a "Brave New World" for mass transit is not some pipe dream.
In fact, it is a reality in many places -- right here in Leaders in these progressive cities understand that the long-term approach of financing mass transit is worth every penny, that revenues poured into highways are lost monies which only add to our traffic, pollution, and health woes. As you might expect, there are good guys and bad guys in this picture -- and many in between.
Grescoe writes as well as he rides. As a fiction reader, I was pleasantly surprised with my commute through these pages. Hopefully, you will be, too. View 1 comment. Oct 20, miteypen rated it really liked it Shelves: nonfiction. I love nonfiction like this! A mix of history, social commentary, technical explanations, travel writing, and personal anecdotes, this book satisfies on so many levels.
Anyone with an interest in city planning, urban living, the energy crisis, ecologically responsible lifestyles, other cultures, and of course different modes of transportation has to read this book. The only thing I didn't like about this book is that after a while I got really confused about all the kinds of public transit and h I love nonfiction like this! The only thing I didn't like about this book is that after a while I got really confused about all the kinds of public transit and how they get cobbled together in many, if not most, cities in an attempt to move large masses of people around as painlessly as possible.
The author's analyses of what works and what doesn't were fascinating and gave me a lot to think about. If only we could implement these solutions more widely in America, but alas, Americans love their cars and the flexibility and freedom they give them too much.
I did think it was interesting when the author gave examples of how freeways and cars are making life untenable for many urban and even suburban dwellers. I had no idea how bad traffic problems have become in some cities! I live in an area Columbus, Ohio with very little public transit: basically buses that don't serve the entire metropolitan area and feeble attempts to create bike paths. Unfortunately, shortsighted politicians and policy-makers continually shoot down any suggestions to improve our system. Maybe this book should be on their required reading list!
View all 3 comments. An entertaining and information-packed comparative tour of public transit realities in different cities around the globe, aimed at North American readers. The information is only current up to or so, and there are a few inaccuracies and debatable interpretations. Sometimes the author goes on rambles about related but distinct topics in the middle of chapters without introducing them, which would normally annoy me -- but I kind of like it here.
They slide around and cause you to bump into everyone whenever the bus moves. Automobiles kill millions of people, including many youth, pollute the environment, make us fat and lazy, drive horrible sprawl and suburban shopping nightmare lands, waste time and fuel and cause road rage stuck in endless commuter congestion, etc. Various death stats explored. NYC - Page Cool description of a massive tunnel-boring machine in action - Page Robert Moses -- was a major highway builder and a rich, entitled prick who did a small amount of good but much, much bad vs Jane Jacobs, who helped protest against his neighbourhood destruction and won.
Fifty-four percent of New Yorkers don't even own a car. Motordom's greatest triumph, as Norton shows, was a slow war of attrition that all but banished the cheap, nonpolluting streetcar from the American streetscape. Massive gridlock, pollution, crappy public transit, sprawl, car-centric Even today, in , it seems like not much has changed. NYC focuses on Manhattan, an island, with expensive, limited parking. Too much parking, no density, etc. Phoenix - Page "Phoenix is my nightmare".
Essentially a sprawling, baking, car nightmare-land. Areas are zoned to only be a specific sort of building residential, industrial or commercial , which causes people to have to commute to work. Red-Lining is where lower income immigrant neighbourhood populace is denied mortgages. Meanwhile suburbs have tax-breaks on mortgages which means you need a car. Every time you choose to drive you are, in a tiny way, opting out of, and thus diminishing, the public realm. And that, finally, is the problem with suburbs and freeways.
In order to gain a spurious freedom, which is in fact just increased mobility, millions of people turn their backs on civility -- not just politeness, but also the process of civilization building, in which cities play such a crucial role Pioneered in Germany. I've been to Freiburg and it is an amazing, tram-linked utopia of sorts. Opening a door on a cyclist is a serious offense, and -- except in extreme cases, where a bike rider blindsides a stopped car -- it is the driver's insurance company that has to cover all the costs.
They've run over people who haven't moved. Some areas are more than 52 floors down They were built by Kaganovich in Stalinist times to be more impressive than Capitalist systems.
Good Read – Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile
Stalin employed the might of Soviet volunteers and authoritarian power to hack it out of the earth. One hundred people died per day, on average, in automobile accidents in Russia! QUOTE : "This means that, in one country alone, cars kill more people every four days than have died in all the attacks targeting public transport in Europe since The real terror, I figured, wasn't underground. As I walked back toward the Park Kultury station, I saw it was all around me on the streets of Moscow, where speeding oligarchs, road rage-filled skinheads, and the vodka-drunk of the new Russia could be seen cutting each other off, trying to bribe traffic cops, and driving their armor-plated BMWs up onto curbs.
Aristocrats in pre-revolutionary France used to send lackeys running ahead of their carriages with burning torches to warn peasants off the roads. In the days of the tsars, the passing of the carriage or sleigh of a Russian nobleman was announced by the manic jingling of bells. The Soviet nomenklatura, those uber-proles in the dictatorship of the proletariat, appropriated aristocratic rights-of-way to barge through the streets in motorcades of Volga limousines. Busiest train station on earth Shinjuku. Stations with their own individualized train departure music.
Their metros have air-conditioning, heated seats, and two minute wait times. Bogota, Columbia - crazy dangerous in the 80s and 90s - Now every Sunday is Bicycle Day page - Page Bogota still has a horrible, free-for-all minibus situation , but it's been mostly replaced by their futuristic bus express network - Page A crazy, Lithuanian, pants-dropping, Dean of the National University became mayor in -- Antanas Mockus.
He was pro-transit and progressive. He built a 24km bicycle and pedestrian highway. He greened and progressed the city a ton! Bike paths, parks, affordable housing, libraries, running water, stole land from the rich and gave it to the poor. We were saying, 'You, with your big cars and fancy jewels, we think you are stupid, we think you are animals!
For us, the neighbourhood hero was not the mafioso with the big motorcycle and the flashy clothes, but the young man who played sports and read books and rode around on an old bike. Today, no freeways enter Vancouver. The USA was the envy of the world in terms of trains, and now it's crap! Page A luxury train ran out of Montreal to New York, and it ran much faster than it's modern version! Canada has none.
GM convinced the US railroads to tear down electric wires so they could sell them less-efficient, more polluting diesel engines. Philadelphia - On the up, very walkable in parts, fairly bikable, based on the grid layout of William Penn from - Page Edmund Bacon - a crazy city developer.
Bacon did good and bad things in his long career, but near the end he turned strongly against cars and car culture. It's also highly segregated at times, with the cheap buses being taken by minorities and the slightly more expensive trains being taken by whites. Real community and nice old houses. Jan 28, Kristen rated it it was amazing Shelves: sociology , nonfiction , firstreads , travel.
In the first paragraph of this fabulous book, Taras Grescoe writes, about the Shanghai Auto Show, biggest in the world: "Throughout the cavernous showrooms, lithe motor-showgirls in shimmering nylon evening gowns and leatherette miniskirts drape themselves over aerodynamic fenders, like molten watches drizzled over branches in a Dali landscape. On rotating platforms, surrealistic concept cars languidly pirouette…" Wow. Beyond absolutely jaw-dropping writing, so good you want to linger over it, Gr In the first paragraph of this fabulous book, Taras Grescoe writes, about the Shanghai Auto Show, biggest in the world: "Throughout the cavernous showrooms, lithe motor-showgirls in shimmering nylon evening gowns and leatherette miniskirts drape themselves over aerodynamic fenders, like molten watches drizzled over branches in a Dali landscape.
Beyond absolutely jaw-dropping writing, so good you want to linger over it, Grescoe can pack in more information in a paragraph than you can get in an entire newspaper article. Try this one: Only twenty-five years ago, automobile traffic in Shanghai was limited to chauffeur-driven Hongqi limousines for Communist Party officials.
APS Physics | FPS | Straphanger: Saving our cities and ourselves from the automobile
Such was China's isolation that, during the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards floated a proposal to make red stoplights signify "Go. Backups in China can make even Los Angeles traffic look positively bucolic: in , drivers northwest of Beijing were stuck for ten days in a jam that stretched 60 miles across two provinces. To increase mobility, China has built a 33,mile system of expressways in the last twenty years.
Already larger than the network that connects the European Union, it will be more extensive than the United States' freeway system, by By then, carbon dioxide emissions from China's transport sector will easily be the highest in the world. Later, in a chapter on my heart's hometown, Portland, Oregon, Grescoe gives a great description, then, ominously, writes, "Yet something is missing from downtown Portland.
My hackles slightly up, I read on… It was only as I crossed Burnside Avenue toward Union Station and heard a train whistle ricocheting between the steel bridges spanning the Willamette River, that I realized what Portland was lacking. I'd been strolling downtown for over two hours and had yet to encounter that bane of the North American metropolis: the neighborhood-killing, blight-inducing, multilaned freeway.
All in all, this is an entertaining, fact-filled travelogue. Admittedly, I share Grescoe's absolute disdain for automobiles, highways, and suburbs.
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I'm pretty sure, though, that I would have loved it even if I thought cars were great. Thanks to Goodreads Firstreads program for this first-rate book. Everyone should read it. And get rid of their cars and start commuting by bike, train, bus, or ferry. Apr 01, Andrew rated it really liked it Shelves: studies-and-ologies. A One-Minute Review Straphanger is a smart bit of urban writing from Taras Grescoe, who collects transit systems like tourists collect snow globes. Transit-map geeks like me need no longer feel alone.
From what could have been in Los Angeles, to the propaganda-driven architectural beauty of the Moscow Metro, Grescoe identifies s A One-Minute Review Straphanger is a smart bit of urban writing from Taras Grescoe, who collects transit systems like tourists collect snow globes. From what could have been in Los Angeles, to the propaganda-driven architectural beauty of the Moscow Metro, Grescoe identifies stable political and financial will as the cornerstone of good transit. Straphanger the title immediately resonates with transit riders is both study and prescription — a great read for the commute that should inspire straphangers everywhere to demand better.
Feb 01, Leif rated it it was amazing. Just as shopping malls killed main streets and sidewalks, and gated communities replaced real neighborhoods, the private automobile usurped the social space once shared on subways, buses, and trains. This doesn't mean that Philadelphia is about to become a placid Zurich or a conflict-free Copenhagen: historic divisions of class, ethnicity, and race run deep here.
But there is a lots of evidence that geographic segregation and the privatization of public space are slowing. And for better and for worse, subways, buses, and trains have long been a crucial meeting ground for society: when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white passenger on a bus in Alabama in , public transport provided the shared space where racism could be challenged.
It bodes well for the future that the public in Philadelphia never lost the habit of using public transportation. Grescoe does an absolutely fantastic job making the case for public transportation across multiple different urban environments through examining its history and present successes and failures.
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Each chapter plays a part and tackles a different urban space; all contribute to the perceptual shift that his book effects with persuasive delight. Grescoe is also writing for a public audience, of course, and so his arguments can sometimes feel limited to a specialist, a theorist, or a historian, but I found them quite balanced over the book as a whole.
Additionally, for me as a current Torontonian who grew up in Saskatchewan, the chapter on Toronto is especially fascinating. The particular "tragedy," as Grescoe puts it, of Toronto is that a city so promisingly remarkable in its commitment to public transit could move into retrograde so quickly upon the election of Rob Ford as mayor. In the context of the other cities studied, Ford's failure of nerve and incendiary decision to dedicate money to increasingly pointless subway developments as opposed to increasingly effective subway developments seems so much more drastic than in isolation: the sad comedy of the drug-addled addict becomes a tragedy of a city that sacrificed much of its future in exchange for a few videos of Fordian mockery and a campaign built, as Grescoe puts it, on "negativity: during [Ford's first term as mayor], nothing new will be built, no jobs will be created, and nothing will improve on the streets of Toronto" Today the mayor may be different, but, as a relative outsider, I'm waiting to see what's changing.
I'll be honest: I loved Straphanger for its foundational principle: the joy and importance of public transportation. Get out of the way cars. The future is coming. If only it were so easy! Oct 21, Justin rated it really liked it. A recent surge of interest in city planning lead me to randomly put several related books on hold at the library.
This was the first one I happened to read and it couldn't have been a better introduction to the fascinating field of urban studies.
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Grescoe is a travel writer by trade, but with a historian's love of research and a passionate love of city life -- in particular, the cities' public transit systems. He has never owned a car. Strap Hanger operates under a simple premise: Grescoe simply A recent surge of interest in city planning lead me to randomly put several related books on hold at the library. Strap Hanger operates under a simple premise: Grescoe simply went to different cities around the world and rode their public transportation, everything from the subway of New York to the teeming bike paths of Copenhagen.
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