STRAPHANGER by Taras Grescoe


Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile
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A unique look at mass transit in 13 major cities.

In his latest, Grescoe (Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood, 2008, etc.), who “has never owned a car,” chronicles his global travels as he discusses the evolution and function of mass transit in a wide variety of international cities: his hometown of Montreal, Shanghai, New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Paris, Copenhagen, Moscow, Tokyo, Bogotá, Portland, Vancouver and Philadelphia. In each, the author examines the car-vs.–mass transit debate, discussing how culture and history affect the conversation. “Though I grew up with romantic tales of gasoline-fueled escape,” writes the author, “I’m fine with a slower, more rooted life.” Grescoe explores the major problems, mainly inefficiency and overcrowding, faced by each city’s mass-transit experiment. The book is rife with bits of interesting trivia, and it almost reads like a travelogue as the author revels in the wonders of his diverse destinations. With a smooth, accessible narrative style, Grescoe inserts himself into the story enough to create a narrative thread but not so much that the book becomes about him. Each chapter is packed with important information, so some readers may find it more appealing to read the book in pieces in order to process the larger implications for each city. “[A]round the world, there is a revolution going on in the way people travel,” writes the author. “It rewrites the DNA of formerly car-centered cities, making the streets better places to be, and restoring something cities sorely need: real public space.”

A captivating, convincing case for car-free—or at least car-reduced—cities.

Pub Date: April 24th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8050-9173-1
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Times/Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2012


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