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Divorce Your Car! : Ending the Love Affair with the Automobile Paperback – June 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A long-time advocate for transportation reform, Alvord prefers getting around on anythingAher own two feet, mass transit, bicyclesAbut a car. In this affable history-cum-how-to, she tracks the dramatic, negative impact of automobiles from the early days of the 1900s to the present. Among the evils are severe pollution levels, high rates of death and injury in car accidents, a decline in other modes of transport and sprawling highway development. Meanwhile, some cities around the world are in fact quite friendly toward nondrivers: Toronto has a great subway system and encourages bicycle riders; Copenhagen and some other cities have "free bikes" that allow people to leave a deposit and borrow a bike; San Francisco has pedestrian-only roads. Perhaps the book's best section is the last third, in which Alvord offers detailed, practical advice on how to avoid using a car, along with lists of the benefits of doing so. Walking around, for example, helps reduce stress and prevent osteoporosis. Crime rates go down in areas with increased pedestrian traffic. And the average speed of a commuting car (22 mph) isn't much faster than that of a bicycle (10-20 mph). Even for readers who are not ready to permanently abandon their auto, this book provides a wealth of ideas for unbuckling the seat belts and enjoying the fresh air. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

In spite of America's enduring love with the automobile, there have always been those who have said it wouldn't last! Or at least there have been those who have suggested that it shouldn't last. Recent arguments include Jack Doyle's Taken for a Ride: Detroit's Big Three and the Politics of Pollution and Jane Holtz Kay's Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America and How We Can Take It Back (1997). Most critics have looked to public policy or planning initiatives for solutions. Alvord, though, offers practical remedies available to anyone. She traces the history of America's dependency on the automobile and details why we should reconsider the relationship. The reasons include pollution from auto emissions and oil spills, the expense of car ownership and its hidden inconveniences, and the grim consequences of traffic accidents. She then examines substitutes for driving, such as walking, bicycling, shared ridership, public transit, alternative fuels, telephone, and e-mail. Alvord writes with good sense as well as humor, which should help her win converts. David Rouse
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: New Society Publishers; 1St Edition edition (June 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865714088
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865714083
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,675,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
I've come to realize that driving my car is not only killing the planet, it's killing me. Each time I return from a car trip to town it takes a few hours to clear the stress-induced traffic jam in my nervous system caused by more and more cars and congestion, faster driving speeds and hurriedness, and the increasing impatience and aggressiveness of drivers. The worse it gets, the more I want out. This is the best book I've seen on the why and how of getting out of our cars and onto our bikes, feet, and public transport. It's not preachy or fanatical, and presents the reader with a number of options ranging from keeping your car but using it less (a car-lite lifestyle), to going entirely car free. I'm now finding that this book's core message of driving less and enjoying life more really can work.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Amazonbombshell on April 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
I checked DIVORCE YOUR CAR out of our local library, because the title made me wonder how such a thing could be possible. I read the whole thing, and I was astounded at how simple it really is to use your car less.
The first two parts of the book cover the history of the car and the American "marriage" to it, as well as the reasons that same marriage has turned into a disaster. The third part then offers practical solutions for non-car travel, going into great detail about walking, biking, mass-transit, ride-sharing, etc, and providing plenty of information on the benefits, drawbacks and availability of each, as well as how to get in contact with alternative travel associations in your area, or how to start your own.
It's a slim volume, but the quality is evident. This book really woke me up to something MAJOR I could do to improve my own quality of life and the planet's. My fiance and I currently own one car between us, and though we've been doing alright with it, we'd been planning to buy another! After reading DIVORCE YOUR CAR, we're realizing we really don't need to have more than one, and we're now planning ways to use our bikes and mass transit more, and actively discouraging each other from taking trips we don't need to take by car. It's already making a big difference, and someday we hope to go entirely car-free, with this book (which I've since purchased from Amazon) and our creativity as guides.
Thank you, Katie Alvord, for such an excellent wake-up call!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John on September 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
I'm moving out of state next year and won't be taking my car with me. Life will probably be more difficult in some ways but it's worth it. When you read about cars and study about them and think about them, it's really unbelievable the amount of death, destruction, and suffering that they've caused over the last hundred years. I've read a lot of anti-car books and this is one of the better ones. It's very thorough while not being too dry or academic like some of the others. Read this book and you'll learn things that will surprise you, like how much money it really costs a society when it uses cars as its main form of transportation. And don't forget perhaps the greatest tragedy of all. Cars gave rise to one of the lowest forms of life that the human race has ever known - the car salesman!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dan on August 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
<u>Divorce Your Car</u>, by Katie Alvord, is thought provoking. In the United States of America, an automobile is many things to many people: transportation, status symbol, hobby, money pit. Alvord takes apart the place of the car in modern society (the focus of the book is on North America, though she does refer to Europe and the Third World in places) and roundly condemns our dependence.

Her book is split into three parts--the first covers the history of the automobile and other forms of transport. She legitimizes what I'd often heard and dismissed as a myth--the car industry bought up the transit systems of cities in the US early in the 20th century and replaced them with buses. The second is a laundry list of the negative effects of the car (which, I must confess, I didn't finish--too depressed after the first thirty pages). The final section covers alternatives, including walking, biking, mass transit, non-gasoline cars, and telecommuting.

I found the book to be quite good in outlining the problem and highlighting solutions. The dependence of modern life on the car is a dependence on convenience. But, to some extent, it's a matter of inertia. Automobiles are so prevalent and easy that many of us never try the alternatives, let alone use them in preference to our car. A strong point is that she realizes that car-free living isn't for anyone, and makes a point that going car-lite can have a positive effect as well. She also touches on the far reaching implications that technology decisions have had on our society, our cities and our lives--from subsidies to the development of advertising. It would have been interesting to read more about that, but what she did say was definitely thought provoking.

However, I do have three quibbles.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Brenda Damrow on April 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
The first few chapters of Alvord's book try to show us why we feel the way we do about owning a car. Is it true that we are really `forced?into having a car? Alvord suggests that this romance with cars started with our "desires?for three things: improved mobility, idealism about changes, and the fascination with the new technology. It seems as though we did not look at any of the negative effects that a car may have, including pollution.
These downfalls of our "marriage?to the automobile are the main focus of the next chapter. Air and water pollution, climate change, oil spills, repairs, noise, obesity and car crashed are a few of the things mentioned by Alvord as downfalls to owning a car. Truly shocking is the list on starting on page 65 of seven different things that come out of our tailpipes polluting our air. Not only do the things that come out of our cars pollute our air, but also have you ever thought of the emissions from the factory that makes our cars and the oil refineries that produce components that make our cars run? These are forgotten when you hop into your car for that drive to the store two blocks away.
Alvord explains some realistic alternatives to using a car. The use of shared transportation, using a bike and even walking will definitely help to clean up SOME of the air pollution that there is in the world. These alternatives will also help to alleviate some of the costs on one's household, especially with the elevated gas prices we are seeing now.
Now the question that I have to ask myself is "Can I live without a car?? I guess that it is possible, but I really don't think that it is feasible at this time in my life. I drive to school because I work at home on my family's farm.
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