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One Less Car: Bicycling and the Politics of Automobility (Sporting) Paperback – March 28, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


"I love One Less Car for its depth of field. Furness weaves together the myriad sociological, artistic, political and ethical impacts of the bicycle in a scholarly 300-page treatise."
-Jacquie Phelan, Mountain biking pioneer, three-time national champion, and founder of the Women's Mountain Bike & Tea Society (WOMBATS)

"[I]mpressive in its scope and detail.... One Less Car offer[s] insights into an aspect of U.S. cycling that, until recently, has been overlooked." 
-Transfers: Journal of Interdisciplinary Mobility Studies

"Furness has produced a remarkable book. It is at once a history of bicycling in (mostly) the US; a cultural analysis of the bicycle, the car, and auto-mobility; and a solid piece of advocacy for bicycle-friendly policies. This solidly researched book covers a remarkable amount of territory....Highly Recommended."

"[Furness] puts forward an intelligent (and clearly impassioned) picture of a safer, saner, and sounder approach to mobility in the form of the bicycle...[T]his book brings our attention to an understudied and significant arena in the understanding of mobility...a valuable and delightful read." 
-Contemporary Sociology

"Furness offers a firm and thoroughgoing political critique of assumptions and practices inherent in much cycling work that is often missing from other analyses.
-Technology and Culture

"One Less Car is a serious update and expansion of the social and political history of bicycling. I would own this book for the notes and bibliography alone." 
Robert Hurst, author of The Cyclist's Manifesto and The Art of Cycling

Book Description

Although millions of people in the United States love to ride bicycles for exercise or leisure, statistics show that only 1% of the total U.S. population ride bicycles for transportation—and barely half as many use bikes to commute to work.  In his original and exciting book, One Less Car, Zack Furness examines what it means historically, culturally, socioeconomically, and politically to be a bicycle transportation advocate/activist.


Presenting an underground subculture of bike enthusiasts who aggressively resist car culture, Furness maps out the cultural trajectories between mobility, technology, urban space and everyday life. He connects bicycling to radical politics, public demonstrations, alternative media production (e.g., ‘zines), as well as to the development of community programs throughout the world.


One Less Car also positions the bicycle as an object with which to analyze and critique some of the dominant cultural and political formations in the U.S.—and even breaks down barriers of race, class and gender privilege that are interconnected to mobility. For Furness, bicycles not only liberate people from technology, they also support social and environmental justice. So, he asks, Why aren’t more Americans adopting them for their transportation needs?

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Product Details

  • Series: Sporting
  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Temple University Press (March 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592136133
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592136131
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #247,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael Ross on March 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is an outstanding treatment of bicycles and their relationship to larger quality of life issues in the USA. The key idea s that of "automobility." The book is a powerful and tractable exposition, the only treatment of I know of that is not undertheorized with respect to its subject matter! (And I've read them all...)

His treatment is sociological and normative, not just descriptive and historical (assuming the latter is possible.) Apparently, this is confusing to folks. Building a solid case on a sandy foundation is always going to upset those, who, regardless of disciplinary pedigree, are only satisfied with unassailable assessments...but such is life.

Furness focuses on the *relationships* between bicycles, transportation, the built environment and the larger consumer culture (with its dominant "rugged individualist" psychology and economic "market ideology). He examines the role of the bicycle, both the role it has played and could play, in enhancing (or detracting from) the quality of life emergent among those relationships. In so doing, Furness critically helps point the way forward for bicycle advocacy, from an historically informed perspective on "automobility."

Contrary to the other reviewers, this book is not the least bit ideological. The claims of bias seem confused, even if predictable.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John B Woods on October 13, 2010
Format: Paperback
I am neither an avid cycler nor a bike advocate, but this book changed my life. The arguments that Furness makes about automobility are far more important than any differences between those in the cycling community. Furness' history is both well-written and rather riveting. I had often wondered about the derivation of Jay-walking, for instance, and discovered it in a delightful anecdote in Furness' book. Furness' grasp of history and politics is what makes this book readable and interesting to me. I would not pick up a cycling manual if it simply detailed the history of the bicycle. It is precisely that Furness is able to link cycling to larger movements in culture and politics that makes the book so fascinating.(I was fascinated to learn about the White Bike movement in Amsterdam and the way it lead to cycle sharing programs such as ones in D.C.) The previous reviewer found Furness' discussions of Situationism tedious perhaps because of his own political bias. Having read the book, I found his review unfounded and unflattering to its (the review's) author.

It is rare to find a book that will engage with the philosophical meaning of anything-- much less transportation. Furness' point that the cycle is the true 'auto-mobile' is well-taken in an age when we can't avoid how many other aspects are required to make an automobile move. As it turned out, my car was totaled as I was reading this book. I still do not own a bike, but decided-- only partly on the basis of the book, of course-- to do without a car.

If you are a cyclist, you'll find much to inspire you. Even if you aren't, you'll find a great deal to reflect upon about the meaning and culture of transportation in America. And if you are open to it, One Less Car, might change your life as well. It was a happy accident that One Less Car led, in my case, to literally One Less Car, but it also lead to one more person thinking critically-- and ejoyably-- about transportation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Benn Pamphleteer on December 3, 2012
Format: Paperback
In the Acknowledgements, the author explains how this book came to be; as an outgrowth of his doctoral dissertation, I would guess in contemporary culture, media, or some similar modern area of study. No one would have much doubt after slogging through the introduction, with it's post-modernist, deconstructionist attempt to show that everything is connected to everything else, and the author wants you to know he sees that.
However, once you get past the introduction, this book settles down to an exhaustive and thought-provoking exposition of the bicycle in our car culture. It is well documented, thorough and insightful as the author examines the many cultural idiosyncrasies that make up the original and contemporary history of the bicycle. It is testimony to the power of the most energy-efficient mode of transportation on the planet that it has stimulated such varied, and often bizarre, idolatry across the spectrum of class and culture.
However, therein lies the problem I have that keeps me from endorsing this book unreservedly. The focus seems to be on the quirky, subcultural radical fringe - critical mass, the provo in the netherlands, the stunningly perceptive but finally overwrought and dismissive critique of vehicular cycling (note: I'm a vehicular cycling instructor), the absolutely bizarre messenger bike/ fixie culture. I don't mind the anti-capitalist, subversive tone - we can use more of that in current critical thought - but if you want to convince Americans to abandon their cars for bicycles, you might do well to talk about what utilitiarian cycling really looks like in the places where it's practiced, such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen and, increasingly, Portland and Boulder.
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