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Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile Hardcover – April 24, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; First Edition edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805091734
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805091731
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #859,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“All the cities we admire most in the world--the places young people want to live--boast great public transit systems or are in the process of building them. Taras Grescoe explains why: there's nothing more civilized than a great subway, or a bus rapid transit system, or a squad of ferries, or any of the other ways we've learned to move ourselves around urban space. As this splendid account makes clear, a car isn't liberation: not needing a car is liberation!”--Bill McKibben, author Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

"Grescoe presents a strong and timely argument for moving metropolitan motorists away from their cars."--Publishers Weekly

[Straphanger] 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…each chapter is packed with important information… A captivating, convincing case for car-free—or at least car-reduced—cities.”--Kirkus

"Entertaining and illuminating...Grescoe's adventurous, first-person inspection of the world's latest high-tech transit systems keeps readers engaged while underscoring the importance of developing greener forms of transportation."--Library Journal

About the Author

Taras Grescoe is the award-winning author of four books and countless articles focusing on world travel. He's written for The New York Times, The Times (London), Wired, the Chicago Tribune Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times. He currently lives in Montreal. He has never owned a car.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 25 customer reviews
It is well researched and very entertaining.
Robert G Yokoyama
In "Straphanger", author Taras Grescoe gives us an excellent overview of mass transit in cities around the world.
KnC Books
We just can't afford to drive cars to and from them forever.
Jessica Weissman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on May 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I feel so fortunate for the opportunity to read this book. As a longtime fan of James Howard Kunstler's writings about suburbia and the automobile, Straphanger was a similarly inspiring text, only without some of the derisiveness that Kunstler exhibits in his writing. I live in the hometown of the MBTA, in a city cut apart by a highway and that has been struggling for decades to get a transportation extension through our town. I have owned a home here for seven years, and the planned subway station two blocks from our house isn't even close to breaking ground. Yet, I can see just how desperately it is needed. So I am a huge fan of public transportation. But I was beginning to lose faith in it, seeing only how it could be late, smelly, crowded. This book gives one hope. Some countries DO do it right. It can be done.

I was also inspired so much - as was the author - by the way he wrote about the Danish! I am newly inspired to get a bike for those journeys that are a bit to far to walk. In fact, I can't stop thinking about Copenhagen! I love this idea that elderly people are fit enough to bike around town. I bet their health care costs are very low. I'm amazed they do all this with nordic winters - to the point where I am now disappointed in myself, as a New Englander, I take my car in winter almost every time I leave the house, because I don't like walking in the cold and ice. And these people are biking in it!

A great book on public transportation and how we can live happily without the automobile. Written by a travel writer, it's also quite an interesting way to learn about other places and mindsets. As he travels the rails (underground, light, etc), he talks to other passengers and learns more about the people in each place.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ken C. TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
An amalgam of journalistic feature writing, travel writing, history writing, and persuasive writing, STRAPHANGER is a State of the Mass Transit Union speech worth heeding. Author Taras Grescoe takes readers to 13 cities -- Shanghai, New York City, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Paris, Copenhagen, Moscow, Tokyo, Bogota, Portland (OR), Vancouver, Philadelphia, and Montreal. 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."

In fact, even those approaching retirement with a gated community in the suburbs in mind as a final home might reconsider after reading STRAPHANGERS.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Taras Grescoe introduces Strap Hanger with two thoughts - Salvador Dali's opinion that anyone over forty who still rides the Metro is a loser and Margaret Thatcher's belief that anyone over twenty-six who rides the bus is a failure.

It's hard to argue, especially with Thatcher, at least when it comes to America. Riding the bus is something that no one does in most of this country unless they can't afford a car or are prohibited by law or by infirmity, from driving a car. Even Grescoe admits he hates riding the bus. Every year, when the insurance bill and registration renewal bills come, I calculate if we can dump the car completely. Take the bus? Rent a Zipcar? Bicycle? Walk? Every year, we pay the renewals and keep the car. It's just too inconvenient to do without, if you have a choice.

But Grescoe envisions cities that make it too inconvenient to have a car, so convenient to take mass transit, that having a car is an unthinkable hassle.

It's not impossible - many cities have done it, and not just socialist European cities and ultra modern Asian metropolises. New York counts as a success story. Hardly any Manhattanites bother with a car for trips within Manhattan. But there are failures as well. Grescoe doesn't dwell on them, but does point up one spectacular failure - Phoenix - as a cautionary example. Phoenix fails in so many ways, as Andrew Ross shows in his book, Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World's Least Sustainable City.

Strap Hanger looks at mass transit city by city, rather than by type of transit. Grescoe is not so much a champion for particular mass transit systems, as he is for creating communities that work.
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