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book image Sustainability
Car Sick:   Solutions for our Car-Addicted Culture
By Lynn Sloman
196 pp.
Chelsea Green. US$20.00
ISBN-10: 190399876X / ISBN-13: 9781903998762

Lynn Sloman participated in a London transportation planning meeting whose goal was the reduction of traffic in London’s congested urban areas. The planners studied the average distance of typical journeys based on whether the journey was made by train, driving, riding in a bus, biking, or on foot. Not surprisingly, they found that train journeys are typically quite long in distance, and journeys on foot are quite short. What they found, though, was that the car, bus, and bicycle trips were quite similar. In London, roughly half of all car trips, and roughly half of all bus and bike trips are under two miles. This means that if the distance of the trip could be the only deciding factor in mode of transportation, rather than the convenience of the car, more people could be traveling more often by bus or bicycle.

In Car Sick: Solutions for our Car-Addicted Culture, Sloman takes observations like these and explores the snarled thicket of our clogged roads. Through case studies, real data, creative thinking, and solid analysis, Sloman shows how we got trapped in a car-dominated culture. She includes a lot of case studies in the book, and shares user study data that shows that people would use alternate transportation methods if they weren't so dangerous or terribly inconvenient (like having to walk or bike along a heavily trafficked road or having to walk from the bus at night in unsafe areas, or having to walk too far to the bus). She includes a clear-eyed view of the often missed secondary costs of car ownership and a car-dominated infrastructure, including economic, social, and health costs (for example, the epidemic of obesity has the car culture as one of its strongest contributing factors, surpassed perhaps only by television).

What makes Car Sick: Solutions for our Car-Addicted Culture especially valuable, especially to urban planners and proponents of livable communities, are the myriad suggestions and overall vision for how to get from where we are, car-wise, to a more transportation diverse and healthier lifestyle.

Readers should be aware that much of the author's focus are cities and towns in England, geographically very different from, say the wide open spaces of the American Midwest. Although this is true, much of her observation, analysis, planning, and suggestions are still applicable to the cities and towns of wider, larger spaces. The exact data might be different, but the underlying concepts and principles still pertain.

This book is quite helpful in that it shows strategies for regaining some freedom from cars without having to resort to large-scale multimillion or billion dollar engineering projects. In fact, those very types of projects are usually car-oriented projects and involved the very type of planning that has resulted in a plethora of roads and over-dependence on cars. Even though cars have not been around that long compared to all the rest of human history, for some reason it has become very difficult to imagine life without them. Possibly the best aspect of Car Sick is that Sloman has offered some very real, tangible ways to imagine - and implement - a more car-free world.

Lynn Sloman is a partner in specialist consultancy Transport for Quality of Life, which works with public sector and voluntary sector bodies to develop sustainable transport policies and practices. She is a special advisor to the Board of Transport for London and a Visiting Fellow at the University of Westminster Transport Studies Group.

The publisher, Chelsea Green, is known for its forward-looking publications.

Sylvia Breau, for Notable Book Reviews
Notable Book Reviews received one or more copies of this book in exchange for this review.
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