x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Straphanger: A diatribe against the private car

Taras Grescoe doesn't hide his disdain for the motor vehicle in his tour of the transport systems of some of the world's major cities.

Straphanger by Taras Grescoe.
Straphanger by Taras Grescoe.

In the prologue to this book, the Canadian journalist Taras Grescoe proudly states that he considers it a badge of honour that he's never owned a car, and this is largely an unequivocal diatribe on how the private car is essentially choking the life out of our urban centres.

To put this to the test, the author embarks on a tour of the world's major cities to systematically try out their mass transit systems and interview some of the key figures in each locality.

Because of this jaundiced view of the car, he isn't averse to skewing statistics or distorting history to prove his points (for example, it's hard to agree with his contention that the 1968 student riots in Paris were mainly provoked by Georges Pompidou's proposal to construct a huge ring road for the city.)

Nevertheless, Grescoe does score a few compelling points along the way. And by the time he's reached the last stop on the metro networks of the globe, one cannot but recognise that efficient and affordable public transportation are key components of any thriving city.