One Less Car
Bicycling and the Politics of Automobility
Publication Year: 2010
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?
Published by: Temple University Press
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In many ways, this book is the end result of a series of interactions, questions, and concerns first set in motion when I started riding a bike to work and school in the 1990s. My interests in bicycling were then far more pragmatic than academic, and I never would have imagined devoting years to researching and writing about bicycles and car culture, whether in the form of a doctoral dissertation...
1. Introductions and Intersections
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In the week preceding the 2004 Republican National Convention (RNC) hundreds of thousands of activists from around the United States converged on New York City to demonstrate their collective dissatisfaction with the George W. Bush administration and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Protesters arrived with handcrafted banners, makeshift signs, elaborate costumes, musical instruments, bullhorns, giant puppets, and droves of literature. Some people even brought their bicycles. For this latter...
2. Becoming Auto-Mobile
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Bicycles occupy a unique and somewhat awkward space in the intersecting histories of technology and mobility. Despite the wild popularity of the bicycle in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, its overall historical role is perpetually shadowed, in the United States, by the sweeping impact narratives told about the development of the steam ship, the railroad, and, of course, the automobile. Yet the...
3. V�lorutionaries and the Right to the (Bikeable) City
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If the bicycle magnified the inherently political tensions of mobility in the late nineteenth century, the automobile was instrumental in amplifying them to a previously unimaginable degree. The car became both a blessing and a curse in the early twentieth century as urban and rural populations in the United States either embraced the freedom of driving or were forced to adapt to the car’s spatiotemporal trajectories...
4. Critical Mass and the Functions of Bicycle Protest
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The White Bicycle Plan initiated by the Dutch Provo in 1965 marks an important and largely unrecognized moment for bicycle advocacy: it revealed how activists could politicize the bicycle as a direct response to the material and ideological problems posed by urban automobility. Theirs was an admittedly utopian vision, but one firmly grounded in the pragmatism of the bicycle, the ethics of egalitarianism, and a love of the city. Rather than seeing bicycles as nostalgic symbols of a bygone...
5. Two-Wheeled Terrors and Forty-Year-Old Virgins: Mass Media and the Representation of Bicycling
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Kids were going crazy on their bikes back in 1979 and the television was partly to blame. Like suburban primates, the children of the disco era aped their television commercial peers and rode dangerously into the streets without looking. Or so goes the argument put forth by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the organizational body responsible for charging AMF Incorporated, one of the largest U.S. bike manufacturers of the period, with advertising its Evel Knievel brand bicycles and tricycles...
6. DIY Bike Culture
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On February 23, 2006, employees at each of the four Brooklyn Industries retail clothing stores in New York City arrived at work to find a message inscribed across their front display windows in etching fluid: Bike culture note 4 sale. The juxtaposition of the drippy phrase with the “tall bikes” featured in their display cases must have seemed quite odd, if not totally confusing, to people passing by. In the weeks before the Village Voice widely publicized the incident, bike enthusiasts and critics were already immersed in online forums debating how and why the store’s display of handmade bicycles—particularly ones welded...
7. Handouts, Hand Ups, or Just Lending a Hand? Community Bike Projects, Bicycle Aid, and Competing Visions of Development under Globalization
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Inside renovated warehouses, old storefronts, and rickety garages scattered throughout the Americas, the seeds of a v�lorution are being planted with wrenches and grease-stained hands. It is here, among piles of donated parts and bicycles once destined for landfills, that bicyclists utilize little more than volunteer labor and shoestring budgets to cultivate a variety of community bicycle projects aimed at educating youth, empowering volunteers, and providing people with affordable, sustainable...
8. Conclusion, or “We Have Nothing to Lose but Our (Bike) Chains”
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Congressman Patrick McHenry, the Republican representative for the 10th District in North Carolina, briefly addressed the House on August 4, 2007, in an attempt to sway votes against a renewable energy bill (HR 2776) that ultimately passed.1 The provisions of the bill included, among other things, a measly tax break of $20 a month for...
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Publication Year: 2010