The Logan Square Library has a bike rack within 10 feet of the door. If there was an Oscars for bike parking, it’d win the equivalent of Best Picture.
My normal reading fare consists of spy novels and non-fiction, and science fiction by Isaac Asimov, William Dietz, and William Gibson. But this year I’m changing that up. Join me in my reading of transportation books!
Yesterday I got an email from the Chicago Public Library notifying me that two books I put on hold had come in. I went to the Logan Square branch to pick them up, excited to dive in. You can join my impromptu, unofficial book club, by checking out and discussing with me:
- Traffic, Why We Drive The Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt (freelance writer)
- The Urban Cyclist’s Survival Guide by James Rubin (an L.A. journalist) and Scott Rowan (a sports editor and blogger in Chicago)
I started reading “Traffic” first because it’s older and I’ve been following the author’s blog longer than I have Scott Rowan’s*. On page 9 of “Traffic”, though, I stopped reading to take some notes.
Do you remember the traffic fatality map I posted on Thanksgiving last week? Vanderbilt talked about traffic fatalities in London in the 1700s:
In 1720, traffic fatalities from “furiously driven” carts and coaches were named the leading cause of death in London (eclipsing fire and “immoderate quaffing”), while commentators decided the “Controversies, Quarreling, and Disturbances” caused by drivers “contesting for the way”.
A bonafide traffic “jam” at North Avenue and Ashland Avenue. Vanderbilt explores the historical and contemporary meanings of “traffic” in his book. Traffic can mean “congestion” or it can mean the movement of people. Even William Shakespeare wrote about it.
Almost 300 years later, traffic fatalities are a leading cause of death for youth in the United States. There are over 300,000 crashes involving at least one automobile each year in Chicago.
I’m very much looking forward to finishing Traffic, which is chock full of research about ideas of traffic that we’ve all had but never spent the time to look into why certain situations occur, like why people merge early or late when a lane closes ahead, or how people driving have been observed to give feminine-looking cyclists and cyclists with helmets more space when passing. I’ll let you know in a couple weeks where I’m at with these book – I’m sure there’ll be a lot more I want to share.
*You may remember Scott Rowan from earlier this year when he wrote a tirade about Critical Mass. Additionally, it’s well-known that in the preface of the book, he writes, “At Clark and LaSalle I’m forced to stop my bike for the first time in more than three miles. As I catch my breath, three more cyclists pull up next to me. One guy has flip-flops on, audio ear buds in his ears, and no helmet. I instantly hope that natural selection will weed him out today, but say nothing. There are two other cyclists coagulating behind me – neither wearing a helmet; one has on headphones.”