Taras Grescoe's study of public transit systems around the world was shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

Taras Grescoe

In Straphanger, Taras Grescoe hits the commuter road in a global quest to understand and illuminate the challenges of the post-automobile age. Straphanger is not just another attack on automobiles and suburban sprawl but the most entertaining and most thorough examination of global car culture yet written, and an empowering tool kit for anybody looking for alternatives to a car-based lifestyle. Ultimately, its subject is the city, and it offers a global tour of alternatives to car-based living told through encounters with bicycle commuters, subway engineers, professional boulevardiers, idealistic mayors and disillusioned trolley campaigners. Along the way, Grescoe meets libertarian apologists for the automobile, urban planners who defend sprawl, champions of hydrogen and biofuels, and traffic engineers fighting to reduce congestion. (From Harper Perennial)

Read an excerpt | Author interviews

From the book

I admit it: I ride the bus. What's more, I frequently find myself on subways, streetcars, light rail, metros, and high-speed trains. Though I have a driver's license, I've never owned an automobile, and apart from the occasional car rental, I've reached my mid-forties by relying on bicycles, my feet, and public transportation for my day-to-day travel. If you credit the U.K.'s late prime minister Thatcher, that makes me a failure of almost two decades' standing. Dalí, who depended for locomotion on a fleet of chauffeur-driven Cadillacs, is kinder: according to him, I've only been a loser for a couple of years. Far from being ashamed of my fare card, I consider it a badge of honor: I'm a straphanger, and I intend to remain one as long as my legs will carry me to the corner bus stop.

I'm not alone. Though there are 600 million cars on the planet, and counting, there are also seven billion people, which means that for the vast majority of us getting around involves taking buses, ferryboats, commuter trains, streetcars, and subways. In other words, traveling to work, school, or the market means being a straphanger: somebody who, by choice or necessity, relies on public transport, rather than a privately owned automobile.

From Straphanger by Taras Grescoe ©2013. Published by HarperCollins.

Author interviews

Featured VideoTaras Grescoe discusses his book, Straphanger, at the International Festival of Authors on October 21, 2012.