Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep, Yeah!

Got finished reading a "mono-history" of sorts, Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic. Subtitled Why We Drive the Way We Do, it is an interesting look at just that. Sociological, physical, psychological, historical. You name it, Vanderbilt covers it.

Not only that, but Vanderbilt is a pretty entertaining writer. The book is extremely well researched and the endnotes comprise almost a quarter of the 400 pages of the book. My only quibble with all that is that there are times it feels like Vanderbilt wants to get in every source he has and finds some way to transition what he's writing about to fit that particular source.

Really, it's probably fairer to say that it's well-edited as opposed to well-written. Linking all those sources into an entertaining, informative narrative ain't an easy thing to do. Some times the book plods a little. There's a time or two where Vanderbilt delves into numbers a little too much. But mostly, once again, I'm nitpicking.

I wondered as I read this whether the driving in this country would change if everybody read the book. I thought my own driving would be modified a bit from what I learned, despite the fact that out here in the countryside, I don't often have traffic issues. Lo and behold, though, I still am pretty irrational behind the wheel.

There were a lot of interesting things that I learned in this book which added to the enjoyment. The various types of employment in the world of traffic studies is mindboggling. There was also a lot of non-intuitive things which I liked a lot. Some, like the fact more roads don't help, I knew. Others, like the fact that more fuel-efficient cars will increase traffic and thereby cause different environmental concerns, I hadn't really thought about too much.

Another book that I would strongly recommend reading.

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