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End of the Road - The World Car Crisis and How We Can Solve It.

I have emotions about this book. It is beautifully written, with a great deal of cleverness outcropping on almost every page. The author is both widely traveled and well read. He was born in Germany, lived in the United States for three decades, and now lives in a small village in France. At one time Zuckerman owned a Mercedes convertible and at another time a Morgan. He still has a car, but it is a small one.

There is no doubt but that the invention of the horseless carriage was a catastrophe in light of subsequent developments, according to Zuckerman. Two quotations epitomize his views. He writes:

The impact of cars on nature is at least five-fold: They

are responsible for half of all air pollution and therefore

have a serious effect on human, animal, and plant

health; they make an important contribution to noise

pollution; they swallow up ever larger chunks of land;

they are responsible for the deterioration of the natural

landscape and therefore can be accused of aesthetic

pollution; and, finally, they contribute to global


If the automobile has done its bit disfigure the world

and to contaminate its nature, it has gone one step

further in cities. It has begun to destroy them


As the book continues, the automobile is also accused of having despoiled the entire countryside - no longer is it feasible to take a leisurely stroll into the country for a picnic lunch with a bottle of champagne to enhance the occasion. But Zuckermann is a serious scholar and he has familiarized himself with almost every facet of the case against automobiles, trucks, buses, and highways. Moreover, the writing style is so pleasing that reading is a pleasure, up to a point. While the author would admit that he might be a trifle too much on one side, the effect upon a reader may be different.

Consistently damning the automobile with all of the admitted problems it has caused does not justify ignoring its enormous benefits. The book is like a balance sheet analysis of a conglomerate in which 99 percent of the attention is concentrated on the liabilities and almost no attention paid to the assets. Furthermore, there may be a considerable net worth.

I am reminded of some of the food fads that prevail at the end of the twentieth century. We are to eat only natural food, unadulterated by chemicals. When man ate mostly natural food, he had a perilous existence and a short life. Recently, even distilled water came under attack because important minerals present in tap water were lacking. Zuckerman sees much merit in walking and cycling and prohibiting the use of cars. One cannot help but think that a larger problem than the burgeoning population of vehicles may be people in and of themselves. With the world population soaring, we cannot go back to the idyllic days that a limited percent of the populace were able to enjoy. The author believes that as long as we are struck with cars, we should make arrangements to fill the cars and make them into semi-private transport which might even be semi-public.

More than 30 different ways to solve the problems growing out of the automobile are discussed. Zuckerman sees little to be achieved by using pools and high-occupancy vehicles for commuting. The high-speed trains of France are admired for what they do, bu the author makes the very valid point that France has simultaneously endeavored to speed up and improve highway service along parallel rail routes and has also made heavy expenditures on airports at both ends of the rail lines. One of the means of alleviating congestion has been to restore faith in hitchhikers in order to increase the occupancy of vehicles.

There is scarcely a panacea that any reader has encountered before or can conjure which is not covered in the book. About the only cure-all not discussed was one suggested by this reviewer in the late 1950s when he argued that free mass transit in cities would - on a consolidated cost basis - be relatively less expensive, judged from almost any angle of the populace and its economy.

The book, on the whole, is fascinating reading and its contents are important to governmental officials, economists, and people in transportation generally. Conversations with the author would be delightful. My judgment is that he wishes to turn the clock back, but that task cannot be done and we may have to fumble forward, continuing to cope with congestion in diverse ways.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Waters, L.L.
Publication:Transportation Journal
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1992
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