Zack Furness's One Less Car is a major contribution to understanding the cultural development and meanings of bicycles and bicycling, and the creation, practice, and consequences of auto-mobility. It is among the very best works on transportation, culture, and social movements, each as expressed through bicycling. Furness's work is one of several recent that demonstrates the maturation of theorizing transportation. He situates bicycles and bicycling in active and changing contexts, demonstrating the fluidity of the meanings associated with bicycling, never seeking to stabilize or fix essential meanings to the bicycle. Yet Furness commits to a normative project as well, which will leave positivist-inclined academics and the general population of philosophical realists bristling.
The sheer scope of Furness's work is remarkable, while he keeps the entire work readable with thought provoking insights chapter to chapter. Each chapter stands on its own, and yet helps complete a larger image of how bicycling has achieved its status and meaning in U.S. culture today. Although the entire book is excellent, I particularly enjoyed Chapter 4 on Critical Mass and Chapter 5 on media and other representations of bicyclists. His chapter on critical mass is the very best discussion I've read, capturing the multifaceted, changing and contingent meanings of those events. He puts to shame the monolithic liberal and conservative misunderstandings and misreading of critical mass (CM) rides, and I hope that contemporary bicycle advocates - heck, all bicycle riders - read this chapter so that they better appreciate the impact of CMs on bicycling politics. Indeed, I have heard many bicycle advocates in the Twin Cities, as well as regular "avid bicyclists," dismiss and denigrate CM without realizing the debts they owe to those rides. And if one wants to better understand why bicyclists have been and are loved, revered, celebrated, despised, hated, deemed immature, healthy, patriotic, a menace, and elitist, then chapter 5 will give you answers.
Furness' treatment of every topic he handles is extraordinarily well-researched, drawing on multitudes of texts from vastly different kinds of sources including philosophy, history, cultural studies, social theory, sociology, science and technology studies, literature, popular culture, trade magazines, and advertising.
Having read the other reviews here, I have to comment on my surprise about the two negative reviews. It appears that the main thrust of one critic focuses on the eight pages devoted to the Vehicular Cycling (VC) movement, at which Furness levels a serious critique. Yet, like every other discussion in this book, I contend that Furness treats VC in a nuanced manner, including giving it its (limited) due credit. The other negative review wrongly dismisses Furness as an ideologue, missing the difference between advancing a normative project and committing to ideological dogma. Yes Furness takes seriously the situationist meanings of various facets of bicycling-as-protest, but he does so because that is a convincing framework to explain such protests. And this is not his only lens; many frameworks buttress Furness's analyses.
Furness's book is an excellent companion to Peter Norton's Fighting Traffic and Cotten Seiler's Republic of Drivers, as these three works represent the latest thinking on theories of transportation politics.