Asphalt Nation is a major work of urban studies that examines how the automobile has ravaged America’s cities and landscape, and how we can fight back.
The automobile was once seen as a boon to American life, eradicating the pollution caused by horses and granting citizens new levels of personal freedom and mobility. But it was not long before the servant became the master—public spaces were designed to accommodate the automobile at the expense of the pedestrian, mass transportation was neglected, and the poor, unable to afford cars, saw their access to jobs and amenities worsen. Now even drivers themselves suffer, as cars choke the highways and pollution and congestion have replaced the fresh air of the open road.
Today our world revolves around the car—as a nation, we spend eight billion hours a year stuck in traffic. In Asphalt Nation, Jane Holtz Kay effectively calls for a revolution to reverse our automobile-dependency. Citing successful efforts in places from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, Kay shows us that radical change is not impossible by any means. She demonstrates that there are economic, political, architectural, and personal solutions that can steer us out of the mess. Asphalt Nation is essential reading for everyone interested in the history of our relationship with the car, and in the prospect of returning to a world of human mobility.