There's nothing like the joy of the open road. Pedal to the metal, sound track of your choice. The freedom to get in your car and go anywhere, anytime, is the good old North American way. And it's insane.
The 20th-century romance with the automobile has turned into a nightmare of selfishness, gridlock, road rage, road kill, overpaving, and profligate fuel use. Urban arteries are clogged with noisy, heat-emitting vehicles, most containing a single person shielded from the elements as if ready for battle. Can extinction of these dinosaurs be far off?
Is it possible for people to travel in ways that do less harm? To take to the open road afoot and lighthearted, healthy and free? For those who view so-called human transporters, personal rapid transit, and green cars skeptically, a handful of magazines help rethink how humans can sanely move from place to place, singly or en masse.
Lively CarBusters features international reports on innovative transportation projects, reclaim-the-streets initiatives, pro-bicycle activism, and resistance to road building. The magazine regularly summarizes traffic studies, reviews pertinent books such as Sonia Shah's Crude: The Story of Oil, and looks at automobiles clearly in a section titled Car Cult Review. $16/yr. (4 issues) from Kratka 26, 100 00, Praha 10, Czech Republic; www.carbusters.org.
Momentum ("the magazine for self-propelled people") recently resumed publication after a hiatus of a year and a half. Like Transportation Alternatives, this bimonthly Vancouver-based publication focuses locally but should be of interest to bikers everywhere. A legal column and tips from a bike mechanic appear regularly. $34.75 Canadian/yr. (6 issues) from 826 E. Pender St., Vancouver, BC V6A 1W1, Canada; www.momentumplanet.ca.
Quarterly Velo Vision makes pedaling seem like play, even if the bike is powering a trailer loaded with goods. Full of reader reports and reviews of the latest folding bikes, recumbents, tandems, special needs cycles, and gear, it's also likely to provoke "Wow, cool!" exclamations thanks to covering the likes of solar-assisted trikes, pedal cars, human-powered aircraft, and ice bikes with front blades instead of tires. £32/4 issues from Environmental Community Centre, St. Nicholas Fields, York, YO10 3EN, England; www.velovision.co.uk.
Sustainable Transport magazine comes out annually from the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy, a U.S.-based nonprofit working to promote the use of nonmotorized vehicles worldwide. A recent issue reports substantially on "congestion-charging" in S‹o Paolo, Brazil (replicating the program in London, where drivers pay a fee to enter the city during the day); examines bus rapid transit in Jakarta, Indonesia, and urban highway congestion in Mexico City; and describes bike projects in Africa. Back issues are archived on the ITDP Web site. By donation, from 127 W. 26th St., Suite 1002, New York, NY 10001; www.itdp.org.
Transportation Alternatives, while focusing on New York City, offers models for urban dwellers everywhere who would rather bike and walk to work than drive. Each issue is full of news about activist initiatives for safer streets, traffic calming, better bike parking, and car-free parks. $30/yr. (4 issues) from 127 W. 26th St., Suite 1002, New York, NY 10001; www.transalt.org.
New Mobility is an excellent monthly magazine especially by and for people who use wheelchairs. Transcending the "supercrip" stereotype, it features stories about noncelebrities who deal with inaccessible businesses, legal injustices, and shoulders injured by overuse. Each issue reports news, rates products, and answers health-related questions, all in a way that suggests activism and solidarity. $27.95/yr. (12 issues) from Box 220, Horsham, PA 19044; www.newmobility.com.
A to B, a long-standing, small-scale British magazine, covers "folding bikes, electric bikes, trailers, trikes, and alternative transport." ($31.50 from 19 West Park, Castle Cary, Somerset BA7 7DB, England; www.atob.org.uk)
Out Your Backdoor #10 appeared recently, the first issue in five years of this homemade "catazeen" devoted to biking and outdoor recreation. ($3 from 4686 Meridian Rd., Williamson, MI 48895; www.outyourbackdoor.com)
The World Carfree Network Web site (worldcarfree.net) includes an online directory of organizations promoting alternatives to "the automobile lifestyle."
NARP News, monthly newsletter of the National Association of Rail Passengers, is a good way to keep track of Amtrak. ($30/yr. membership from 900 Second St. NE, Suite 308, Washington, DC 20002; www.narprail.org)
Community Transportation Association of America is a professional membership association of organizations and individuals and publishes the monthly Rail magazine, focusing on commuter rail services, and Community Transportation, a trade magazine largely covering so-called paratransit: mobility services for seniors, disabled people, and others with unique needs. (Rail $25/yr. and Community Transportation $50/yr. from 1341 G St. NW, 10th Floor, Washington, DC 20005; www.ctaa.org)
America Walks ("National Coalition of Walking Advocates") maintains a Web site with links relating to livable communities and transportation alternatives: www.americawalks.org.
This Just In
New England Watershed's first issue arrived in our mail recently without advance notice, and now we look forward to seeing more. Describing itself as a journal of "thought, culture, and art," the first issue includes an article by son-mother duo Dorion Sagan and Lynn Margulis about facial bacteria ("Candiasis and the Origin of Clowns"), an essay by Ilan Stavans about immigrants in Massachusetts, and a substantial article about efforts to keep the Connecticut River clean. ($47/yr. [6 issues] from Box 36, Hatfield, MA 01038; www.newenglandwatershed.com)
The Blasphunny Pages is an engaging zine devoted to linked stories about the hidden history of Spokane, Washington. Its tales about a closeted homophobic mayor, wildfire, a Romani family targeted by local police, rocky 19th-century race relations, and editor Matt Runkle's own school years as a misfit portray a city and model a way to better understand our lives in the context of where we live. ($2/sample from 3207 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, CA 94609)
Vermont Commons, a new monthly tabloid, seriously discusses the idea of Vermont secession from the United States, with a goal of self-rule and "genuine democracy." The six issues we've seen so far include articles on the history of tax resistance, dialogue about the French separatist movement in Quebec, and a manifesto (written by Kirkpatrick Sale) that examines the Vermont independence movement in an international context. ($20/yr. [12 issues] from Box 674, Moretown, VT 05660; www.vtcommons.org)
Edible Communities Inc., a for-profit "membership corporation," publishes sustainably-scaled regional magazines "celebrating the abundance of local foods, season to season." New titles include Edible Twin Cities, Edible San Francisco, and Edible Phoenix, all edited and written locally, despite their similar look. Flagship publication Edible Ojai began in 2002. For more info: 805/646-6678; www.ediblecommunities.com.