The Chainlink

Chicago & Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay

Hi Chicago bike activist. I am co-author (with Bianca Mugyenyi) of the just released  Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay. We plan to be in Chicago May 30, 31 and June 1.  Would you be into helping us set up event for one of those days?
By the time were are in Chicago we expect to have had few good reviews circulating and to have been on democracy now so hopefully that would help with turnout.
 Here is our website, which we are slowly getting together.
thanks and take care

Authors offer 14 ways North America’s automobile-dominated transportation system is irritating, irrational, irresponsible and increasingly inhuman


The I-14

1.    Cities have been torn down, remade and planned with cars’ needs as the overriding concern.

2.    Behind the wheel it’s me, myself and I.

3.    Only three percent of the car’s fuel energy actually moves what needs to be moved.

4.    Cars encourage sprawl and the privatization of space.

5.    Car-burbs are infertile ground for the social movements necessary to tip back the scale between rich and poor.

6.    The car’s insatiable appetite for space crowds out bikes and pedestrians.

7.    For every mile of travel, the car is dozens of times more likely to cause death and injury than the train, bus or airplane.

8.    Cathedrals are built to worship the automobile.

9. A quarter of our working lives are spent paying for cars.

10. Automotive pollution kills tens of thousands annually.

11. Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent every year to subsidize off-street parking.

12. Driving brings out the beast in the newly evolved human, Homo Automotivis.

13. Auto-dependent development is pushing oil extraction into increasingly sensitive environments.

14. A model of transportation that relies on individuals hopping into two, four or eight thousand pound metal boxes to get from one place to another is utterly unsustainable.



In North America, human beings have become enthralled by the automobile: A quarter of our working lives are spent paying for them; communities fight each other for the right to build more of them; our cities have been torn down, remade and planned with their needs as the overriding concern; wars are fought to keep their fuel tanks filled; songs are written to praise them; cathedrals are built to worship them. In Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay, authors Yves Engler and Bianca Mugyenyi argue that the automobile's ascendance is inextricably linked to capitalism and involved corporate malfeasance, political intrigue, backroom payoffs, media manipulation, racism, academic corruption, third world coups, secret armies, environmental destruction and war. An anti-car, road-trip story, Stop Signs is a unique must-read for all those who wish to escape the clutches of auto insanity.

"Mugyenyi and Engler's Stop Signs is at one and the same time an entertaining, fact-filled anthropological tour of the land of Homo Automomotivis, and the first all-out global ecological critique of the American automobile addiction. Not since Jane Holtz Kay's Asphalt Nation has a book appeared that so clearly exposed the auto-irrationality of the most car-dependent country on earth."
John Bellamy Foster, editor of Monthly Review and co-author, The Ecological Rift
"This book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the impact of the private automobile on our urban transportation options."
David Cadman, Vancouver City Councillor, International President ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability
"In Stop Signs, Mugyenyi and Engler take readers on an insightful, fact-filled journey through the primary habitat of the car-dominated species they call Homo automotivis. With wit and originality, they weave travel tales into a convincing argument against the auto economy, culminating with a fresh call to leave car culture behind."
Katie Alvord, Author, Divorce Your Car! Ending the Love Affair with the Automobile

"Mugyenyi and Engler illustrate the relationship between cars and suburban living. You come away shaken, but ready to roll up your sleeves and contribute, however modestly, to constructing a new world in the twenty-first century."
Richard Bergeron, Montreal city councilor, urban planner and author


Yves Engler has four published books including The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy (Shortlisted for the Mavis Gallant Prize for Non Fiction in the Quebec Writers' Federation Literary Awards)

Bianca Mugyenyi coordinates campaigns at Concordia University's Centre for Gender Advocacy

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Armor isn't light.  But you don't need bullet-proof doors and windows in Chicago because guns are illegal here so there aren't any in the hands of criminals who might shoot at you.   Totally can't happen.

I've not worked and lived in the suburbs at the same time but it's true you can live and commute w/out a car. Bike trails are abundant in the North Shore communities. The problem there is the cost of housing IMO and given the lifestyle bike riding is recreational.

Now if I could afford 4.5 mill. for a house in Lake Forest I'll become a spokesperson for bike riding and commuting by train.

Gin said:



 Suburbs are a good example.  Some suburbs, especially the older ones built around train stops, have more compact, walkable development than you see in parts of Chicago. There are almost 300 communities neighboring Chicago with a wide range of characteristics.  


I do hope we can all agree that the global "we" would be better off if there was less driving and car ownership in general.



Iv lived in the burbs, ex-urbs, border city, small college town  and straight up small town; life without a car is possible (and pleasant) in most of those cases. Granted you will have to put some effort into your transportation method(s) of choice, but usually not as much effort that goes into owning and operating an automobile.


I usually don't bother telling people possible right or wrongs in their actions or habits, but seeing what I have in these comments, I'm still inclined to believe that when you say anything that can be seen as negative about someones lifestyle, habits, actions, or beliefs they will become offended and more then likely defensive. Even if its the truth. (be the book full of shiz or not is up to each individual to research  and decide for them self)


I don't know anyone on the "bike side" who thinks that all people need to ride all bikes all the time. Walking, biking, transit, cabs, rickshaws, cars, trucks, boats, planes, skateboards, scooters, motorcycles, strollers, wagons. . . they can all work together to move people and goods where they need to go. Add in land use and consumption patterns that help minimize travel distance and we can go a long way towards reducing the social and environmental costs of our current transportation patterns.



obviously biking or even walking isn't possible for everyone. I'd assume every one can realize this. How ever there are also those who just say that they can't because they either are too lazy or don't believe they can for what ever reason. For instance I have "exercise", cold and allergy induced asthma. Some how though i, and a few others I know have managed to prove that it doesn't mean you can't bike or hike (walking) year round, or even one day be in the same house as a cat. (Take that asthma specialist!!!)


too many people though use out-of-shape, asthma, time, weather as excuses and socially acceptable substitutes for being lazy or too scared to try something new. I don't expect a 500 pound obese individual, 87 year old gentlemen with an air tank, or someone with a broken leg to be walking or riding about; in fact someone should be nice and go pick them up and drive them around if need be.


Cars are here to stay and they have their rightful place, i think. But that doesn't mean its socially responsible for everyone to do it all the time. Sometimes people need to try something new and let go of the "but I don' wanna!" attitude.

Well said, Glen. I'm glad to hear you are able work around your asthma.

I look forward to giving Yves and Bianca a warm Chicago welcome and having more of this conversation face to face. Thanks, Todd and Steve for starting to get things rolling over here.

The book in question outlines the ways cars hurt our society and planet.  Where are you getting "this whole car vs. bike argument" from? Who is suggesting that everyone has to ride a bike or public transportation?

Duane Waller said:
What strikes me most about this whole car vs bike argument is that everyone on the bike side ASSumes that EVERY PERSON IS HEALTHY ENOUGH TO SIMPLY RIDE TO WHERE THEY NEED TO GO. There are some people in this world who have it worse than you, and therefore need the convenience of personal transport. Not all public transportation alternatives will get someone who has a hard time getting around right to the front door of their doctor or physical therapist.

Here is the real point of all the arguing here and some food for thought I think that all advocates, for anything at all, would do well to listen to...


Nobody, not one single person, no matter how open minded they are, like to be told that what they are doing or how they live there life is wrong, bad, immoral or having their habits represents as a negative behavior.  When you are trying to advocate for change, any change, that involves the need to try and convince people to change their habits, way of thinking, personal choices or life style telling them that what they are doing now is wrong is never going to get you very far. 


It makes people defensive to be judged; the perfect example of this is how do you feel when you hear the same tired rhetoric about cyclists being wrong for even being on the road?  It makes you defensive, and it should, because you are being judged by others for choosing to live your life in a manner you think is perfectly acceptable.  Every time you take a position of superiority when talking to a motorist about their transportation choices you are making them feel exactly like statements like that make you feel.  Does that honestly seem like a good way to start a conversation that is going to make somebody change how they think and live their life?  Nope, chance are it will only make them dig in deeper; especially if you try and take them moral high ground.


Personally I think one of the most damaging things cycling advocates do to their own cause is to try and hold the moral high ground.  First off, as stated above, is that it puts people on the defensive but more than that it is a hard argument to gain any traction with to convince the person you just put on the defensive.  Right and wrong are not always black and white issues and people’s views on these things are formed by many, many individual factors; who are you to say that driving less is ‘right’ or morally responsible or in any way better than riding a bike?  How can you support a statement like that with anything other than opinions?  No matter what you say in that regard it is going to involve an individual value judgment and I challenge any of you to make the argument without one; I would love to hear it.


I also think people do a lot of damage to their cause by forgetting that making a judgment of one thing as superior you are implying that another is inferior.  Every time you say that biking, or whatever else it is you are trying to support, is ‘the right thing to do’ you are implying that the inverse is ‘the wrong thing to do’ and people are a lot more sensitive to that than I think people realize.  When you tell somebody how much ‘better’ what you are doing than what they are doing it is going to put them on the defensive just as much as if you had told them directly that they are ‘wrong.’ 


It’s a more flies with sugar sort of thing.  If you don’t make judgments about people’s choices and push things based on logical and practical reasons I think it is much easier to gain traction for your cause.    I would be much more interested in this author’s book and message if the points on their list that make judgments about me as a driver were not there.  There are so many good reasons to drive less; why do we have to focus on the ones that involve telling people they are wrong?

Well said Dug.


This is what I was trying to convey by calling it a "religious" issue.  The OP has made conrete decisions about what is "right" and what is "wrong" and has laid out planks of a personal manefesto outlining the "evils" of driving and the "salvation" of riding bicycles.  


They've set up a dichotomy between the sinners and the saints, the faithful and the infidels.  It's holy war, and the Taliban are going to push the velo sharia until they get their way. 


Thay hate our Freedoms to drive and move around in personal privately-owned powered vehicles ;)


They hate "privatized" space.  All hail the new caliphate of the collective space!

I dont think this is a moral issue; i think its a social responsibility issue. The negative impacts of the personal automobile are too great for everyone to do it all the time. It was someone showing me the facts that got me to find alternative forms of transportation. Now I don't drive every time I need to go some place. If there is another option I will take it.


Now matter how anti utilitarian someone might be, every society to some degree fallows a "for the greater good" idea. its here that the personal auto(every where/every time) is no where near socially responsible.

Social responsibility is a morality issue, think about it.


Your idea of what is right and wrong determine what you feel is socially responsible.

Glen (FTF) said:

I dont think this is a moral issue; i think its a social responsibility issue. The negative impacts of the personal automobile are too great for everyone to do it all the time. It was someone showing me the facts that got me to find alternative forms of transportation. Now I don't drive every time I need to go some place. If there is another option I will take it.


Now matter how anti utilitarian someone might be, every society to some degree fallows a "for the greater good" idea. its here that the personal auto(every where/every time) is no where near socially responsible.

you can say that by calling it a social responsibility its also a moral issue, yes, but its more then just a moral issue. What is a society for if not the over all benefit of everyone, supposedly. Other wise people wouldn't enter into them in the first place. if thats so, then its accepted that if something does more harm then good to the overall, its prolly not a great idea. there are methods used to decide "right or wrong" other then simple opinions.


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