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

Views: 449

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Who decides what is a benefit and what is not? 


Who are you to make the determination that cars do more harm than good or bikes do more good than harm?


Did you read and comprehend anything that I said in my long post?


Right and wrong are nothing more than simple opinions.  Some are widely accepted and reinforced and enforced by society as a whole but even in many of those cases there is still not consensus; that whole 'abortion thing' seems to remain a pretty hot topic even though we, as a society, made 'rules' about it.  Just because you and a whole bunch of people you know think a certain action or lifestyle is 'the right thing to do' that does not make it the prevailing attitude let alone a fact.  When you preach social responsibility you are inflicting your value system on others and, if they believe other wise, making a very strong judgment against their way of life.  If you can somehow explain to me how your statement that using a car less is socially responsible (morally right) does not translate into using a care more is socially irresponsible (morally wrong) please enlighten me.


Now, personally I believe in trying to drive as little as I can and make life choices that reinforce that.  I consider it to be the 'right' choice for me but do not expect it to be the 'right' choice for everyone.  I guess if I really wanted to I could take all kinds of moral high ground because of my choice.  I could smuggly blather on about it being all our responsibility to save the world, how I am fighting the good fight against evil big oil, how I am doing right by 'the kids' and how I am just so fucking socially responsible (morally right) that it makes my genitals appear larger than they may actually be, but I don't, for two important reasons. 

One, for me to say that is to imply that people who do not make my life choices and choose to drive are shirking their responsibility to save the earth, in bed with evil old big oil, screwing over the 'the kids' and so horribly socially irresponsible that their genitals appear shriveled as if they took a cold swim. 

Two, no matter how perfect a life I try to live or how smug and wonderful I am there are always going to be choices I make that are socially irresponsible and are hypocritical if I am taking the moral high ground with my bicycle riding.  Part of why I ride is because I want to decrease oil dependence and help keep our world clean.  However, I also choose to eat meat and love me fresh oranges and bananas.  Well the raising, processing and transport of beef pretty much blows my ability to take the moral high ground there out of the water... Same goes for oranges and bananas; ever have a delicious Illinois grown orange?  Well how the hell do you think it got here still fresh and tasty?  Not on a bike I can tell you that much...  I mean if I really believe in any of that shit how can I eat beef? or oranges?  I could easily not eat these but there goddamn delicious and I want too.  I don't care who you are or what you do somewhere in your choices there is something that runs up against the morals of another choice you make.


I bike because it makes sense practically, not because I feel it is my moral responsibility and I try to get others on bikes for those exact same reasons.


Glen (FTF) said:

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.

/\/\/\ What he said! /\/\/\
Come meet Yves Engler and Bianca Mugyenyi, authors of "Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay" at either of these events.

Tuesday May 31, 6-10pm
Biking and Politics Podcast
Jaks Tap (The Green Room)
901 W Jackson Boulevard

Wednesday, June 1, 6 pm
The Open Books Store
213 W. Institute Pl.

In their humorous and enlightening book, Stop Signs, Canada-based authors Mugyenyi and Engler use a bus trip across the USA as a starting point for looking critically at the effects of cars on our environment and us.

Stop Signs is disturbingly informative, yet humorous and surprising. "An anti-car, road-trip story, Stop Signs is a unique must-read for all those who wish to escape the clutches of auto domination."

On Tuesday the Biking and Politics Podcast will feature an interview with Stop Signs authors, Yves Engler and Bianca Mugyenyi, followed by a round table discussion on automobile culture and how local advocacy can serve as a counter measure.

John Lankford, Dave Glowacz and Harry Wray will host.  John Lankford is the executive director of Walk Bike Transit PAC.  Harry Wray is Professor of Political Science at DePaul University in Chicago and author of Pedal Power: the quiet rise of the bicycle in American public life.  Dave Glowacz reports on Chicago government for newspapers, radio stations, and the on-line magazine Inside Chicago Government ( and authored Urban Bikers’ Tricks & Tips.

The Biking and Politics Podcast is a forum for discussion of how cycling can pave the way to a healthier more sustainable future, and explore what we can all do to become more engaged in the political process to create healthier communities. This month we follow the authors of Stop Signs on an epic car free road trip through America and examine the challenges and opportunities faced in reversing the trends of auto centric urban planning run amok.

On Wednesday, the authors will give a multi-media presentation and do a book signing at The Open Books Store.

Learn more about Stop Signs at (

I like riding my bicycle but I think the bicycle "community" (everything's a fuckin' community) is overrun with self righteous, finger-wagging, puritanical schoolmarms who want to dictate the behavior of others while demanding the freedom to do whatever the Hell they please (note the twisted, longwinded rationales often put forth here for cyclists disobeying traffic laws).


I think many of these bastards just hate to see people riding around in cars enjoying themselves and the freedom to go places cars give them. How dare the masses enjoy the fruits of their labor without first consulting Yves, a Cotton Mather on a Trek.

Old Tom, I was a motorhead with two cars, a van and three motorcycles.  No one dictated to me that I give them up.  But I have and now rely on bicycles for all my personal transportation needs.

It was the Chicago bike community that made it possible for me to achieve car freedom.  Without their example I would have never realized what I could do without a car.  The grass roots effort "Bike Winter" showed me that one can commute year round by bike in the most extreme weather with rather modest preparation.  Quirky events such as bike moves where someone offers free beer and pizza and many volunteers show up with their bike trailers to move the entire contents of their household taught me that there is nothing that a typical home owner has that can't be moved by bike.

And that community is filled with the friendliest and most selfless people I know.  They don't have any power to force the steering wheel from your hands but can show you how rewarding it can be to let it go.

I think you have misread Yves.  Probably because you haven't read him.  Bianca and Yves' book isn't an attack on car drivers.  It starts out as a tale of their road trip.  One they took by bus and some funny tales of woe when arriving in what should be vacation meccas such as south Florida and the difficulties encountered when not driving.  They the explore how cars came to such dominance.  Yves own interest in the subject came from the observation during his partying days that the places with the best night life tend to be less car dependent.  It's awkward to party when you have to drive home.

Come join us for a good time at Jak's tap tonight.  I think you'll find something very different from what you are imagining.

I don't find car ownership all that onerous or expensive.  Perhaps that is because I own a car made in 1994 that has been paid for since before Y2k and has given me 316,000 almost totally trouble-free miles.  

Then again I do all my own maintenance and the little that a mid-90's Camry requires is neither expensive nor very difficult.  Other than oil changes, brakes, tires and the 90k timing belt change it needs very little other than checking the fluids.  It still has compression within factory specs and gets 30MPG in mixed driving.


The only real costs are fuel and licensing as liability-only insurance is very cheap and hardly even registers on the log book of expenses.  There is no such thing as a free lunch.  It'd be nice to be car-free but my lifestyle is just NOT compatible with being stuck in one very small geographic vicinity all the time.  I've got more of a need to roam the midwest and the continental USA at a rate not consistent with pedaling to get there.    I do give people like Todd a nod for limiting themselves to only having a bicycle for personal transportation  It's just not something I want to do with my own life.  Life is too short to be stuck in an anthill like Chicago all the time.   I like to live a little larger than that.

I foresee a time in my own lifetime when the freedom to pilot a motorized personal vehicle wherever one wishes on all but the most remote of areas will be a thing of the past.    Motor vehicles will be controlled by computerized transportation nets and such things as steering wheels and piloting controls will be vestigial if present at all.


The hostility towards privately-owned transportation is part of it, but I am sure the change-over will be done in the name of "safety" due to the inability of the increasing number of said drivers to operate their vehicles with anything but the barest modicum of an aside to consideration and respect for the lives and safety of other road users. 


When the technology comes to make such a thing possible the ability to just jump in a car (or motorcycle) and drive wherever one wishes without permission from some authority will be a thing of the past. 


Jeff Schneider said:

I don't think it's somehow 'wrong' to own or use a car.  I do, too.  And, like you, I don't spend much money on it compared to most Americans (though I also understand the societal costs of my driving).  But I would still love the freedom that more transportation alternatives would provide.  For example, if I am lucky, I may live beyond my ability to drive,  and I'd love to still be able to get around.

I like the part here where you pretend that driving a car is just a matter of personal choice, like choosing a hairstyle, conveniently ignoring the literally incalculable public expenditure that makes it possible.

I also like the part where you boldly become literally the only person in the entire United States to detect hostility to privately owned transportation.

I like the part here where you pretend that Freedom of X (insert just about anything here) just a matter of personal choice, like choosing a hairstyle, conveniently ignoring the literally incalculable public expenditure that makes it possible.

I also like the part where you boldly become literally the only person in the entire United States to detect hostility to Freedom of X (insert just about anything here).


© 2008-2016   The Chainlink Community, L.L.C.   Powered by

Disclaimer  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service