... isn’t quite in the class of its predecessor, but like all of Mr. Standage’s books, it is rewarding: the product of deep research, great intelligence and burnished prose. Moreover, he always comes up with offbeat and intriguing facts that I, for one, never knew ... The author makes his book a vehicle packed tightly with information about the car’s impact on history and society ... An unusually astute futurist, Mr. Standage offers observations about where we are now and where we might be heading that should be taken seriously ... It is rare that I encounter a nonfiction author whose prose is so elegant that it is worth reading for itself. Mr. Standage is a writer of this class, even if A Brief History of Motion isn’t top-grade Standage ... this book’s topics and themes might seem to many readers somewhat—pardon the pun—pedestrian.
... speckled with anecdotes, insights and surprises ... Standage’s survey of the early development of the motor car is swift but entertaining. He has a taste for comic disaster ... The US focus can be limiting ... Petrolheads might find the book slightly bloodless. There’s nothing on racing. So might environmentalists and health campaigners. Standage hardly mentions particulate emissions from cars, for instance, yet they are responsible for perhaps 400,000 deaths a year worldwide. But it is great fun — and utterly timely ... If we want to redesign the future, this book makes clear, the time to do it is now.
Standage starts rather grandly from the invention of the wheel itself. This seems to have happened in Europe, more than 5,000 years ago. Its associated problems are not new: even ancient Rome and Pompeii had traffic-calming measures. The story gathers pace in the 19th century, when the omnibus democratised wheeled travel and the invention of the steam engine, bicycle and internal combustion engine transformed it. This is great fun. Anyone who has not seen a picture of a Laufmaschine—the forerunner of the bicycle, which had no pedals and was propelled by running—is in for a treat ... By taking the long view, Standage shows how society does change radically. But reading his book, I was struck that the car era will not willingly slam the door on itself.