10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A song of the road
What a delightful book! If at first at first sight you are tempted to think that it just serves to feed the inner nerd you are mightily mistaken. Take the trivial example of road-numbering. Even a brief discussion may tempt some into a detailed perusal of the nearest wall, but that would entail missing out on the crucial revelation that we can blame our road numbers on...
Published on 13 Jan 2010 by MikeAl
3.0 out of 5 stars A book for the specialist .
Very good history of roads from an environmentalist's point of view so he is somewhat one-sided. He fails to acknowledge the great benefits good road communications deliver and also that mobility is a human right. He also fails to acknowledge that if a clear majority of public demand exists and can reasonably be provided, in a democracy it is the duty of government and...
Published 3 months ago by Brian Barton
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A song of the road,
What a delightful book! If at first at first sight you are tempted to think that it just serves to feed the inner nerd you are mightily mistaken. Take the trivial example of road-numbering. Even a brief discussion may tempt some into a detailed perusal of the nearest wall, but that would entail missing out on the crucial revelation that we can blame our road numbers on none other than Napoleon. If that is not interesting then I don't know what is! This instance illustrates one of the aspects which I feel have been missed by other reviewers - the extraordinary range of reference which Moran brings to his subject. While there is no bibliography, just look at the works mentioned in the notes. Virtually all of these are apposite and not there for the purpose of showing off and show that the book is effectively a social and cultural history of roads.
A second feature of the book which seems to have gone unnoticed is the felicity and wit of the author's style which make it a surprisingly entertaining read. He occasionally soars to the lyrical level which driving certain stretches of road can elevate one. He is also capable of coining some very exact phrases.
Having driven along so many roads I thought I knew a great deal about them. Now I know a great deal more. I won't bore anyone with examples - entertain yourselves!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Roads aren't just for cars!,
This is a great read, an almost obsessional homage to Britain's road network. However, I did finish it with a small sense of disappointment. Despite his authoratative writings on roads, Moran seems to have got sucked into "bigger is better". As the book goes on, it becomes more about motorways and motorists. I was disappointed that he missed out entirely on the back roads and byways of the country, despite what the front cover design would have you believe. There's lots of historical routes out there that he only tangentially refers to, the kind of routes better known to cyclists and walkers that are still part of the modern social fabric of the country. Perhaps this is an opportunity for a second volume?
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, engrossing book which needed to be written and deserves to be read,
This is a wonderful, engrossing book which needed to be written and deserves to be read. Funny, engaging, incredibly well-researched and impressively broad in its scope, On Roads tells the fascinating - and it is, truly - postwar history of British roads and the British motorist and is peppered with the sort of extraordinary facts and trivia I can't resist. Bob Geldof working on a roadgang on the M25, a quarter of a million fish being rescued before they started building Spaghetti Junction, and why migrating birds love the A34. Fantastic.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A whole new take on motoring,
I bought this book to give as a present but became too engrossed to give it away. I've always wondered why you tend to see so many kestrels and kites when you're driving along the motorway - and this book explains it all. This is a completely fascinating look at something I - like many other people I'm sure - tend to take for granted. Highly recommended.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A1!!!,
The reviews I read elsewhere for this book were right-it is a well-researched, topical and absorbing record of all things road-related, with some fantastic observations on our habits on the road, both good and bad. The attention to detail belies the author's age...I think I managed to work it out from an early passage in the book! A must for anyone that travels on the road a lot (that'd be a "motorist" then?!) and especially the motorway network; those boring stretches of landscaped tarmac and concrete will never seem quite as dull again-who'd have thought that motorway services have a social history all of their own?! Amazon take Pole Position for offering the hard-back edition of this book on one of its promotions; I only wish I'd ordered the soft-back as well-that way I could have kept it in the glovebox of the car to read next time I'm in those roadworks on the M1!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'On Roads' Joe Morab,
As someone living on Teesside a big irony is that the one single thing that put us well and truly on the world map - the opening of the world's first proper passenger railway from Darlington to Stockton - has been honored by Stockton Council in such a positively perverse fashion. Where others would have built a replica station or set up a new railway museum, the civic elders of Stockton decided to name a new piece of very boring urban dual tarmac running along the alignment of that old railway `1825 Way'.
This sums up the contradiction in British culture when it comes to transport. We all love our railways, but not to the extent of using them all that often. You can see this in any good public library where there will be racks full of erudite volumes about past and present railways, but (apart from highway atlases) nothing on the roads we use every day.
This oddity has now been redressed. Joe Moran's book `On Roads' celebrating what Moran calls "the most commonly viewed and least contemplated landscape in Britain" is now out
The job he sets in this book is a new one. It is to make us look afresh at modern life on our roads, and to appreciate their hidden history and their oddities.
I need to say immediately that Moran steers clear of both highway pre-history and our residential and town centre roads, which he sees as owing more to the surrounding urban surroundings, instead preferring to concentrate on the development of our main inter-urban roads over the last century or so.
He also digs deeper than just looking at the development of the tarmac forming a waffle iron pattern across our land. He looks, for example, at issues like the evolution of British highway signs and their lettering designs, something, which he demonstrates, has helped form typography across almost all other forms of public signage (including across our railway network and our airports)
He also shows how our inner selves have come to terms with the design and content of roads and of the vehicles that use them, whether that be the evolution of car design, or the artful civil engineers use of the "clothoid curve" (the graceful cornering arc, with slowly increasing curvature, but which also require motorists to concentrate as they turn).
It isn't just aesthetics. He brings us to earth with a bump (and I apologise for that term) when he starts to discuss the masculine love of speed and the deaths and carnage that brings in its wake. He evokes the essential gloominess of such things as underpasses Travelodges, petrol stations and road-kill.
He is good to, on the hidden geography of such places as the Watford Gap, the Hanger Lane Gyratory, the Redditch Cloverleaf , the Gravelly Hill Interchange (Spaghetti Junction to you and I) and the Almondsbury Four-Level Stack, places which are both well-known to millions but at the same time as remote as the far side of the moon in terms of any knowledge of the ground they stand on.
What Moran manages above all is to reclaim the road as a country of its own: a terrain as mysterious and worthy of exploration and study as an upland stretch of moor or small but dense copse.. He argues that mu"The land surrounding rural motorways is ... vast and unknown", he notes in one section. "If you are ever on the run from the law, I would strongly recommend that you hide in the wooded motorway verges of our oldest motorways, like the M1 or M6. There is just enough room for a tent in the half-century of undergrowth, and you could surely live like Stig of the Dump, undisturbed for months or years, in this uninhabited wilderness just a cone's throw from the road."
True, very true, and I write this as my TV is telling me that the trial of a murderer of a women whose body lay undisturbed just 50 yards from a junction on the M5 will be starting soon.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everything you never knew about roads,
This is a really good book with lots of details about things you see every day as you travel around our road network but never think about. There's also a deal of nostalgia about how Britain used to be before the motorway network was built and also about the road protesters of the 80s and 90s. It's hard to believe now just how different driving must have been less than 40 years ago when there were so fewer cars on the roads; the then very few motorways were fairly empty and yet road deaths were so much higher - with no seat belts, a tolerance of drinking and driving, and dangerously built roads. This book is a real insight into how such high death numbers could happen and then decline massively even though the number of vehicles increased several times over. Somehow this book turns the mundane and stuff we take for granted into an intriguing history not just of roads but of social attitudes in Britain. Driving on motorways in future will certainly be more interesting after having read this book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars King of the road,
I gave 'Queuing for beginners' five stars and thoroughly recommend it. When I happened upon this Joe Moran offering I thought I had to read it and bought it in the same batch as 'Map Addict' by Mike Parker.
I started reading it and initially wasn't that impressed thinking 'I am reading a book about roads here'!! However my initial dislike quickly disappeared and I ended up finding this to be simply excellent. True it does tend to major on motorways and large trunk roads but the detail and the research and the fact that Joe Moran has put it together in an entertaining and readable way deserve praise.
There is much in here that was close to my heart, I live near the Twyford Gap, I was born a year after the Preston Bypass was opened, I remember Swampy, so not only was it an excellent history of roads in the UK, it was quite 'local' for me.
Moran's writing style is informative and clearly well researched, I don't agree with the reviewer who implies it is just one reference after another. I thought that was one of the main plus points of the book that Moran was able to draw on a huge amount of information and filter it into an edible format.
It was interesting that there was some crossover between this and 'Map Addict' (obvious I suppose) but there the similarity ends and Mike Parker would do well to learn from Joe Moran's objective non personal style (well less personal than Parker!).
A fascinating, interesting history and social comment on our roads - who would have thought a book about roads could be this interesting, perhaps he'll write one on Quality Assurance next!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the road less travelled...,
what makes anyone decide to pick up a book about roads and read it? - probably that they are someone who has spent a considerable proportion of their lives to date on them and having been stuck in endless jams going nowhere on the M25 has contemplated the road that feels like it is going nowhere. As with previous works, Joe Moran has taken a subject that most people would never a given second thought to and compiled a brief history of the modern road that never seems like a lecture on geography, politics, history, sociology, psychology or any the other ologies. Yet again this book makes compulsive reading and there are many interesting little asides that almost leap off the page at you. The little witty touches remain, including the use of the motorway count-down junction markers to highlight reaching the end of the chapter. We all use them, but quite rightly moran challenges us to think again about this most mundane feature of the british landscape in a different way, making this a must read book for anyone who ever needs to travel by car. Oh, and by the way - the M74 is my favourite motorway in the country! (but i already knew that before reading this book...)
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On Roads,
'On Roads' is a valuable addition to the social history of the 20th century focusing on a possibly neglected area. Carefully researched from a wide range of sources, and illustrated with anecdote, this is an eminently readable, and hugely enjoyable book. This book provides a fascinating account the growth of roads in the last century, how they have changed our behavior, and of our changing attitude to road building.
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On Roads: A Hidden History by Joe Moran