Thursday, July 17, 2014

The War on Cars - A Brief and Mildly Accurate History

You may think that the "War on Cars" statement is nothing but hyperbole, created to invoke a knee-jerk response from people so they react first and think later.  But you couldn't be more wrong my friends! The "War on Cars" is only a part of a greater transit battle. To help get you up to speed, here's a brief and mildly accurate retelling of the glorious battles between transportation modes.

It all started In 1817, when Baron von Drais invented a "walking machine" that could help him get around his royal gardens in an efficient manner.  It was considered an extension of walking and the Baron never would have imagined it would be anything more than a fad.  It took about 50 years until bikes were adapted to better serve commuters and started to increase in popularity.
"The Walking Machine"
image found here
The next incarnations of these walking machines were called "The Velocipede" or "Boneshaker" and people used them to get around cities as well as indoor riding in academic institutions.  More and more people, from the upper class to the lower class, started adopting this new mode of leg powered transportation.  The bicycle continued to go through incarnations until it was perfected to the one you see today.
The great bicycle club riding their Penny Farthings and establishing their transit dominance.  Here they are seen driving at breakneck 15 mph speeds on their fragile and tall bikes.
image found here  
Eventually the bicycle became so popular in the 1880s and 1890s (estimated at 10 million of the 75 million people in the US) the cyclists formed the League of American Wheelman.  The group started demanding that the roads be paved to make cycling more hospitable and safe.  This extension of walking was looked at as a perfect way to commute for work, as well as a wonderful leisurely activity and it was considered a symbol of freedom and self-reliance to many Americans.

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. " - Susan B. Anthony
image and quote found here
But this popular mode of transportation wouldn't last for long, as the paths paved for bicycles would soon be used for the all-powerful automobile.   Eventually Reginald Vanderworth Winterbottom, rumored to enjoy being carted to fatty foods and giant shopping establishments, was fed up with the droves of Penny Farthings "scathing the lands".  Vowing to never use his legs again for transport purposes again, he officially declared war on the bicycle in favor of the automobile in 1910.

We shall resign these incipient devices to children on sidewalks and bears in circuses wearing funny hats"
- Reginald Vanderworth Winterbottom
image found here
It was a hard fought battle but the small, lightweight, and relatively harmless bicycles were not match for Winterbottom's motor vehicle army.  Once the battle was over the car armies started to destroy the lives of thousands of pedestrians and cyclists every year and their numbers grew exponentially.  The war seemed all but lost to the motor vehicle, and laws were enacted making it illegal for pedestrians to walk on the streets.  Children would no longer be able to play in the streets as they once did.  Bicycles were forced to compete with cars on the streets that originally served them so well.  Even public transit was hobbled to make room for the gas-powered victors.

Enjoying his new found glory, Winterbottom 'celebrated with far too many spirits whilst driving speedily through the Great Highway' and drove right over a cliff. which is now known as the "Devil's Slide".  While his body and car were never found, his legend still lives on in the hearts of minds of those commuters who partake in the agonizing and slow commutes down that very same road today.

Vehicles celebrating with their daily victory dance
image found here.
In the past couple of decades there's been a resurgence in bicycles trying to reclaim a fraction of the land they once enjoyed in the early days of cycling, and moving along side by side with pedestrians.  Some small battles have been won in cities and towns across the country in the name of public safety and heath.  Often time these skirmishes fail because of LOS concerns, or the screams of motorists to allocate most of the street to storing cars.
"Get out of the way you're in the way of our perfect traffic system!
image found here
The cars, however, are not giving up without a fight for this precious space. The pleas from neighborhoods to have cars share space and slow down have been heard as a "War on Cars".  Nowhere is this more evident than in San Francisco where motor heads are battling to restore car balance to San Francisco, so that bicycles, transit and pedestrians are re-balanced to take a back seat in street prioritizing.  The battle lines have been drawn again and you'll be sure to see "The War on Cars" described anytime people want to modify vehicle dominated space.  Reginald Vanderworth Winterbottom is sure to be rolling around in his submerged automobile grave.

8 comments:

  1. Penny Farthing..

    ReplyDelete
  2. Reginald Vaderworth Winterbottom' looks like a total dick

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm pretty sure that's George Edward Pickett, but he was a confederate so who the F cares!

      Delete
  3. As well as Toyota created reports just last year together with significant recalls on their Avalon, Camry, Corolla, and Sienna products (among others). The recalls resulted in crushing income quantities intended for last year. car exporters UK

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have no idea what you just said but I do like that it names cars and says crush.

      Delete
  4. Everybody is in hurry to reach his office in time and these really are the peak hours when there is a great chance of traffic jam on the roads. Now buick navigation system will take you to your office in time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I once dated a buick navigation system and she dumped me

      Delete
  5. I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to undertand. Unlike additional blogs I have read which are really not tht good. I also found your posts very interesting. In fact after reading, I had to go show it to my friend and he ejoyed it as well!
    rebuilt title

    ReplyDelete