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Bad traffic, 1938

June 13, 2008 | 12:44 pm
Dropcap_p_1921 erhaps this isn't the most sophisticated illustration of how traffic evolved from caveman days to the mid-20th century. But the panels do tell a story. Times reporter Ed Ainsworth describes the rise of cities in the Middle Ages, sort of the way old Disney cartoons explain rocketry. "Most streets had been created haphazardly, primarily for men on foot." (And yes, we are still in the caveman days in terms of inclusive language.)

Now this sounds familiar: "Men discovered that because of the railway lines they could work in one place, live in another possibly miles away where they could have the rural atmosphere for which mankind has always seemed to yearn -- fields, flowers, livestock, fresh air, a retreat 'out in the country.' "

Ainsworth describes how human beings built rail lines radiating from a city core like the spokes on a wheel, with minimal traffic between the spokes. (This scenario, in fact, has been used to describe early 20th century Los Angeles.)

"As new subdivisions were laid out, there was provision, of course, for automobile roads. But these were not correlated with the roads of other subdivisions. Dead ends and blind alleys abounded. Bottlenecks were created on every hand," Ainsworth says.

And this was in 1938.

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