Friday, January 30, 2015

Now-and-Then Photos Show Public Space Turned into Car Space

While these aren't local, and show much larger cities than Salem, the side-by-side imagery is very striking.


Susann Kaltwasser said...

I have watched that 1906 movie of San Francisco numerous times and I am always facinated by the new things I see each time.

Did you notice how few bicycles were being used in 1906...maybe the hills or maybe the cost?

I noticed a lot of cars being driven with total discregard to the pedestrians. Not much has changed in that. At least the horse drawn carts seemed to slow down for people.

Several times people almost got hit by a moving vehicle. Yikes!

People in general seemd to be thinner back them too.

And last, those pesky kids running in the street playing chicken with the tolley and hanging on the back os the cars!

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Yes, the 1906 films is a favorite!

Bikes - By 1906 bikes were already becoming marked by class and were no longer fashionable. If in the 1880s and 1890s bikes were leading edge transportation technology, in the early 1900s the wealthy elite moved on to the next tech gadget, the automobile. It was much more expensive bling and a better aspirational tool for marketing. Plus there was more money to make in sales of cars.

So in cities like SF that had a lot of wealth, in the main commercial districts like Market Street, it's not surprising cars were much more visible, even in 1906.

I suspect that in other parts of SF we would have seen a lot more bikes.

Already, too, we might see that people using bikes would prefer lower-traffic side streets. Hard to say, for sure. As you say also, hills are a factor, though the Bay Area generally had a highly developed club and racing scene in the 1890s.

Here in Oregon, in 1899/1900 about 10% of the population owned bikes. It wasn't until about 1916 or 1917 that cars ownership reached the same proportion. Bikes similarly disappear in newspaper accounts, but I believe this is because they had become transportation for the working-class rather than for the elite.

The "rules of the road" we know today hadn't become convention, and yes, lots of random driving. People were struck and killed. But speeds were also slower. The history of car technology's not my thing, but I don't think there were many, if any, capable of much more than 10mph in 1906. That's fast enough to hurt you, but not so fast that you couldn't dodge them a lot of the time.

Readers who are interested more in Salem biking in the very early 20the century can read the notes tagged here "Wheeling: Old time Biking."