|War, death, and speed:|
Aerial combat in World War I as trope for driving*
November 23rd, 1919
|Today on Oregonian front page|
|January 1st, 1920|
In 1920 Portland had about 250,000 residents, and today about 650,000. Just in very broad terms, today there are a lot more people, a lot more cars, a lot more driving. The 43 deaths in 1919 are distributed over a much smaller population and count of any variable: Fewer people, fewer cars, less driving.
When autoist apologists say "it's safer today," they are right in some ways. With seat belts, airbags, and crumple zones; better enforcement, licensing, and education; and autoist road engineering and signing - all these are important ways traffic safety has improved.
But that is mainly in relative terms.
Today we still kill and maim too many people, and non-auto users of the roads have been disadvantaged by practices that protect those in automobiles.
I don't know what the Salem numbers are, and if I find them I will update here. (But we should also consider that there is a good bit of random fluctuation from year to year, and that the more conclusive thing, the signal in the noise, is the longer-term trend line.)
|Oregonian back on December 22|
This shows the upward trend
It's the cars, their speed and power, that were, and still remain, a very great problem.
* The slow-down/oversupply in bike sales that started in 1898 and coincided with the end the first bike boom is at least partly related to young men going into the army and the Spanish-American War, no longer purchasing new bikes, and their used bicycles going into the market.
A factor in our autoism is the demobilization of 1919, the adrenaline rush of this still new and powerful machine, and the judgment of young male drivers.
War is an important part of the story of autoism's rise. We will see this again in the post-war suburb and Eisenhower Interstate System of mid-century. And still see it with oil and the Middle East.
** Early 20th century papers often called cars "machines," and we may try that out here for a bit, to see if that helps underline the notion of a person in charge of operating a machine.