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street spaces

February 21, 2010

I read something not too long ago that talked about how automobile drivers gradually convinced the rest of us that they owned the roads.  I had noticed before that cars didn’t own the roads as much in some places as they did in others, but had never thought of it as something that changed over time.  In Italy, the cars mostly owned the streets, but in the piazzas they were guests of pedestrians.  In the narrow roads of the old city centers, it was a negotiation.  Driving here I’ve realized I think of the streets in the city differently than I do suburban roads – the cars here are still in charge, but there’s that negotiation again.  I have a hard time explaining to out-of-town friends why it’s ok to wade into traffic in some places.

Streets before the car took over:

San Francisco, 1906, days before the earthquake.  The camera is on the front of a streetcar.

Barcelona, 1908

London, 1903

London, 1927

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