Time travel to a city street in 1906
When you’ve always lived in a car-dominated society, it may be hard to imagine how life could exist any other way. But contrary to popular perception, modern car-culture is an aberration in the natural order of things. We even have video to help prove it.
Denis Shiryaev took the 1906 film “A Trip Down Market Street” and restored it by upscaling the resolution to 4K, dubbing sound effects, colorizing it, and more. You can watch it here: “[4k, 60 fps] San Francisco, a Trip down Market Street, April 14, 1906”. This version is not only technically impressive, it reveals with new clarity just how different our streets once were.
Arian Horbovetz has an excellent analysis on Strong Towns:
Lesson #1. Multiple Modes of Mobility: Trolleys, carriages, bikes, cars and pedestrians—count the number of different forms of mobility in this video. The streets were truly for everyone, regardless of speed, size, or socioeconomic status.
Lesson #2. Similar Speed: Equitable transportation is rooted in the idea that anyone can access jobs and resources equally, regardless of their socioeconomic status. In this video, pedestrians, mass transit and cars move at a similar speed. The difference in velocity between the most exclusive form of transportation and the most humble form of transportation is negligible. Today, the average 15-minute commute by car is likely to be over an hour by bus. The prioritization of the automobile has completely eradicated equitable access to jobs and resources.
Lesson #3. Density and Community: Slower, more equitable mobility leads to greater, more efficient urban density. Suburban expansion has created an inequitable construct based on “pay-to-play” access of upwardly mobile resources. When multi-modal transportation is encouraged, more efficient and equitable communities are possible.
As we can see now in vibrant 4K video, these ideals aren’t just theoretical.