In ancient times the Chinese philosopher Lao-tse, whose teachings are what we now know as Tao, said “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Earlier this spring, as my simple FOIA request was not being answered and the Logan sign project was looked like it was facing roadblocks, my normal optimistic self needed reassurance that sooner or later hard work and persistence would bring reward to the fledgling movement of ordinary citizens to put the WALK back in “Sidewalk” for all who use them. How many steps would it take? And how long would the thousand mile journey take?
And then I thought: How long did it take after people started driving autos before there were traffic lights, which was the great leap forward in effectively controlling auto traffic? Well, my college American History book, which I still have (some things remain useful forever), told me that, while gasoline-driven vehicles were first used in Europe in the 1870’s, they were first used in the US in the 1890’s. But it wasn’t until Henry Ford perfected and started mass producing the Model T in 1909 that the average person could afford a car and the “love affair” started. And, of course, the problems with accidents. Accidents led people to begin thinking more seriously about traffic control. According to the most reliable Internet source I found, the honor of the first installed electric traffic light system belongs to Cleveland, Ohio in 1914. Being originally from northern Ohio, I knew this but had forgotten the particulars. Here’s the link:
The Lesson to Take from The Traffic Light Beginnings
Yes, it took 25 years from the first autos in the US to get people working on an a city to actually install a reasonable auto traffic control system. BUT it only took 5 years after autos became so numerous that the problems became more evident and had to be dealt with.
So, although at least since the 1980’s according to my newspaper research when I was looking for more info on the CBD prohibition, individual pedestrians have complained about reckless sidewalk bicyclists in letters to the Post and elsewhere, and many have been injured in those years and a few killed, nothing’s been done. However, the recent bicycle boom and the increasingly entitled attitude of cyclists who insist on riding recklessly on sidewalks even with bike lanes on the same street may be the Model T moment for our still new pedestrian movement. But be prepared to be persistent and vocal for a long time to the powers that be in this city.
Have a great weekend and, by all means,
STAY ALERT; DON’T GET HURT. AND DO THAT MOVE DC SURVEY!