Oh, and "healthfulness" in those pictures? Since when?
I'm sorry, but I don't view the past as something to aspire to. And I don't view what we see in those pics and video as "healthfulness".
I look at those pictures and think of the beauty our cities would be if we just managed to keep it this way. With the advances in medicine and sanitation, average lifespans would skyrocket due to the massive reduction of polution and toxins in the environment.
Funny, I don't think it would have been too pleasant to ride a bicycle in those days because the streets were all cobble stone! You didn't need to have smooth streets because the trolly didn't need one or the horse and buggy.
I wouldn't want to go back in time and lose the progress our society has made since those days in the areas of science and civil rights.
I would like to see us progress forward to a point where cities are flourishing centers where it is easy to get around by bicycle, walking, and transit and where cars aren't crowding the streets.
I'm hoping for a time when it doesn't make sense anymore to buy a new McMansion house built on formerly good farmland or forest and commute 20-30 miles each way on a choked Interstate in a huge pickup truck or SUV.
Thanks again for posting those photos, they are thought-provoking.
I imagine the photographers would take trains as far as they could, then switch to wagons. Most settled areas had train service. By 1900, the interurban railroads were being built, so even rural areas were becoming part of the railway grid. I don't know if the photographic equipment of 1900 was portable enough to hand carry on foot or on a streetcar.
Here's a picture of one of the main avenues in my city. It used to be clogged with traffic, the buildings (including the world-famous cathedral) were black from exhaust fumes, pedestrians and cyclists had been killed and the traffic noise was unpleasant, to say the least.
As you can see, things have changed since cars were banned. We can learn from the past.
Hmm, if you don't think people can look happy even if they are not healthy or living somewhere healthy, I don't know what to say. If you only go by the pictures and have no sense of the historical context, yes, I guess one could say that it all looked healthy.
I have no longing to a "better past", nor do I think that the time depicted is some sort of utopia to aim for.
Actually, it surprised me that there weren't many horse carriages for personal travel in the pictures either, and no horseback riding whatsoever. (Most of the horses shown were hooked up to wagons for delivering goods, not carriages for personal transportation.) I guess that in the urban areas, the streetcars had mostly superseded horses. This was clearly the Era of the Streetcar. 1900 was the peak of non-automotive transportation. The technology was more advanced than anything before or since.
But that isn't the point of these photos. The point is to examine what a big modern city looks like in the absence of automobiles. Basically, to me it looks a lot better than what we have now. I think the carfree city is a utopia we should aim for. Maybe not with horse drawn delivery wagons, but drone helicopters from Amazon.com? :)
I remember that about ten years ago they had one or two car free sundays in Copenhagen. Taxis and busses were allowed. Unfortunately, as it wasn't something that happened all the time, so many people, including yours truly, went to see the spectacle. Loads of people in the street. But I don't see how it is much better in a general way.
I can see that there is a problem with congestion generally, and we need to figure out a way to have less people on the road. But to aim for completely car free cities is naive at best, and I don't see the need to go to that extreme. I guess I'm not an idealist with things like that. Or rather, I don't see it as an ideal to aim for.
In fact, your own city already manages to discourage more than half of car commutes. Have you ever wondered what Copenhagen would be like if all the people on bikes and in streetcars were driving cars instead? Remember, there would be not only double cars, but also double street surfaces, parking areas, gas stations, traffic jams, and pollution. You would also need many more bridges, ferries, and tunnels in your archipelago, which are very expensive to build and maintain.
Btw, those are big cities in the photos, mostly, and 1900 is considered by historians to be part of our modern era. There are still a couple people alive who were born in 1900. I bet you're pretty young?
The reality is that even when cars are allowed (which with those few exceptions are always) people use them to get to work, pick up their three kids or whatever, and they are not driving around constantly. People work and in the meantime, their car is parked.
You see it fit to include everyone who were there out of curiosity on a Sunday and extrapolate that to everyone driving cars, and despite Europe (and I believe the US too) actually having a slight decrease in population from year-to-year, this somehow compares to the world population. And even if it did, there's a wide range between utter congestion and no cars at all. I am falling somewhere in that span.
And, while we're at it: A family of four in a small car takes up less room than the same family on four bikes. And they will often be driving around less time than they would on bikes. Things aren't as black and white as you want it to be.
Okay, I'm done with this, but just let me say that as a family, we now own a single, small car instead of two cars. I am riding a bike instead for most things.
I don't know why you become defensive. Nobody here is trying to tell you what you should do or must do. I posted the pictures for those who are interested, not to get somebody upset. I'm glad you took the time to post a dissenting opinion.
i would respond further to your interesting points, but I don't want to upset you more than I already have.
Not upset, I'm just weary of having what seems like ideological debates where things seem to be black and white. Suffice to say that I agree that people drive more than necessary and could benefit not only others by driving less and riding more, but also benefit themselves immensily.
As far as not as many bikes in the photos as you'd expect - I recently read "No Hands - the rise and fall of the Schwinn Bicycle Company". I knew about the 1890s bike boom, but I never appreciated how quick and devastating the subsequent crash was. I know biking was still big, but sales at least, had dropped dramatically by the early 1900s.
I'm sure it would have been unimaginable to the people living then to see the change that would happen to every city in just a few short years.
I think the automobile was the technology that had the greatest impact on human life, for both good and bad. That's nowhere more evident than where I live, here in Michigan. I don't think even Silicon Valley was as big and booming as Detroit and surrounding areas were in the early 20th century.
There are thousands more high resolution photos where these came from. I've been lost in them all weekend:
THE 100-YEAR-OLD PHOTO BLOGShorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photography blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.
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