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Which Historic Charm? Pt. 5

March 9, 2011

Nope, it’s not the Big Apple Tweed Ride, but a historic picture of Grand Army Plaza. My guess is that this is from the very late 1800s. I love the cobblestones around the arch and, of course, the bikes. You can also see four people standing on top of the arch. It’s too bad that this kind of visit is generally impossible these days, and that so much of Olmsted & Vaux’s vision for what was originally called Prospect Park Plaza, has been chipped away at over the years by traffic. It makes it the kind of place that few people visit, even though it’s right across the street from the main entrance to Prospect Park. Hopefully that will change as the city makes improvements to the plaza over the coming years.

Cars seem to be part of the ether now, but there was a time when cars were considered the interlopers on city streets, as rare seeing a baby pigeon. Years later, when the first automobile went around Grand Army Plaza, I’m sure the people in this picture and people like them would have felt much the same as many people today do about bikes. Not that they were a panacea, but it took new road designs, signs, and traffic signals to bring some order to the chaos imposed on city streets by automobiles. The same will hold true for bikes, and we’re starting to see it all over New York. With a lot of work, but at a fraction of the cost of installing a century’s worth of roadways, bike infrastructure will be a part of that ether, too.

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2 Comments
  1. Brooklyn Spoke Fan permalink
    March 10, 2011 1:40 pm

    Many did, at first, think the automobile was a panacea. No more piles of horse crap all over the street, for one thing.

    • March 10, 2011 3:15 pm

      Even though the car had benefits over the horse, too many of them on city streets caused too much chaos and dangers for pedestrians. So governments redesigned streets to get some control and safety on city streets. What’s happening now with bike lanes is no different. Only by redesigning streets can you change user behavior. The bike lane on PPW has done more to control speeding and keep bikes riding predictably than any amount of police enforcement or refining of signals could ever do. All at a fraction of the price, too.

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