Street Life in San Francisco, Paris, New York, Victoria and Vancouver

Steven Pinker be damned! If you’d like evidence that history is more complex than the misguided notion that everything is always magically getting better I’d point you to these  films showing city life before our streets became sewers for cars.

I’ll get right down to my cranky point: they show that our streets and parks are worse and more impoverished since we ceded them to automobile interests.

To us who live in developed countries these street scenes can seem chaotic. I would suggest that instead of chaos they show a city life that’s more democratic. No one form of transit dominates. You can walk, ride a bike, take public transit or ride a horse and not feel like a second class citizen for not owning a car.

Here’s Victoria and Vancouver, Canada in 1907 where loose dogs seem to be a thing:

And New York:

And to notch up the crankiness let me point out that the clothes look a lot better too in the days before “athleisure.”

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  1. Cool set of videos!

    I love the clothes but wouldn’t have wanted to wear a corset, nor those layers here in the south. Give me athleisure any day! 😉

  2. To this New Yorker’s eye, I see…such (relatively) uncrowded streets! At least compared to a walk in midtown during the week nowadays.

    • When automobiles were first seen in the cities of North America and Europe, they were hailed as the solution to the huge problem of horse manure. Great drifts of the stuff lined the streets and streams of it ran down the gutters whenever it rained. In summer, it provided a breeding ground for huge numbers of flies.

      As the average life of a working horse in major cities was short (about three years in London), there was the occasional rotting carcass of a horse to add to the charming mixture.

      Despite all their problems, I still prefer cars!

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