Monday, February 18, 2013

Traffic Woes in Victorian London

If you think that complaints about pot-holed roads, traffic jams, and incomprehensible bus routes are merely a phenomenon of our modern age, you couldn't be more wrong. Traffic, the state of the roads, and public transport caused already the Victorians countless woes. Londoners were well acquainted with traffic jams as the following picture shows:

Partly, this problem was caused by the sheer numbers of carriages, carts, buses and cabs that drove about London's streets each. In addition, the problem was exacerbated by obstructions that were erected and blocked roads, e.g. in Fleet Street in 1846.

 The thoroughfares in particular were so busy and so stuffed with vehicles that getting on and off the bus could present a problem, which is why Punch joked that omnibuses should be outfitted with emergency ladders:

 Omnibuses had been a common sight in London since 1829, when George Shillibeer's first two horse-drawn buses took up their service. Thanks to Shillibeer's success, other companies followed and within two decades serval bus services and routes had been established in London. Bus drivers and passengers were the butt of the joke in many Punch cartoons - and many points that the magazine ridiculed are certainly familiar to modern users of public transport. The following cartoon and article, for example, satirise the organisation of bus routes:

 The traffic problem in London was not helped by the state of the roads, as the next cartoon shows. Roads were often full of holes, which made navigating them difficult.(Naturally, this doesn't mean that they were quite as bad that - the cartoon below once again highly exaggerates the situation.)

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