I remember some years ago in the UK, I believe it was during the 1970s, the British Government decided to do a study to find out why pedestrians did not bump into each other, or cause a huge gridlock in the middle of the street when crossing the road at a light.
In big cities like London during rush hour, large numbers of people would wait to cross on opposing sides of the street. When the light turned green, they would all cross at the same time, in what must have appeared to traffic engineers, complete chaos.
Someone in their wisdom decided to do a study, because that’s what engineers do when they don’t have answers. After spending several tens of thousands British Pounds, of the tax payer’s money, they came up with this astounding discovery:
“People just go around each other.”
Walking, the original means to get from A to B; just putting one foot in front of the other. Look down on any busy street in any large city and it appears to be chaos, with people going every which way. However, beneath the chaos there is order; each individual has a destination and is just taking the route necessary to get there.
Now watch the video (Below.) of Market Street in San Francisco in 1905. Into the mix of people walking, has been added horse drawn vehicles, automobiles, and bicycles.
The same chaos prevails, but people simply go around each other.
The reason it works is because there are less people and everyone is going very slow. I wonder how long it took in 1905 to get from one end of Market Street to the other, and I wonder how that time compares to today?
The strange thing I find is that there is more sanity in the chaotic street scene above than I see in a typical rush hour street scene of today.
It is the huge variation in speed between people walking, bicycles and autos that cause most of the problems in our large cities; both accidents and traffic hold ups.
If pedestrians pretty much kept to the sidewalks; if cars slowed down to closer the speed of a bicycle, I believe everyone would get to their destination just as fast; not to mention a lot less stressed.
Try making that argument to the guy who has spent thousands on the latest car that does zero to 60 in seconds; it will never happen, but allow me my flight of the imagination.