May 25, 2024

The argument over the location of automobiles in cities might appear to be an current issue however it was going on long before the first automobile ever became a reality.

For a better understanding the significance of this, let’s look at how the city streets were laid out in Paris in the years when there was a French Revolution was in full action and all “cars” were still horse-drawn. Even back then, fast-moving carriages in crowded urban areas could prove deadly and posed the same fundamental questions that automobiles do today including the importance of orderly behavior and traffic control freedom of movement as well as the rights of right of way.

A pamphlet against cars

The year 1790 was the time an unidentified Parisian published a pamphlet that had an unusual title that is now trendy, “A Citizen’s Petition, or A Motion against Coaches and Cabs”. Written with passion, this 16-page pamphlet is an moral treatise, police autobiography, and an act of the legislature, as it also contains proposals to be presented at the French National Assembly.

It is not known much about its writer, other than the fact that he could have been an affluent citizen, perhaps medical professional – because the author states that he has “a coach, a cab and four horses”. But are all he’s willing to “sacrifice on the altar of the country” in a state of shock by the brutality of motorists who travel through the city and is disgusted with what he calls the “idleness and sloth of the rich”. Attracted by the ideals associated with the Enlightenment and praising the contribution of the Revolution He asks: What’s the point of freedom of the press as well as religious tolerance, and the abolishment of state prisons when “one cannot go on foot without being exposed to perpetual danger?” In fact even at the time that the universal rights of human beings were declared in Paris, people were being murdered by cars, despite the total disdain of the legislators. The author of the pamphlet therefore suggested the idea of “fulfil” the work of the Revolution by preventing the coach use in Paris.

In 1790, just a year following that year’s “Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen” The political climate of Paris was in many ways unimaginable. However, on the streets the dominance exercised by coaches over pedestrians was the same.

Congestion in Paris

The vehicle that is constantly rushing around is an iconic literarily image and can be traced all the way back to congestion-ridden streets of Paris in both the 17th and 18th century. The vehicle is a prominent feature in works by Paul Scarron and the Abbe Prevost as well as be seen in Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux’s famous satire of collisions between two coaches and a cart. A terrifying “embarrassment” is depicted:

A coach’s wheels strikes an unicycle at a corner.

Then, accidentally the two are thrown into stale water.

Soon enough, a maniacal taxi, desperately trying to speed past

In the same way, embarrassment embarrasses not only the previous,

In a short time, another twenty coaches are soon to join the long line

First two to lead before advancing to over fourscores and nine.

If “embarrassments” or “strife” (as traffic jams used be referred to) were the inspiration for fictional writers, it was due to the regular everyday reality on life on the street life of Ancien regime.

Nicolas Guerard, The Pont-Neuf as seen through the streets of Dauphine engraving 18th century. This engraving demonstrates the numerous methods of transportation employed by Parisians in the Age of Enlightenment. In the foreground, can be seen two cars, a sedan chairs as well as horses on horses as well as a cart pulled by horses. It is important that the artist decided to depict this crowded scene in one of Paris the most modern sidewalks. Library of the Decorative Arts/BNF

There aren’t a lot of urban histories, police memoirs or travel tales that don’t mention a shower of dust, clouds of mud and the roar of wheels with iron rims disrupting the peacefulness for the sick. or roads closed by a car or cart maneuvering around an obstructed corner.

The ultimate car

What seems to be to be a radical departure from the writings of late 18th century is the subject of the killer automobile. It is evident in the writings by Louis Sebastien Mercier and Nicolas Restif de la Bretonne, and in an unidentified pamphlet, which dates was published in 1789 and is with the title “The Assassins, or A Denunciation of the Tyrannically Abusive Nature of Cars”. In this pamphlet, the writer fiercely criticizes the English-style phaetons, whiskies devils and other cabs since they were lighter and well-suited to urban traffic and, therefore, were “as fast as eagles”.

Engraving of a “devil” to illustrate the entry in the book: Sellier-carrossier (

The argument is that the highwaymen who would murder a person for money, are the killers of the highway. In Paris the assassin is “the one who, without passion and without need, suddenly flings open the doors of his household, rushes like a madman toward a thousand of his fellow men and presses them, with all his might, with a fast cab and two steeds.” It’s therefore the fight between motorists and pedestrians the text of his illustrates.

Coach-riders and pedestrians in Paris

In a tangible way the second text is a direct confrontation of two different developments that were prevalent through the entire 18th century.

One of the reasons was the dramatic growth in horses-drawn traffic in Paris which was attributed to the ever-growing demand for food and goods. With 700,000 people living there in the city, it was already a hungry stomachs… According to Daniel Roche indicates however, the growth in traffic could also be explained by the increase in passenger traffic. In the 17th century, the carriages used for travel were mostly coaches of nobles and royalty. Then, the growing middle classes of officers, merchants bankers, priests and master-artisans who had previously traveled on foot, via mules, and even riding on horses, began to utilize smaller and more efficient carriages.

The coach was initially and foremost a royal car. This is a modern coach dating from the 1680s with an intricately decorated and gilded body powered with six horses. It was utilized for the first time by Louis XIV and Marie-Therese for their entrance to the town of Douai in 1667. The painting was done by Adam Francois Van der Meulen, 1690-1690. Chateau de Versailles

The ownership of a car in 1789 in Paris was a privilege of the aristocratic and more wealthy burghers. This meant having the services of a coachman or a lackey, having a stable for horses and a barn to store straw, hay water, oats and straw. The introduction of cabs and hired coaches which were the precursors of modern-day taxis, which could be rented out by the day or at the hour, eventually widened the use of passenger vehicles.

According to credible estimates according to some estimates, according to estimates, in Paris it was estimated that the population of automobiles was soaring in between the 19th and 18th century, increasing from just 300 at early 18th century, to more than 20,000 in the time of the French Revolution – an increase of 7700 percent. Before even the massive production and distribution of automobiles automobile, the car was already a regular feature on Paris the streets.

One of the alternatives in enlightened circles was to travel on feet, just like the petty Parisians. The concept was not to move from one location to the next, but rather to stroll along the promenade. So, the elites slowly got out of their carriages, coaches and cabs to stroll through the boulevards lined with trees and stroll through the gardens and parks. In the philosophy of the Enlightenment and the likes of the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau the habit of walking represented a quality which was in sharp contrast to the sluggishness of those who traveled on coach. In the course of the Revolution The pedestrian was a prominent politician and was depicted within the sans-culotte.

Cars: the primary cause of anxiety for Parisians

Let’s imagine the scene that is often illustrated by Parisians of today. You’re walking in peace across the high point (the highest portion of the road) of an extremely narrow and busy road. On one side, there is a market stall, while on the opposite side is debris left over from roadworks. A little further there is an open forge that has encroached over the road. To the left is the shop-signage of an cabaret that forces passing coachmen to swerve dangerously around their cars. In a flash, fueled by two horses that are ablaze an automobile, weighing more than 700kg and without a brakes, is pushed into the road at full speed. The driver, being pressed to the side by the driver of the car snaps his whip and shouts “Aside! Aside!”. What do you do? How do you get out of the wheel of the car if there’s neither curb nor sidewalk?

Within his Scenes from Paris, Jean-Sebastien Mercier recounts the three times he was a victim of these murderous cars. The anonymous victim who wrote “Motion Against Coaches and Cabs, “Motion against Coaches and Cabs” offers chilling figures that every year over 300 people were killed in a single moment and suffered serious injuries due to the actions of automobiles. The author doesn’t but count the number of pedestrians injured or lost an arm, hand or leg. He also does not mention the tens of thousands of pedestrians who were permanently injured by whips thrown by angry coachmen.

More speed, more crashes

However, were the accidents more common at the end in the 20th century compared to at the start when Parisians today, all Citizens felt more free to use their pen and condemn the naivety of the horses-drawn vehicles? The only thing that is certain is that speed of the automobiles increased significantly in the Age of Enlightenment. It was primarily due to reasons of technology: the new vehicles were more maneuverable and lighter than coaches that were heavier and could travel at speeds of as high as 30 km/h on the main roads. In addition, the multiplicity of driveways as well as the alignment of facades and the development of boulevards and thoroughfares that were huge allowed for new speeds previously unattainable in towns, even if the driver did not adhere to the restrictions set in the law by police.

In other words automobiles not only leave marks on our bodies Parisians They also transformed the look of the city. The process accelerated and continued and pedestrians were even completely excluded from certain streets. In recent times, the city has taken a step back and has even banned cars from areas where pedestrians were previously banned along one of the side of the Seine.

The price of life

At the turn of 18th-century, people who were killed in automobile accident in London city were mostly children playing on the streets, disabled or elderly and porters carrying massive loads, and typically speaking, all unintentional and distracted pedestrian.

In the event of a crash witnesses and police commissioners were required to decide the cause of the crash. If the victim was smashed by on the rear wheels of the carriage did not cause any damage, but it was just luck. If they were snatched by the tiny front wheels However, compensation may be demanded – typically an amount of money was offered at the time to settle the matter. What would be the value of a person’s mangled leg? In the majority of cases neither the driver or the owner wished to stop and just went on. This inhumanity that irritated the writers of these pamphlets.

Nowadays, fewer people are killed by automobiles in Paris every year than they were at the close of the 18th century, with around 30, in the year 2017. There are numerous injuries, which includes the increasing quantity of cycling. In Paris it is thought of as a threat to security and public health because pollution from the air – a large part of which is emitted by automobiles – causes around 7 million fatalities each year according to the World Health Organisation. Even if vehicles emitted zero pollutants however, they’d be deadly to pedestrians.

Cars are banned from the capital

The proposal is formulated in the form of proposed decree, containing the 10 article, an anonymous citizen proposes against taxis and coaches. Cars are acceptable within the city limits only when they are driven by a single person on horseback, coaches that are entering or exiting in the town, or people suffering from medical emergency. It is also suggested that cabs and coaches be replaced with a sufficient amount of cars stationed at the main junctions, and with their prices clearly posted.

The sedan chair suggested by an anonymous citizen is also an option for the nobles throughout the Ancien Regime. Here’s an example an exquisitely ornamented version (circa 1730) that is decorated with drawings of sailboats and sailors. Chateau de Versailles

The writer of the pamphlet is aware of the consequences of his publication, “You will object that I will ruin a large number of Citizens.” The restriction on individual use of cars drawn by horses would impact a large portion of the city’s economy which includes “wheelwrights, painters, leather-workers, saddlers, coachbuilders and farriers” as well as “those renting out carriages, the coachmen […] and servants “. He claims that by increasing the number of chairs for sedans that many new jobs would be created. More skilled craftsmen and porters capable of producing cars would be required. The savings could also be made from those who cover the cost of feeding, grooming and stabling horses. The stables, which occupy large portions of the usable ground floor of the capital could be converted into homes that would accommodate “all our inhabitants living in mediocrity”. Regarding the courtyards The pamphleteer recommends that their cobbles be taken away and replaced with green lawns, vegetable gardens, and orchards. Already the city’s car-free streets suggested a different utopia which was the possibility of a more lush, green city.

The development of the sidewalk

The anonymous person – and also an avid anglophile further suggested to broaden the building of sidewalks like those that existed in London. He urged every new street to have the “sidewalk not be less than four feet wide”, around 130cm. Since the idea was seen as being difficult to implement politically and economically and could be socially explosive the proposal was not debated at the National Assembly.

This concept was a success in the past, which suggests the decision to build cities by segregating the traffic flow of automobiles and pedestrians, as well as keeping for pedestrians some of the streets was favored early by the policies of urban governance.

In the time of the Romans In the Roman Empire, for instance sidewalks were in use, but slowly disappeared in their decline in the Middle Ages, as their designs were deemed too limiting for cities of the medieval period. London and other larger English cities were the first cities in Europe to replace medieval ramparts and road stones with sidewalks at the end of in the seventeenth century. For instance, in Mexico City, about 10 kilometers of sidewalks were constructed in the 1790s.

View of a recently constructed street in Mexico City. Color map created in 1794 and stored in the General Archives of the Nation (Mexico). The streets are identified on the map as “banquetas.

In the year that “Motion against Cabs and Coaches” first appeared in print “Motion against Coaches and Cabs” first appeared in print, sidewalks were almost completely inaccessible from Paris they were only on the Pont Neuf, the Pont Royal and the Odeon. In the 19th century, they grew in number particularly in the city’s centre. The suburbs were severely in need of improvement until the 20th century.

Since their widespread introduction they have helped save many city residents around the globe. However, the entire background of the interaction between pedestrians and vehicles in cities is yet to be recorded.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *