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Posted by on Sep 28, 2009 in Transit | 5 comments

Pondering Capacity

bbridgeMy mom sent me an interesting OpEd from the New York Times this weekend:

Bicyclists vs. Pedestrians: An Armistice by Robert Sullivan

The essay is full of potential discussion topics, but this is the tidbit that grabbed me:

…a very brief history of transportation on the Brooklyn Bridge, which opened in 1883. By 1902, when it was fully operational, it accommodated horses, horse-drawn trolleys, trains and pedestrians, and they were — all of them — charged a toll: one cent for pedestrians, two cents for livestock and 20 if you had a carriage pulled by horses. More than 340,000 people crossed daily that year, according to a chart published in 1988 by the Federal Highway Administration (and recently rediscovered by Streetsblog). By 1907, the bridge’s peak year, 426,000 people crossed every day. The toll was abolished in 1911.

In the 1940s and ’50s, as more cars crossed, trains and trolleys were removed. By 1989, the number of people who crossed daily had dropped to 178,000.

The rest is about the conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians of varying speeds and purposes who are smooshed together to accommodate the cars.


  1. Wait – are you saying that if we need more road capacity, get rid of the cars? That they could blow up half the bridges if cars weren’t allowed in Manhattan?

  2. the op ed also proposes putting bike traffic down on the deck, away from the pedestrians

    • yes, and reducing car capacity to do it.

      • That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

  3. The NYT article also talked about taking away road space and giving it to streetcars.

    That’s what we’ve been doing here in Toronto. Taking road space from cars and giving it to bikes and streetcars. One example was the overblown “War on Cars” on Jarvis Street where one car lane was turned into two bike lanes.

    Another example is the “Transit City” plan where a large number of major roads are going to each lose two car lanes for a protected Light Rail line. By 2021 the City will have over a million more people – and a lot less cars. Because there will be a lot less roads to drive them on.

    Yes, its about infrastructure.

    For details, see: