Monday, November 18, 2013

In Which I Watch Horses and Cars and People and Bikes

My former student Bob Jameson posted a link to this video on Facebook. It’s a movie shot as a street car moves down Market Street in San Francisco in 1906 before the city is devastated by an earthquake.

I found it mesmerizing. Can you imagine a street in America today with such an eclectic crush of pedestrians, street cars, horses, carts, cars and bicycles? Yep, watch for it, an intrepid rider on a bike shows up in mid-clip. Watch as he has to zig and zag around cars, horses and walkers.

I note, as Bob did on Facebook, that drivers don’t seem more polite in 1906—rude drivers still cut you off even then. I guess, based on the pedestrian speed, that the advantage is that it’s all happening in slow motion.

Some other points I note:
  • Some of the zigging and zagging must be caused by all those horses. They don’t wear diapers.
  • It’s amazing how well people are dressed for everyday life—men in suits and hats, women in full dresses.
  • There are some crazy kids who play street car dodge or who hang on cars. Young people of 1906: What will the world come to?
  • Note that although horses are far more common, cars are common, too. And the steering wheel apparently can be anywhere in 1906. I wonder when the left side became “the” side for steering wheels? (You people in the UK who are raising your hands, pipe down. I’m talking about good old American streets, not some freaky streets on small islands, so there.)
  • It’s also interesting how busy and vibrant an American city downtown circa 1906 is. Of course, this is a very large city, but still. In Cedar Rapids today, you would be much safer biking downtown than in many other places because the traffic is typically so light. And no horses.
Well, CR biker is glad to be living in 2013 without horse manure, communicable diseases and other attributes of life in 1906. But I would like to go back in time just to see this scene in person. And yes, maybe to ride a bike through it, although that looks like it would be pretty exciting …

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