Changing conceptions of Speed

I just came across a very interesting historical nugget.

On November 15 1902, the Star Newspaper in Johannesburg published a letter by someone complaining about the increasing speeds of motor cars. He was very distressed that a friend of his nearly fell of his horse when a car travelling at least 18 miles an hour (about 29kms/hr) whizzed by.

He requested that the Town Council revert to the previously set 7 miles an hour (11kms/hr) speed limit for all vehicles. Anything else would “constitute[s] a public danger.”

How things change.  These days in Johannesburg 60kms/hr is considered a lazy pace. It may be the case in many other cities in the world. Perhaps this is why 30km/hr is considered a desirable campaign goal that may increase the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. For example see this campaign.

What will the near future bring I wonder.

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Published by

Njogu Morgan

I am currently a post-doctoral researcher based at the South Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning, University of the Witwatersrand. My broad research interests include research interests include sustainability transitions and diffusion of innovations. Empirically, I think through these issues by studying utility cycling and related phenomenon. I also volunteer with the Johannesburg Urban Cyclists Association - an organisation that aims to transform Johannesburg into a more cycling friendly city.

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