The blog

When motorists feared segregation

The US opened the first ‘controlled-access highway’ in 1908 (it was a bike path by 1938); Italy opened the first autostrada in 1924; Nazi Germany built the first autobahn in 1932.

Motorways came late to Britain. The first motorway to be opened in the UK was the 8.3 mile long Preston By-pass, opened on the 5th December 1958 by the then Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan.

Why the delay? Not all motorists wanted “special motor roads”.

Writing in 1909, William Joynson-Hicks MP* said:

“I am totally and entirely opposed to taking the motorist and placing him on the heights of fame with a special road to himself, or in the depths of infamy as a being who is not fit to be allowed on the ordinary roads of the country…Once allow us to be put on separate roads and there will be an increasing outcry to keep us to those roads and to forbid us access to the ordinary roads of the country.”

* Joynson-Hicks was chairman of the Motor Union, precursor to the AA, as well as a Conservative MP. He was Minister for Health in 1923-4 and Home Secretary in 1924-29.

3 thoughts on “When motorists feared segregation

  1. David Arditti / Reply October 30, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Interesting. It appears that the idea of not separating the traffic out into homogeneous parts is a very entrenched English tradition.

  2. Kim / Reply October 30, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    So motorways were invented by Fascist and Nazis, well no surprises there then.

  3. MarkDangerousElf / Reply October 30, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    An ironic comment from early motorists….

    Kim, your comment seems to demonize the invention of motorways by association. As bad as the Nazi regime was, there were good things that came out of it (you would know, had you lived in Germany for a time, as I did). I deplore the empire-building attempts by the Axis Powers of WWII, and the wholesale slaughter of millions because of their heritage, ABSOLUTELY; but the globally-loved VW ‘Bug’ would never have existed, had Hitler not commanded Ferdinand Porsche to design and build a ‘basic people-mover’.

    I was in Germany near the end of the Cold War; riding a bike on many of those roads, two-lane with speed limits of 75mph, was no hazard at all. Here, today, FOUR-lane streets with a speed limit of 45mph are a deathtrap. Been there, done that, and I wish people would mine the nuggets of good out of the boulders of past ‘empires'; we’d all benefit from NOT having to RE-LEARN things every 40 years.

Leave a Reply

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