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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
January 11, 1900

We hope no reader of The Times interested in the question of reserving Fifth Avenue for pleasure driving during certain hours overlooked the facts and figures given in yesterday's Times concerning the traffic of that avenue. Especially we hope that the showing was brought to the attention of every member of the Municipal Assembly. There is nothing like exact information to check vague rhetorical denunciation.

What this investigation showed was, in the first place, that the pleasure vehicles constitute a large majority of all the traffic upon Fifth Avenue in the afternoon. The afternoon selected was a normal fine Winter afternoon, and any such afternoon would doubtless show approximately the same results. The two hours selected were from 3:15 to 5:15, just before the close of business hours, and probably, in deliveries, the busiest of the day. The smallest proportion of pleasure to business traffic in any part of the avenue was two to one, the greatest seven to one, the average four to one. Therefore the drivers of pleasure vehicles have the rights of a distinct and overwhelming majority.

In the first place, this is to be considered in their favor. In the second place, it is to be considered that this is the only avenue from the central and the eastern parts of down town to the Park. Any other route would result in forcing the driver of a carriage to make his way to the Park across a narrow and crowded cross street, thereby adding to the congestion and confusion. On the other hand, drivers of business vehicles, unless their destination is in the avenue itself, have other and less crowded routes at their command. They can take Madison Avenue, Lexington Avenue, Sixth Avenue, or Broadway, and on any one of them be able to get on faster, while they themselves constitute less of an obstruction. The inference is that they crowd Fifth Avenue because their drivers like to look at the show of equipages, though in doing so they both obstruct the procession and make it less worth seeing. There is another consideration of much weight. The pleasure carriages, if the roadway were reserved to them, could all move at a trot and in two lines, one bound north and one south. The irruption of loaded business wagons and trucks which move at a walk reduces the pace of the procession, and interferes with the enjoyment of everybody in it and of every pedestrian who takes pleasure in looking at it.

At the hearing announced by the committee of the Council for to-morrow, the advocates of restriction will have no difficulty in showing that restriction is demanded by the greatest good of the greatest number.

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