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Fifth Avenue, 1909: So Long Promenade, Hello Motorway

1909_Fifth_Avenue.jpgImage: New York Times.

This image of Fifth Avenue unearthed by the Times' Jennifer 8. Lee (nice headline!) is a fascinating relic from the dawn of the motoring age. The new geometry pictured here nicked 15 feet of sidewalk from pedestrians to make room for two traffic lanes. In one fell swoop, the balance of space shifted dramatically: Two 30-foot sidewalks and a 40-foot roadway became 22½-foot sidewalks and a 55-foot roadway. The insets show the sort of "imperfections" slated for elimination on the auto-friendly Fifth Avenue: terraces, stoops, gardens -- the type of amenities that make streets more than simply thoroughfares to pass through.

Which got me wondering: A hundred years from now, how will we interpret images like this?

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