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Coping with congestion: responses to urban traffic problems in British cities c1920-1960.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date01/2005
JournalJournal of Historical Geography
Number of pages16
Original languageEnglish


This paper focuses on neglected debates about urban traffic congestion in British cities before this became an issue of major concern from the 1960s. It is argued that conflicts between motor transport (both public and private), trams, trolley buses, cyclists and pedestrians over urban space led to the progressive marginalisation of what were perceived as outdated forms of transport, and to the progressive dominance of the culture of the car. The research is based on archival and oral history data for two British cities, Manchester and Glasgow, and demonstrates the ways in which similar debates between proponents and opponents of different forms of urban transport developed in each town from the 1920s to the 1950s. It is suggested that many of these arguments have a very modern resonance, and that twenty-first century debates over the development of sustainable urban transport can be traced back to the 1920s.