Roads Were Not Built for Cars: A Review

In ‘Roads Were Not Built for Cars’, Carlton charts the historical truth behind the false dichotomy of cyclist and motorist, exposing the perhaps unwelcome truth that the success of the motorcar depended almost entirely on the existence of the bicycle.

The exposition of this often hidden narrative represents an emotive backlash at the dominant idea that cars are the only legitimate form of road traffic, and the first step towards reconciliation of the ‘us and them’ mentality that is increasingly pervasive in the post-truth world.

By detailing how we invited a dictatorship of motorcar, we might begin to consider how to get out of it.

Carlton Reid - The California Cycleway opened in 1900, was an elevated cycleway built to connect the cities of Pasadena and Los Angeles.

The California Cycleway, opened in 1900, was an elevated cycleway built to connect the cities of Pasadena and Los Angeles.

A thorough investigation, Reid explores all tangents; showing how pioneering car manufacturers began as bicycle makers, along with touching on sociological themes of cycling being ‘deliberately downgraded’ to ’poor man’s transport’ in favour of the ‘singular vision of progress’ inspired by the motorcar. It includes a history of roads from the cyclist’s point of view, and examines the role of the cyclists in the historical evolution of roads. I found particularly interesting the section on the frosty reception motoring initially received, showing just how much anti-automobile feeling there was in England and Holland particularly as this mode of transport first emerged.


Roads were not built for cars - Carlton Reid

“The world’s first automobile was a direct and blindingly obvious transfer of technology from cycling” – Carlton Reid.

The Daimler motorized quadricycle; sharing more with the bicycle than the horse and carriage, as might be assumed. Motoring piggybacked on the success of the bicycle until maturity, when it kicked out in an Oedipal fit.

All in all a very entertaining read, full of witty aphorisms, and an engaging call for rebalancing in favour of the cyclist.

Visit the website here.