A little over 100 years ago, pedestrian commuter congestion on the Brooklyn Bridge (as opposed to today’s pedestrian tourist congestion) had gotten so bad that the city was contemplating a rather novel solution. The world’s first moving walkway had been unveiled at the 1894 Chicago World’s Fair, and a subsequent installation at the 1900 fair in Paris drew some 7 million riders. Clearly, this was a technology capable of handling the stresses of New York’s teeming masses. An interesting NewScientist piece by Paul Collins last week looks at the lobbying work of inventor Max Schmidt, who between 1902 and the 1920s pushed plans for moving walkways underground, up Broadway and over bridges, only to be outdone by the more powerful and entrenched subway companies.
The best part of the article, though, is when Collins speaks to “Lee Gray, a historian of moving sidewalks at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte,” who is clearly the man with the coolest infrastructure-related academic niche in the world. The article goes on to cover other more-or-less successful moving walkway projects in Detroit, Atlanta, Paris and the like. Meanwhile, I’ll be dreaming of gliding effortlessly pver the Brooklyn Bridge, kinda like Jamiroquai in the music video for “Virtual Insanity” (dream rendered at right).