chapter  2
STRAIGHTENING
Pages 18

In 1990 the transport editor of the Guardian issued this warning: "The capital is in the grip of an environmental catastrophe which would have seemed inconceivable to the nineteenth century planners who mapped out its arterial roads."! Two of the premises here are faulty: first, the Victorians had considerably more imagination and far less scope as planners than the statement implies. Second, journalists, engineers, social investigators, and writers of letters to the newspapers were talking about " a congestion crisis" and predicting imminent strangulation a century and a half ago. For example, Punch in 1846 recommended that Fleet Street omnibuses carry elastic ladders to give passengers a way of escaping, when blockages threatened to become permanent, to upper-story windows. ' A year earlier Mr Punch passed on the information that a small brandy bottle had been picked out of a "dangerous channel of Fleet Street." Inside was a note reading, "The Celerity omnibus stranded off Temple Bar. Every passenger lost; great distress."?