Virgin Territory for Motor Cars

MARCH, 1929



WHAT would be thought of a manufacturer who tried to sell hammers in a community in which there were no nails, or corkscrews to a people who had no corks? You might commend his optimism, but you would deplore his judgment. Yet witness the spectacle of motor manufacturers, not merely trying to sell cars, but actually selling them, in face of a lack of that most necessary adjunct, a place in which to drive them. A small boy on Christmas morning with a new sled and no snow is no more pathetic than a man with a new car and no roads.

Just how much road is necessary to the satisfactory manipulation of a motor car has not been determined, but the present allowance is eighty-eight yards. This result is obtained by dividing the total mileage of paved roads, 575,000, by the total number of motor vehicles now in operation, 23,000,000, which gives us one fortieth of a mile, or forty-four yards. Multiply this by two, as cars may be assumed to be going in both directions, and we have eighty-eight yards per car. This is small leeway with cars getting bigger and faster each year. New roads are being built, but not at the rate of eighty-eight yards for each car sold, so the headway between cars is being reduced.

The motor car is the wonder child of the twentieth century. Not alone because engineers have perfected it and at the same time brought down the cost, but because, through the effectiveness of motor-car advertising or t he eagerness of people to buy, cars continue to sell, although in congested areas the motor car is not so much an advantage as a drawback. It is a less speedy means of transportation than feet.

Someone has estimated that if each of the 23,000,000 cars now running was filled to capacity the entire population of the United States could go riding at once. And apparently it does.

Some years ago automobile economists began to discuss the saturation point and to show by figures that it had arrived, but the public went right on buying and knocked the figures into a cocked hat. The consumption of cars was so small compared with that of today that the question was merely academic, and it remains academic, for the public continues to buy. The only factor considered was the ability to buy. Manufacturers looked at the family budget and decided it would stand another car, and the builder provided garage room for the extra car. Realestate men say the smallest unit the house buyer will consider is a two-car garage. The easy-payment plan was provided and financed on a magnificent scale for those who could not afford to pay cash; advertising was used to foster that state of mind which made a car a prime necessity; but no one gave a thought to the factor as necessary to a motor car as gas or grease — motorable roads.

Copyright 1929, by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.

All the discussions and arguments and researches and statistics centre on the customer’s budget, his buying power, his will to buy, his acceptance of the motor-car idea. The willingness of the American public to buy a car, bringing the daily problem of not merely a place to park it when still, but also a place to drive it when in motion, is amazing. The saturation point of roads is reached long before the public buying power has been plumbed. Strange that an industry so forwardlooking, so quick to seize an advantage, so ready to adjust itself to trends of taste and fashion, has not considered this matter of more motor roads, and approached it with the same energy with which it has approached and solved mechanical, artistic, and selling problems, especially when the reserve supply of undeveloped roads in the United States is so abundant. But one out of five miles of existing roads has been paved. Nothing would give a greater stimulus to sales than to increase the area of motor driving five times. This means simply that all the roads must be surfaced for motor-car use. It is bound to come in time, anyway, but the wheels of political machinery which now govern such matters revolve far too slowly. Surely automobile manufacturers can, if they will, speed them up. It will take large amounts of money, but large amounts of money do not stagger the motor people. Even without motor cars, negotiable roads are one of the greatest assets a civilized country can boast. The benefit conferred by the six hundred thousand miles of paved roads we now have, outside of and apart from the satisfaction of driving a car over them, is evident. They would have paid in the era of the horse, though it was the car that brought them. They might have been constructed differently had they been built for horses, but they offer the best transportation the horsedrawn vehicle ever had. And we must look forward to the time when the horse will be banned on all roads.

I can remember fifty years ago in Western Illinois when farmers were marooned on their farms for weeks at a time by impassable roads. The heavy farm wagons sank to their hubs in the rich black soil which grows such tall corn. Now the farmer has a car and runs to market in a few minutes, but even without a car he could drive the old family buggy or Studebaker wagon more frequently and in less time than in the old days.

That we could use more and better roads all will agree, but our civil machinery for producing them is cumbersome. Roads are still too much a local matter. There are almost as many ideas about roads, their material and construction, their marking and mapping, and especially whether or not they should be built, as there are states, counties, and townships with a finger in the pie. And they are too much at the mercy of local opinion little concerned with a country-wide highway programme.

The Federal Highway Act, passed in 1916, provided that certain roads, agreed upon by joint commissions from the Federal Government and the state governments, should be built and maintained equally by the Federal Government and the respective states. In the years from 1916 to 1927 inclusive, the Federal Government has appropriated $544,884,911, or roughly $50,000,000 a year. Approximately 40,000 miles of highways are built each year, and of these from 8000 to 9000 miles receive Federal aid.

Of the 2,887,928 miles of roads, 575,000 have been surfaced and appear on the maps as motor roads. The more recent ones are concrete, but most are obsolete macadam with crowns dangerously high, especially at curves. This leaves 2,312,928 miles of dirt roads, practically four fifths of the total. These are the roads whose destiny is in the hands of local public opinion. They are also the roads which could give the motor car five times the operating area it has now — or, in other words, space the present volume of cars a quarter of a mile apart.

The entire amount of money expended by all authorities on roads in 1927 was $1,123,607,035, less than one half of our annual investment in the next war.


Through the ubiquity of the motor car, roads have ceased to be a local matter. They have become a national concern. They are as proper an enterprise for Federal jurisdiction as the post office. The motor car, like the railroad in its day, has broken down state lines; it is possible for a motor car to be in four states in a single day’s run. The present interest of the Federal Government is a bureau in the Department of Agriculture created to help the farmer move his crops to market rather than to facilitate the circulation of the automobile. Its motive is economic rather than aesthetic. But the farmer also has a car and is at one with us in desiring room to drive it. He too can be taught that roads built for aesthetic reasons, for the purpose of affording delightful drives, can bring indirect economic returns. An immediate enlargement of the country’s road programme would not only ensure the future of one of our greatest industries; it would add to the pleasure and convenience of twenty million car-owning families.

Road building has followed the line of least resistance. The roads given first attention are those most needed — communications between towns and cities, direct highways to places. Opening off these roads and filling in all the intervening country are the old dirt roads, winding up and down hill, passable with discomfort to a motor car in dry weather, closed in wet weather, never quite safe for a car at any time, and only used by the residents bordering on them to get to the highway. The improvement of these roads has been held in abeyance by the fact that they are not much used. To turn that around, they are not much used because they are not improved. In other words, these byroads would take a large percentage of the motor traffic that now congests the highways if they were made available for the car.

When people drive out in their cars, they are either going somewhere or riding for the fun of it. If you are going somewhere, you must take the road that leads there. If you are driving for pleasure, you can take any pleasant road, the pleasanter the better. The use of these unimproved byroads for pleasure driving opens up an almost virgin territory for the motor car. As a rule the dirt roads are more beautiful, more interesting, and open up more attractive country than the highways, which, being direct routes, have followed a more or less straight line. Byroads made accessible throughout the year to the full capacity of the country would not only have effect on country traffic, but would relieve to some extent the congestion in the cities, because a part of this congestion is due to people getting in and out, and the more roads one can leave by, the quicker the traffic knot unties itself. More than that, attractive roads surrounding the town are an invitation to drive out into the country instead of driving around town. All the roads should be at the choice of the motorist, offering him alternative routes and distributing the traffic to the benefit of the inhabitants as well as the comfort and pleasure of the tourist. We are all car owners, we are all interested in all the roads all the time, we would all subscribe to a liberal and comprehensive road-building programme, except when, as town selectmen or voters, we pass on highway appropriations or bond issues; then we revert to our narrow, provincial, shortsighted attitude, and refuse to build roads for the benefit of tourists passing through.

There will not be abundant roads until the country is aroused to the point of believing that there can be. The country must be made roadminded. It must be made to see as its goal the complete improvement of every road and the laying out and building of new ones, not merely to satisfy the demand of ordinary intercourse, but also to bring a new recreation to the nation.

A factor in bringing about any reform is public opinion, and public opinion is something that can be created. There is immediately available a tremendous nucleus for such a public opinion. The number of people now vitally and actively interested in the success of the motor industry is a large community in itself, larger than has put over a new idea in the past. Including not only manufacturers and workmen, but also retail dealers and their salesmen, garage employees, professional drivers, the gas and oil industry, and workers in accessory lines created and maintained by the automobile, four million people are supported by the motor industry. Four million people are a large fraction of the United States. With their dependents they comprise one seventh of the population. Four million people whose minds are directed toward one end can sway the nation. Less than that number have elected a president. Here is ready a magnificent lobby of gigantic proportions with a laudable object. The thing is to organize it, mobilize it, and make it felt in Washington and elsewhere until a road programme is adopted which will lead to the best system of highways in the world.

As to the effect of even a little systematic and well-organized clamor upon public policy, see how much a small handful of army and navy officers can do when an armament bill comes up. There are not more than seven hundred thousand who work at war for a living; yet the navy claque holds the country steadily to its battleshipbuilding programme. It may be said that army and navy officers have a big ‘drag’ in Washington and are listened to with more respect than other classes seeking interested legislation, and that preparedness has a body of public opinion behind it. True, but army and navy men act with the promptness and solidarity of men who realize that no wars means no jobs. The future of the motor car likewise depends on preparedness. Four million people have jobs at stake. Alfred Sloan can speak out with confidence of a greater public opinion behind him than Admiral Plunkett ever had. There are more car owners than there are American Legionaries and Daughters of the American Revolution put together. Let the leaders of the motor industry speak for more and better roads, a comprehensive plan, and national supervision. Let them organize the four million workers and the twenty million car owners in a drive for a place to drive. After all, we need roads at least as much as we need wars, but we now spend two and a half dollars for preparedness for every dollar for roads.

Motor interests now spend $150,000,000 in advertising. The advertising is backed up by an elaborate network of sales agencies and dealers. This powerful correlation of advertising and selling has made the motor car into a staple — almost as necessary as houses or clothes. No such organized effort has ever before been exerted in the interest of one commodity. The industry as a whole, in spite of the fact that it is composed of competitors, has unconsciously acted as a unit. It should act as a unit in creating new roads. The motor-car market needs a new dimension. If more cars were sold by giving purchasers time in which to pay for them, could not the output be further increased by providing space in which to drive them?


They order these things better in France, or in England, Switzerland, or Spain, for that matter. Italy does not do so well, and my motor experience does not extend to the north. I take my car abroad frequently because I am fond of motoring—it’s an ideal recreation for a deaf man — and I enjoy advantages over there I do not get at home. I can find the way more easily, for one thing, and the things I want to see are more accessible, owing to perfect maps and an intelligent system of road marking. Nor is crossing the frontier a complicated matter. I realize, of course, that France has a small territory in proportion to its population, but consider the wealth of the United States, of which the motor industry is so large a part. Is n’t there as much obligation on the part of manufacturers of motor cars to supply roads as there is on the part of manufacturers of radios to broadcast programmes?

French roads are divided into four classes: routes nationales, routes départementales, chemins de grande communication, and chemins d’intérêt commun. The national roads are the arteries connecting the large cities. They are quite straight, often built on the foundations of the old Roman roads, and favor traveling at high speed. The departmental roads connect cities of lesser importance with the national roads, and afford alternative routes. The highways of great communication and of local interest perform the same service for smaller towns and villages. They are narrower than the other roads, but all are paved. The difference is mainly one of width, not yet so serious a problem in France, where the motor car is still comparatively infrequent. I have ridden for hours without meeting one. But the principal charm of motoring in France is the choice of routes, the realization that the whole map is yours and you may go in any direction you please.

French roads have deteriorated since the war, naturally, as there is neither money nor men to maintain them. I am speaking of them as they were before the war, and as they will be again as soon as the indomitable energy of the French has caught up. Thousands of kilometres are being resurfaced, but I regret to note that the French have adopted one of our barbarous practices and are tarring them. The sign, Attention! Goudronnée! so familiar now, was unknown before the war.

With broad, direct roads connecting the larger cities, commercial traffic, buses and trucks, would naturally follow them. With a choice of alternative routes, not so direct, but well paved and interesting, much of the passenger-car traffic would be diverted. One turns off into these byroads in England and France with the utmost confidence. They are as comfortable as the main traveled roads, as accurately marked, and much more varied in interest, as they follow the contours of the country. I have driven all day in France from village to village, on third and fourth class roads, never touching the routes nationales except to cross them, and found a new world little suspected by those who fly by on the straight roads.

An old Englishman was accosted by a wayfaring motorist and asked the way to a certain city.

‘Which’ll ye have,’ he asked in turn, ‘the nighest or the sightliest?’

‘Oh, the sightliest, by all means.’

‘Wull, the nighest is the sightliest,’ he replied with a smile of triumph.

The nighest is not always the sightliest, and that is just the point — when riding for pleasure you can exchange the direct road, filled with cars all going somewhere, for the primrose path of dalliance.

The French method of marking roads trains the eye to find the right direction without fault, the same information being in the same relative position at every fork or intersection. Nearly all roads are marked by white stones, a kilometre apart, with nine little ones in between, measuring hectometres. The kilometre stone carries on its front the number and class of the road, rendering identification infallible, and on the near side the distances to the next village and the next large city. The number ties up with your road map. You always know where you are and how far you have to go, even in the loneliest mountain passes.

There is a system of warnings which herald the approach of hills, zigzags, grade crossings, gutters crossing the road, cassis (bumps), or a dos d’âne (ass’s back). The placards are uniform in size and color, about as large as an American street-car card, with an emblem giving the message in poster form — a barred gate for the railroad crossing, silhouettes of cassis or dos d’âne, the S-shaped figure we use here for virages or double curves. Being intelligently placed, they do not mar the highway as disorderly signs do, and because of uniformity they are quickly recognized. One who has driven here and in France will recall how easy a uniform and intelligent system of marking makes finding one’s way. An American takes his car to France, where language and customs are different, and finds his way easier than at home, where language and customs are familiar.

This intelligent uniformity is due to the fact that the whole thing is administered by one department. We should take the marking of our roads out of the hands of automobile clubs, local selectmen and highway commissioners, advertisers, and others, each with different ideas which, however good in themselves, tend to produce confusion rather than uniformity. We are grateful to all these bodies for what they have done to help us recognize our roads, but our methods are still in the kindergarten class, and we have as a model a civilized nation that has built roads for two thousand years, and has, by the simple process of survival of the fittest, evolved a plan which is one hundred per cent effective.

After my experience in driving over French roads I am led to lament the absence of good road maps in our country. For France, and indeed for most of Europe, there are road maps so simple, so ingenious, and so efficient that one wonders why in our country, with its car to every five and one-tenth inhabitants, its manufacturers cudgeling their brains for new and effective ways to advertise them, nothing so good has been evolved as the Cartes Michelin. These maps are on the scale of two kilometres to a centimetre — say, four miles to the inch. Every road is given; its number, class, distances, width, paving, elevation, grades, and how it enters and leaves towns and cities. Towns and cities are shown in their actual shape as if seen from an airplane, and not represented by the silly circles inherited from Monteith’s Geography, and the best way through them is clearly marked. All landmarks are indicated — rivers, canals, mountains, passes, railroads, tunnels. No map maker in our country has yet grasped the vital fact that, in order to be sure of the right road, all the wrong roads must be shown. But these maps reveal their greatness when they depart from utilitarianism and point the way to beauty. A road that is continuously picturesque is edged with green, and those high spots where it is imperative to stop and look are recognized by a fan-shaped device, the spread rays opening in the general direction of the view. Everything worth seeing is on the map, every peak, gorge, grotto, church, calvary, château, ruin, barrow, cromlech, or cascade, as well as golf links, polo fields, race tracks, cemeteries, customhouses, and ferries. These maps are as full of detail as one of Hogarth’s crowded prints.

The maps are accompanied by a book, the Guide Michelin, which does for cities and villages what the maps do for the open country. Not even Herr Baedeker can be so explicit in so small a compass. Each town is summed up by means of a graphic system of symbols which you read at a glance — hotels, curiosities, motor-car accommodations, placed, appraised, and classified. A tiny building with one gable indicates the humble village inn, while a row of five gables stands for the Hôtels Splendides; and those primitive hostelries where rooms are not commended, but where satisfactory meals are obtainable, have for their escutcheons a cup with crossed fork and spoon. Bath, running water, repair pit, telephone, railroad station, all have their funny little indices. Crossed mashies show the golf course, a running horse the hippodrome. It is as amusing as a game.

A touch of humor is given by old Bibendum, a human figure constructed entirely of tires, who hovers over the scene, explaining and illustrating, a sort of carnival spirit of motoring. Bibendum is the code address of the Michelin Tire Company. Much of the ingenuity that in this country goes into inventing names for tooth pastes and breakfast foods is expended in France in coining telegraph addresses.

With these books and maps I have ridden some thirty-five thousand miles in Europe, never at a loss to find my way and never missing aught I came to see. And both books and maps are merely advertisements, put out by a manufacturer of auto tires, sold everywhere for a few francs.

The best alternative map of United States roads looks empty beside a Carte Michelin. Even the small modicum of motor roads we now have deserves better maps. In the simple matter of folding, ours are without inspiration. A Michelin map folds like an accordion, map outside. Any sector can be opened to, as in a small book. So complete is the detail that one can follow any road on paper almost as fully as one follows it in the car. In many of our maps even a mountain range two miles high is not thought of sufficient importance to be given map room. Finding one’s way is but a small part of the pleasure of motoring, but even that requires detail and accuracy. Some at least of the motoring public are interested in the country they drive through, and would like to know something about it. What is that mountain? This lake? The river we have just crossed? How high are we? Which is the most picturesque road to w here we are going? We get no help from the map.

We have excellent government geologic survey maps complete in detail, though not up to date as to recent building. It should be possible in this country, as in France, to secure permission to use them, and then to add the symbols which transform them into road maps.

According to Hilaire Belloc, no country approaches France on road maps. The Cartes Michelin offer a hint to General Motors or Standard Oil as to how to render a similar service to their own country. They have already inaugurated an excellent service which motorists in this country will use with ever-increasing satisfaction.

The advantage of a graphic map to the tourist who is interested in the country he is passing through is obvious. I have driven up and down the College Highway many times, and never knew that at Granby was a famous historical landmark—the old jail of pre-Revolutionary times built over the mouth of a copper mine. The mine was worked by prisoners, and when they returned from their toil they were still in jail.


The roads we are now building, while admirable, are too narrow. National roads should be four lanes wide, partly to eliminate danger in overtaking slower vehicles, but mainly to provide two lines of traffic in each direction, the trucks and buses in one, the passenger cars in the other. The coast road entering Maine has an interesting construction. There are two lanes of concrete, widely spaced, with the centre lane macadamized. Perhaps this plan may give the desired width at a lower cost. But width is as essential as length to relieve congestion. The Bronx River Parkway, the finest example of road we have near New York, demonst rates that a rate of thirty-five miles an hour is easily maintained when the traffic is fluid.

Secondary roads should be three lanes wide. These will offer the alternative routes, leaving the more direct routes to those whose destination is more important than entertainment along the way. Many of these roads would be recruited from the dirt roads which, while really vital arteries, have been neglected through immediate expediency and lack of enough money to do justice to an intelligent roadbuilding programme.

The remaining roads would be divided between two-lane and one-lane roads. The latter might have wide shoulders, or, if that is impossible, turnouts for passing; or they might even be one-way roads, as they often are in France, especially in the narrow mountain passes, as, for instance, the thrilling drive up the gorges of the Loup, cut out of the rocky walls of the cliff.

Attention should be given to automobile speedways. The Motor Parkway on Long Island is popular, and I believe supports itself. There need be no fear that the motorist will be unwilling to pay for the privileges of greater lawful speed and freedom from cross traffic. Milan is connected with three of the beautiful Italian lakes just north of it by the auto strada, a broad, straight highway, elevated above crossroads, running like an arrow to Como, with forks branching off for Varese and Maggiore. The Milanese business man has his villa on the banks of one of these lakes and covers the sixty miles in an hour without fear or favor. The charges are moderate, and the service well worth them. We must soon begin to think of connecting busy centres by exclusive roads, which will further draw off some of the traffic from the sightly ones and leave them freer to us who look upon the motor car as a means of seeing beautiful things— trees, rivers, valleys, and hills—as they compose and recompose themselves in fascinating kaleidoscope. The proposed privately owned speedway between Boston and New York, on which the toll will be five dollars, is evidence of the urgency of this need, and will undoubtedly pay its way, but it should be undertaken and maintained by the Federal Government.

The need of beauty, not only in the country penetrated but in the roads themselves, should never be forgotten. As soon as the economic needs are satisfied, we should begin to beautify the roads we have and plan new ones whose sole purpose — or main purpose, at least — is to penetrate regions that delight the eye. How does it happen, I wonder, that so few of our roads follow the banks of rivers? In Europe this is the rule rather than the exception. There are several in New England that do, notably the lovely drives down the Thames and the Connecticut, but over here we generally leave the rivers to the railroads. It should be noted that the loveliness of the Bronx Parkway was produced by rescuing the river from its squalor. Looked upon merely as an investment, the city and state have already been reimbursed for the cost of this road.

In France, planting trees beside the road is as much a part of road building as the surfacing. What it means can be appreciated only by those who have ridden through those long green tunnels. When the necessities of war destroyed the trees along the roads or they had to be sacrificed for military operations, the contrast between this region and Southern France was pathetic. But one of the first works of reconstruction undertaken was the replanting of the trees, and now one can see between the closely cut-off t runks of the old trees, which were over a foot in diameter, the new saplings already some ten or twelve feet high. A road should be beautiful as well as useful, and the aesthetic work should go hand in hand with the practical.

We talk much about our scenery, and it will bear comparison with the beauties of Europe, but what the world traveler misses is accessibility. You can see Europe because roads a thousand years old lead up to lonely mountain passes, brows of cliffs, through gorges and overhanging rivers and lakes, so that a motor trip is one of continuous beauty and surprises. We have done little in this direction as yet, and it is a part of no civic programme. Take the State of Maine, for instance. Aside from one rather poor road follow - ing the coast line, and two or three spurs running up into the centre of the state, Maine is closed to the motorist. Merely from a dollars-and-cents point of view, the income to Maine from motor travelers would be multiplied a dozen times if it were possible for the car to penetrate its wealth of forest, mountain, river, and lake. It need not disfigure the state. If the motor road and the motor car bring desolation in their wake, that is the fault of the motorist, not of the road. Indeed, restrictions should be adopted and enforced as part of the programme of building scenic roads.

Along the Mohaw-k Trail is a characteristic exhibition of American business enterprise which is entirely lacking in Europe. Over there a view is a view, and you are left to look at it as you please, but here you are not only urged to look at it by large and ugly signs, but to look at it only from one particular spot, which is the advertiser’s ‘hot dog’ emporium. All these signs cast aspersions on all other spots. Each is the only genuine top — all others are imitations; each has the highest tower, the hottest dogs, the reddest redflannel pennants bearing the legend ‘The Mohawk Trail’; and they manage between them to spoil the pleasure of any mere lover of scenery by their signboard dispute as to what is the real top of the trail. Here is a bit of delightful scenery utterly ruined by the crowd of signboards stepping on each other’s toes in their anxiety to point it out to the tourist, and incidentally to sell him souvenirs, banners, postcards, Indian baskets, hot dogs, and sandwiches.

The wonderful roads through the Pyrenees, which make it possible to follow this mountain range from Biscay to Mediterranean almost on the mountain peaks, detract nothing from the grandeur and beauty of the scene. The roads are magnificently made. Someone has said that a good road is the only kind that can be built in the mountains. Beautifully graded, strongly protected by stone parapets, these roads rise up to the cols or mountain passes and then wind down, first on the Spanish side and then on the French side, and they give thrills of which few motorists have any conception.

Most of our through roads arc developments of the old stagecoach roads which ran through the heart of the town up to the principal inn. This route has been retained in most improvements, so that the through cars are all tangled up with the local traffic. It is time to begin to change all that. Already in many places directions carry the motor cars through the cities by a roundabout route to avoid the congestion of the down-town district. It seems strange, however, that when a new road is being built this principle is ignored.

I spent last summer in the little village of Washington in Connecticut, one of the most charming holdovers of the past that state possesses. It was up to last summer a secluded village, not on any main road, but reached by a spur turning off from the direct road between New Milford and Litchfield. The authorities planned a link connecting Waterbury with Litchfield, and ran the new road right through the heart of Washington’s village green. This barbarism was more gratuitous in that a great deal of this road, instead of using the old dirt road, was new construction. It would have been an easy matter involving but little expense to deflect the road around the village, through the valley, connecting with the highway again at Washington Depot at the bottom of the hill, and leave the sylvan beauty of the green intact. Instead the road, much too large for the green, cut into the banks on both sides, lowered the grade and left cottages perched on a heap of mud ten feet high, uprooted fine old oaks and elms, and then had to make an awkward curve to get around the church. Even to a road builder a church one hundred and fifty years old is a landmark that cannot be easily toppled over.

Washington did not need the road and gets no advantage from it. The inhabitants could as easily reach the new highway if the road had passed through the valley. It is only fair to Washington village to say that it opposed the road, but Washington town was too strong for it, and the town selectmen, with the lack of imagination which town selectmen sometimes show, ruthlessly went ahead with their plans, and the result of this civic mayhem can be seen by any visitor.


When the motor-car industry has come to realize that one way to provide a future market for ears is to work together for roads on which to drive them, and has organized itself with that end in view, and appointed men, and made an appropriation and set political machinery in motion, and used both voice and print — public speaking, radio, advertising, and publicity — to educate the public mind and prepare it to take part in and pay for a super-highway programme, it will be working on some such programme as this: —

1. To exert its influence toward placing all roads under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government, the head of this department to be an engineer of the distinction and ability of Goethals.

2. To organize a bureau representing and supported by the industry to lay out a programme and to assist and advise the highway departments as they now exist, or as they may be realigned, the bureau to be staffed with engineers, landscape architects, public-relations counsel, advertising men, public speakers, to make plans, sell them to the public, work up public interest, ensure coöperation from groups to be benefited directly, such as chambers of commerce or hotel keepers, and especially to create esprit de corps among that great community which lives by making and selling motor cars and the accessories created by them.

3. To make its ultimate end (a) the paving or surfacing of all existing roads; (b) the laying out and building of new roads, not merely for commercial or utilitarian purposes, but especially to create drives through beautiful scenery and to historic spots, on the margins of lakes, or through mountain passes, until our more picturesque regions are at least on a par with those of Europe in accessibility.

4. To beautify all roads as far as possible by landscaping and planting, and to protect that beauty by laws, but especially to foster a public spirit equal to that found in such law-abiding countries as England.

5. To see that through highways are led around villages, towns, and cities, with byroads connecting, so that through traffic can avoid local congestion.

6. To establish a system of marking roads uniform throughout the nation, simple, easily comprehended at a glance, and in a form that will not be an eyesore. The numbering of roads has already been adopted to some extent, but there is yet much confusion. There are roads in New England which bear both state and United States numbers, differing from each other and also from the number on the map.

7. To establish national supervision of the licensing of automobiles, or, if that is impracticable, uniform state practice, with complete reciprocity, and especially uniform speed laws. The best speed law is that which obtains in France, with limits only in cities; no limit in the country, but strict accountability. If you want to see speed limits carried to absurdity, try driving in some of the cantons of Switzerland, where five miles an hour is not merely ordained, but enforced.

8. To produce real road maps that will make finding one’s way a simple matter and add a new interest to motoring, and give some idea of the beauty and entertainment afforded by this remarkable country, daily growing smaller as the gas-propelled vehicle enlarges its activities.

Before the car buyer realizes there is no place to drive a car and stops buying, the movement should be under way to multiply the available road area by five, and the motor-car industry is the unit to undertake it. It has the vested interest in good roads, it has the money to pay for propaganda, and it is in itself a large enough body to influence public opinion.