A Modest Proposal


Are we getting lazy, or are our business demands so urgent that great haste in our personal locomotion is absolutely necessary? I am prompted to ask this question because one enthusiast has suggested the peculiar sloping roadways illustrated in Fig. 3. The idea is that by constructing the roads in this rather tantalizing manner, pedestrians could, when they desired, leave the pavement, and after having applied roller-skates to their feet, just stand erect at the top of the slope, and allow themselves to travel down without further effort — unless it be to maintain their equilibrium or to avoid violent contact with fellow-skaters. Arrived at the bottom of a slope, steps would have to be climbed — a difficult matter, by the way, whilst one’s feet are encased in skates — before other slopes could be reached. Certainly, if a very long street were so formed, speed would be assured. But how about vehicles? Where would they be accommodated? I suppose that they would take to the pavements, crossing from one to another by means of the square levels at the street ends. As a pastime, perhaps, this means of progress might be amusing; but it is too ludicrous to commend itself as a serious invention, calculated to be popular in our busy centres of commerce, or, for the matter of that, anywhere within our realms.

— James Scott, “Eccentric Ideas,” Strand, March 1895