Road traffic; from the freedom of the road to the regulation of the driver
Road bridges and tunnels
“If I had asked customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” Henry Ford
Land Speed Records – see Appendix 1 below
23/9/2015, The head of Volkswagen, Martin Winterkorn, resigned over the scandal over faked emissions levels.
18/9/2015, A major scandal broke at Volkswagen when it emerged that the company had developed special ‘Defeat’ software to fool US government testing procedures to test the nitrous oxide emissions levels of their diesel cars. The cars appeared to emit 40x less pollution than would be the actual case in real-world motoring; the cars also appeared to be more fuel-efficient than in reality, due to procedures such as removing the wing mirrors to reduce drag.
7/4/2005, MG Rover, the UK’s last volume car maker, went into receivership after a planned alliance with Chinese car manufacturer Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation fell through.
14/12/2004, The world’s tallest bridge, at Millau, France, over the River Tarn, was opened by President Jacques Chirac.
2003, Britain’s M6 toll road opened.
1/12/2003, In the UK, the use of hand-held mobiles whilst driving was made illegal.
25/3/1999, A fire in the Mont Blanc road tunnel killed 39 people. The tunnel was closed for nearly three years.
30/1/1997. An underground protest came to an end as the last protestor, known as Swampy, emerged from a tunnel under the proposed A.30.
29/2/1996, Bailiffs began evicting the Newbury by-pass protestors who had been protesting that the route ran through environmentally-sensitive areas. Contractors had been due to start work on 10/1/1996.
18/1/1996, A service in Coventry Cathedral marking the centenary of the motor car was disrupted by a naked woman claiming to be Lady Godiva protesting about the thousands of deaths caused by motor vehicles.
15/10/1995, The road bridge between Skye and the Scottish mainland opened.
31/1/1994 German car manufacturer BMW announced the purchase of Rover from British Aerospace for US$ 800 million.
2/12/1993. A planned merger between Renault of France and Volvo of Sweden fell through.
7/1/1993. Ford unveiled its new family car, the Mondeo.
30/10/1991. Queen Elizabeth II opened the Queen Elizabeth Bridge over the Thames at Dartford.
1/7/1991. Rear seat belt wearing became compulsory in the UK in cars fitted with them.
20/6/1990, London’s Routemaster buses were to be phased out, according to an announcement today. Spare parts for them were increasingly hard to obtain.
26/8/1989, The Mini celebrated its 30th birthday. In 1959 just 20,000 were made; in 1970 the figure was 381,000, after the car had won several rallies and been adopted by public figures such as John Lennon, Peter Sellers, Twiggy and Marianne Faithfull.
14/8/1988, Enzo Ferrari, racing car designer and builder, died at his home in Modena aged 90.
29/10/1986. The final section of the M.25 London Orbital Motorway was opened.
26/10/1986, Buses in all the UK, except Northern Ireland and London, were deregulated.
8/9/1986, In Sunderland, the Japanese car maker Nissan opened a factory.
16/5/1983. London police began using wheel clamps to curb illegal parking.
17/7/1981, Queen Elizabeth II formally opened the Humber Bridge, then the longest single-span suspension bridge in the world. It had opened to traffic on 24/6/1981.
24/6/1981. The Humber Bridge opened to traffic, and the Humber Ferry, the diesel powered Faringford, made its last crossing between Hull and New Holland. Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the Bridge on 17/7/1981. Work on the Bridge had begun in 1973, but there had been plans for a bridge, or even a tunnel, for several decades before. When opened it was the world’s longest single-span suspension bridge, at 1,410 metres, or 4,636 feet.
8/10/1980. British Leyland launched its successful Mini Metro.
5/9/1980. The world’s longest road tunnel opened in Switzerland. The Simplon Tunnel ran for 10.14 miles, 16.32 kilometres, under the St Gotthard range.
11/7/1980. The Britannia road bridge across the Menai Straits was opened.
1/3/1976, In Britain, wearing seat belts in cars became compulsory under the Road Traffic Bill.
30/9/1974. A report by the Royal Society for the prevention of accidents showed that the 50 mph speed limit imposed on Britain’s roads during the 1973 fuel crisis had reduced road accident casualties by over 6,000.
23/5/1974. The Avonmouth M.5 Bridge was opened.
20/8/1973, On TV, an account was shown of how the local community was resisting the new 6-lane Archway Road, north London.
16/3/1973. The new London Bridge was opened by the Queen. In 23/9/1968 the foundation stone of the old London Bridge had been laid at Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
20/1/1973. Disc Jockey Jimmy Saville ran his ‘clunk click every time’ seat belt campaign.
27/7/1972, Work began on the Humber Bridge, the world’s longest suspension bridge with a central span of 4,626 feet. Queen Elizabeth II opened it on 17/7/1981.
24/5/1972. Spaghetti Junction opened in Birmingham. It was expected to handle 40,000 vehicles a day when opened, but in 2002, 140,000 vehicles used the junction every day. This was part of the Midlands Link, opened this day, a seven mile stretch opened by Peter Walker, Secretary of State for the Environment. There was now continuous motorway from London to Carlisle.
17/2/1972The German Volkswagen Beetle outsold the US Ford Model T, with over 15 million cars sold.
2/7/1971. The Erskine Bridge over the Clyde was opened.
24/6/1971. In Liverpool, the first tube of the second Mersey Tunnel opened.
3/8/1970, Miriam Hargreave, of Wakefield, Yorkshire, passed her driving test at the record 44th attempt, after 212 lessons.
21/3/1968, In Britain, road deaths fell 23% in the three months after introduction of breath tests. See 8/10/1967.
8/10/1967. A motorist in Flax Bourton, Somerset became the first person to be breathalysed in Britain. See 21/3/1968.
3/9/1967. Sweden switched over from driving on the left to driving on the right. All traffic was banned from Sweden’s roads between 1.am. and 6.am. that day. This reduced accidents since neighbouring Norway and Denmark already drove on the right. An earlier referendum, in 1955, had rejected the switchover but the Swedish Government finally approved the change in 1963.
4/8/1967, The Tagus Road Bridge at Lisbon opened
8/9/1966. Queen Elizabeth II opened the Severn Bridge. The career of ferryman Enoch Williams, who had carried passengers and cars across the Severn estuary since starting his business on the first day of the general Strike 1926, ended.
18/8/1966. The Queen Mother opened the Tay Road Bridge.
23/7/1966, The Secretary of State for Wales opened the Port Talbot motorway (now part of the M4).
28/12/1965. A British magistrate who was also a rally driver said he would refuse to sit on the bench when motorists were charged with exceeding the speed limit unless injury or damage was also
22/12/1965. The UK introduced a national 70mph speed limit.
24/11/1965. The UK government imposed an experimental 70mph speed limit on the motorways. UK motorways, the first of which was a stretch of the M6 known then as the Preston by-pass, had had no speed limits since their inception in 1958. However early one morning in June 1964 the makers of the AC Cobra sports car decided to take their Le Mans contender out for a spin on the M1 and got it up to 185 mph. This led to questions in Parliament and the 70 mph national speed limit.
16/7/1965 The seven-mile Mont Blanc road tunnel opened, linking France with Italy. This road tunnel had first been proposed by French engineer Lepiney back in 1870. The tunnel took 6 years to build.
18/6/1965, An alcohol limit was to be set for UK drivers.
21/11/1964, The Verrazano Narrows suspension bridge, across the entrance to New York Harbour, opened to traffic.
4//9/1964. Queen Elizabeth II opened the Forth Road Bridge. It was 6,156 feet long, with a centre span of 3,300 feet. Construction began 21/11/1958.
18/11/1963. The Dartford Tunnel was opened.
22/8/1963, Lord Nuffield, founder of Morris Motors, died, aged 84.
3/7/1963, The Clyde Road Tunnel, Glasgow, opened; construction began in 1957.
4/2/1963. In the UK, a learner-driver was fined for driving on after the instructor had jumped out of the car for fear of his life.
18/11/1962. As blizzards and snowstorms hit Britain, the House of Lords expressed concern at Britain’s 7,000 road deaths a year.
3/9/1962. The Trans-Canada Highway, 4,800 miles from St John’s Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia, was opened.
8/5/1962. Trolley buses ran for the last time in London.
2/4/1962, The first push-button panda road crossings were installed.
1961 The Great West Road flyover at Hammersmith opened.
21/7/1961, Runcorn Bridge, on the River Mersey, opened. It was then the longest steel arch bridge in the UK.
6/3/1961, Mini cabs began operating in Britain.
3/1/1961. The millionth Morris Minor car came off the assembly lines in Britain.
15/9/1960, Traffic wardens began operating in London. 40 began operations in the Westminster area of London; their first ticket was issued to a doctor who had parked outside a hotel as he treated a heart attack victim inside. Plus ca change.
12/9/1960. MOTs on motor vehicles introduced in Britain.
15/8/1960. Britain’s first motorway service station opened to the public, on the M.1 at Newport Pagnell. Motorist Graham Miller was the first to buy food there. The services had opened in 1959 but only for lorry drivers.
19/6/1960, Jaguar took over the Daimler motor company.
1959, Total US car casualties now stood at 1.25 million; more than the US casualties from all of its wars to date.
2/11/1959. London to Birmingham motorway opened. The first stretch of the M1 opened on 1/11/1959. Sightseers flocked to look at it.
18/8/1959, The British Motor Corporation’s Mini car was launched. At £500 including Purchase Tax, it was short on luxuries, but affordable with a nippy engine and its small size made it was convenient for town driving.
13/8/1959, Work began on the Verrazano Narrows cable suspension bridge in New York City.
30/5/1959. Auckland’s Harbour Bridge on New Zealand’s North Island officially opened.
17/3/1959, The UK Government announced plans for a major expansion of the road network.
30/1/1959, Britain’s first drive-in bank opened.
5/12/1958. The UK’s first stretch of motorway, 6 ½ miles of the M6 at Preston, was opened by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. It took two years to build at a cost of £3,750,000.
21/11/1958, Work began on the Forth Road Suspension Bridge, then the longest suspension bridge in the UK. It was completed in 1964.
10/7/1958. London’s first parking meters were installed, in Mayfair. 625 were put in. The charge was 6d for
1 hour, 1 s for 2 hours, an excess payment of 10 s for the next 2 hours or part thereof, and a £2 penalty for exceeding 4 hours.
16/6/1958, Yellow lines indicating no waiting were painted along British roads.
20/1/1958. The first radar speed checks began in Britain.
29/8/1957. Police in the US began using a device to measure the amount of alcohol in a driver’s breath. It was dubbed the ‘drunkometer’.
16/2/1957, Sir Leslie Hore-Belisha, the Minister of Transport responsible for Belisha Beacons, the driving test, and the Highway Code, died.
30/8/1956, Britain announced plans for parking wardens.
12/2/1956, The first yellow ‘No Parking’ lines appeared in Britain, in Slough.
8/12/1954, Parking meters were introduced in Britain.
25/6/1954, British doctors urged tougher drink-driving tests than having to say tongue twisters or walk in a straight line.
16/4/1954, Stock car racing for the first time in Britain, behind the Old Kent Road stadium in London.
1/1/1954, Flashing turn indicator lights became a legal requirement on British vehicles.
26/10/1953. The Kingsway by-pass road opened in Scunthorpe.
20/6/1952, In Britain, pedestrian crossings were to be marked by flashing orange beacons.
24/11/1951, British motor manufacturers Austin and Morris announced a merger.
31/10/1951, Zebra crossings came into use in Britain, in Slough, Berkshire.
30/1/1951. German motorcar engineer Ferdinand Porsche died.
12/10/1948. First Morris Minor came off the production line at Cowley, Oxfordshire. The car was designed by Alex Issigonis.
28/9/1948. First British Grand Prix held at Silverstone.
30/4/1948. First Land Rover exhibited at the Amsterdam Motor Show.
29/8/1947, James Hunt, British motor racing champion, was born in Belmont, Surrey.
7/4/1947 Henry Ford, American motor car manufacturer who pioneered techniques of mass-production, died aged 83.
11/12/1945. The new Waterloo Bridge, London, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, fully opened. Half its width had been in use since 1942.
13/12/1944, For London, a series of concentric ring roads and green belts were proposed. Two of these correspond to the North Circular and M.25.
11/8/1942. In London, the new Waterloo Bridge opened to traffic.
6/6/1941, Louis Chevrolet, American car designer, died.
23/5/1941, Herbert Austin, British motor mechanic and manufacturer of the Austin car, died near Bromsgrove.
4/4/1941, Andre Michelin, French industrialist who built the first factories that mass-produced tyres, died in Paris.
23/11/1940, The Willys-Overland company launched its new General Purpose vehicle, known as a jeep (GP)., for the US army.
31/12/1938. In Indianapolis, police began breath-testing drivers.
22/8/1938. In the UK, the first ‘automatic’ car was tested.
26/5/1938, The first Volkswagen came off the assembly line at the factory at Wolfsburg, Germany.
7/2/1938, Harvey Firestone, tyre manufacturer, died in Miami, Florida.
14/10/1937, The first Motor Show opened at Earls Court, London.
27/5/1937. The world’s longest suspension bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, was opened. The centre span was 4,200 feet long and with the approaches the bridge was over 8 miles long. The project cost US$ 77.2 million.
26/2/1936 The Volkswagen car factory in Saxony was opened by Adolf Hitler. The Volkswagen or ‘people’s car’ was designed by Ferdinand Porsche of Auto Union.
16/7/1935. The world’s first parking meters went into service in Oklahoma City. They were devised by the newspaper editor Carlton Magee.
3/7/1935. Death of the French engineer Andre Citroen.
1/6/1935, Leslie Hore Belisha introduced driving tests in Britain, and made L plates for learners compulsory.
29/4/1935. ‘Cats eye’ reflectors were used on British roads for the first time.
13/3/1935. Driving tests were introduced to the UK by Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha; see 10/3/1899, France. The tests were at first voluntary, but became compulsory from 1/6/1935. They only applied to those who had taken out their driving licence since 1/4/1934 – see 14/8/1903. Britain was one of the last European countries to bring in a driving test. ‘L’ plates and provisional licences also became compulsory on 1/6/1935.
18/7/1934. King George V opened the Mersey Tunnel. It was 2.13 miles long and had a diameter of 44 feet, allowing for 4 traffic lanes. See 18/12/1925.
12/6/1934, In London, pedestrian crossings were installed to cut road casualties.
4/4/1934, The first ‘cat’s eye’ studs were laid in the road at an accident black spot, a crossroads near Bradford, Yorkshire, UK.
26/3/1934. The speed limit in urban areas was set at 30 mph.
8/3/1934. The new Volkswagen was unveiled at the Motor Show in Germany, priced at £61.
3/1/1934, British road signs were to be standardised.
1933, Chiswick Bridge, London, opened.
17/12/1933, Just for this day, the public were allowed to walk through the newly completed Mersey Tunnel.
22/4/1933, Sir Frederick Henry Royce, English car manufacturer of Rolls Royce cars, died.
1/8/1932. In Britain, 3-letter car number plates were introduced, The first plate in London was AMY-1.
19/7/1932. King George opened London’s Lambeth Bridge.
26/4/1932, The Motor Traffic provide for motorists who killed to be found guilty of manslaughter.
19/3/1932. Sydney Harbour Bridge was officially opened. At 1,650 feet, it was the world’s longest single-span bridge.
15/12/1931, Traffic lights were introduced across Britain, following their success in London.
14/4/1931 The Highway Code was first issued in the UK.
1/1/1931. In Britain the Road Traffic Act came into force, introducing traffic policemen and making third party insurance compulsory.
15/12/1930, The UK Government published a draft Highway Code.
18/8/1930. The two halves of Sydney Bridge met in the middle, seven years after building work began. The 503 metre bridge used 38,390 tons of high tensile steel. Completion was scheduled for March 1932.
14/4/1929. The Monte Carlo Grand Prix was run for the first time, 76 laps round the narrow streets and harbour of Monte Carlo.
4/4/1929. The engineer Carl Benz, who built the first internal combustion car, died aged 84.
29/11/1928, In Britain the Government was concerned at the rising toll of road accidents. In 1927 there were 133,943 accidents and 5,329 deaths on Britain’s roads. The number of private cars was just 200,000 in 1920 but forecast to reach one million by 1930. However anyone aged 17 could drive with no more than a self-certification of physical fitness. The speed limit of 20 mph was widely ignored. Motoring had been the preserve of the wealthy but the Austin Seven car, introduced in 1921, cost just £225, within the reach of many people.
10/10/1928. The King and Queen opened the new Tyne road bridge.
14/8/1928. The world’s first coach service to have sleeping bunks began, between London and Liverpool.
1/8/1928, The Morris Minor car was launched.
29/5/1928. In the USA, the Chrysler and Dodge motor companies merged.
1927, The Kingston by-pass, SW London, opened.
2/12/1927, Ford’s Model A car went on sale as the successor to the Model T.
13/11/1927, The Holland Tunnel, linking New York City to New Jersey, was opened.
12/11/1927. The first London to Brighton veteran car rally, sponsored by the Daily Sketch. It was won by John Bryce, from amongst 51 competitors.
10/11/1927. General Motors announced the largest dividend in history, US$ 62million.
5/11/1927. The UK’s first set of automatic traffic lights began operating, at the Prince Square crossroads in Wolverhampton.
13/10/1927, Britain’s first veteran car rally took place. It was organised by the Daily Sketch, and took place in London, with 43 entrants.
31/5/1927. The last ‘tin lizzie’, came off the production line, almost unchanged since the model was introduced as the Model T Ford in 1908. 15,007,003 Model Ts were produced. It was replaced by the Model A. The Model T had become outdated, and Ford had lost first place in the market to General Motors. The first Model T made in 1908 cost US$ 850 but by 1927 they cost under US$ 300. Ford had also lost sales to the second hand market; other car manufacturers countered this by changing the model slightly each year.
3/8/1926. Britain’s first traffic lights went into operation in Piccadilly Circus, London. (see 10/12/1868).
1925, The first section of London’s Great West Road was opened, in Brentford.
18/12/1925. Work began on the Mersey Road Tunnel, Liverpool. It opened on 18/7/1934.
12/12/1925. The world’s first motel opened in San Luis Obispo, California, starting a trend for overnight stops by motorists in individual accommodation.
20/11/1925, British MPs approved a 4-month prison sentence and £50 fine for drunk-driving.
2/10/1925, London’s iconic red double-decker buses went into service. See 9/4/1909.
29/9/1925, In Britain, white lines were to be painted on roads to reduce accidents.
12/7/1925, The first veteran car rally was held, in Munich.
20/6/1925. In Germany, a wireless telephone for cars was demonstrated.
6/6/1925. Walter P Chrysler founded the Chrysler Motor Company in Detroit.
30/5/1925. King George V opened the Great West Road at Brentford, London. It was seen as a model for post-War development.
25/3/1925. The new fast London-Southend road was opened.
28/3/1924, Total was founded as the Compagnie Française des Pétroles (CFP), the "French Petroleum Company". Petroleum was seen as vital in the case of a new war with Germany.
26/3/1923. The world’s first inter-urban motorway opened, in Italy. It was formally opened by the King of Italy on 21/9.1924. It ran from Milan to Varese and the Lombardy Lakes.
23/10/1921. John Boyd Dunlop, who invented pneumatic tyres, died.
10/9/1921. Completion of the first motorway (autobahn) in Germany. The 6 ¼ mile (10 km) route ran from Grunwald, Berlin, to the suburb of Wannsee, was exclusively for motor vehicles, and had controlled limited access. It had been planned in September 1909 and was nearly complete when the outbreak of World War One delayed its completion. Intended to double as a motor racing track, it has a loop at either end where competitors could turn round without stopping. It had 2 carriageways 26 feet wide and a 26 feet wide grassed central reservation, and ten concrete flyovers spanned it. Known as the Avus Autobahn, it is still in use today as route 115.
6/6/1921. Southwark Bridge opened by the King.
26/4/1921. The first police motorcycle patrols began in London.
1/1/1921, Car tax discs for obligatory display on windscreens were introduced in Britain.
3/12/1917, The Quebec Bridge over the St Lawrence River opened. 87 lives were lost during its construction.
21/5/1916, Keadby swing road bridge, Lincolnshire, opened over the River Trent. It was necessary to serve the growing traffic between Immingham Docks (opened 1912) and the developing coalfields of South Yorkshire.
5/8/1914. The first electric traffic light signals to control road traffic were installed in Cleveland, Ohio.
30/9/1913, Rudolf Deisel, German inventor of the diesel engine, died, vanishing from a steamer whilst crossing the English Channel.
14/8/1913, In Britain, street deaths involving motor buses had risen 500% since 1907.
23/5/1913. London set a 10mph speed limit at Hyde Park Corner.
28/3/1913. The first Morris Oxford car left the factory at Cowley, near Oxford.
11-16/11/1912. First International Motor Show, at Olympia.
31/5/1912. The first motor car museum was opened in London, at 175 Oxford Street. The oldest exhibits were an 1861 Crompton steam car and an 1894 Bremer petrol car. In March 1914 the museum moved to the Crystal Palace. However when the First World War broke out the space was needed for storage; some cars were returned to their owners but others were left on open waste ground near Charing Cross Station and allowed to disintegrate.
27/10/1911, After a bank robbery in Paris, the three criminals involved made the first ever getaway in a motor car.
25/10/1911. The last horse bus ran in London, from London Bridge station to Moorgate Street.
20/6/1911, Britain’s first trolley bus ran, in Leeds.
30/5/1911, The Indianapolis motor race was first held.
16/2/1911, The first Monte Carlo car rally started.
4/2/1911, Rolls Royce adopted the Sprit of Ecstasy statuette on their cars, made in Derby, England.
21/1/1911. The first Monte Carlo Rally began. It was won, seven days later, by Henri Rougier from France.
3/12/1910. The first neon lighting was used, at the Paris Motor Show. In 1910, in Britain, an Austin car, ‘Ascot’ model, cost £420. It had 15 horsepower, and the hood, windscreen, windshield, and headlights were extra.
12/7/1910, Charles Stewart Rolls, aviator and co-founder of Rolls Royce, died at an air crash in Bournemouth.
9/4/1909, The first closed-top double-decker buses ran in Britain, in Widnes. In London there were police restrictions against roofed-in upper decks and such buses did not run there until 2/10/1925.
16/9/1908. Buick and Oldsmobile merged to form General Motors.
12/8/1908, The Model T Ford began rolling off the production line. Priced at US$ 825, the cost was kept low by mass production using standardised parts. Instead of one man assembling an entire car, each worker preformed just one task as the car moved along a conveyor belt. By this production line method, the time to assemble a car was cut from 14 hours to 2. To motivate his workforce, Henry Ford raised wages from US$ 2.34 for a 9 hour day to US$ 5 for an 8 hour day. Productivity improvements meant Ford could reduce the car’s price to US$ 300. Over 15 million Model Ts were built and by the time production ceased in 1927 half the cars in the US were Fords.
12/6/1908. London's Rotherhithe Tunnel opened. It runs between Rotherhithe and Stepney.
10/9/1907, The world’s longest and hardest motor race, from Beijing to Paris, ended with victory by Prince Borghese of Italy, who completed the 8,000 mile course in 62 days. He faced desert, swamps, mountains, a bushfire, and a Belgian policeman who stopped him for speeding.
6/7/1907. Brooklands motor racing track, near Weybridge, Surrey, opened. It closed in 1939.
28/5/1907. The first Isle of Man TT motorcycle race was held. The average speed of the winner was 38 mph.
25/5/1907. The first 24-hour motor race, the Endurance Derby, was held in Philadelphia. The winning car covered a distance of 791 miles.
22/2/1907, The first taxi cabs with meters began operating in Britain.
20/11/1906. Charles Rolls and Henry Royce formed the car company Rolls Royce Ltd.
8/8/1906 Churchill and others protested at the excessive noise made by motor traffic.
26/5/1906. The rebuilt Vauxhall Bridge over the Thames was reopened.
1/2/1906, The UK Government dropped plans for a fast motor road between London and Brighton.
19/12/1905. London County Council set up a motorised ambulance service for traffic accident victims.
16/12/1905, The first civilian motor ambulance was delivered to the South West Ambulance Station of the Metropolitan Asylums Board. Built to order by James and Browne of 395 Oxford Street London for £465, it was used to transport scarlet fever patients from their homes to isolation hospitals, from 11/2/1906.
18/10/1905, Kingsway and Aldwych, London, opened.
29/6/1905. The inaugural meeting of the Automobile Association took place at the Trocadero Restaurant in London, attended by 50 motorists.
9/6/1904, First meeting of the Ladies Automobile Club.
1/1/1904, The first motor vehicle registration plate was issued in Britain. It was ‘A1’, issued to Earl Russell for his ‘Napier’.
1903, The UK set a 20mph speed limit for motor cars.
14/7/1903, The UK Government rejected calls for penalties for drunk driving, driving tests and vehicle inspection.
16/6/1903. The Ford Motor Company was founded.
12/4/1903, The world’s first municipal motor bus service began, between Eastbourne railway station and Meads, Sussex.
10/2/1903, Two new roads in London were named; Kingsway, after King George VII, and Aldwych.
6/2/1903, In the UK, a Royal Commission was set up to find a solution to London’s traffic jams. Options included new electric tramways, but these would take up valuable road space, or new tube lines, following the success of the ‘twopenny tube’ opened in 1900 from Shepherds Bush to Bank (now the Central Line).
16/1/1903, The first saloon car, the Duryea, appeared at the Stanley Motor Show.
14/1/1903. The Motor Car Act in the UK required British drivers to have licences. It set the minimum age as 17 for cars and 14 for motor cycles; prior to this the youngest driver was a 6 year old, Master Ernest Bond of Bishopston, Bristol, whose father had designed a motor bike specially for him. See 14/1/1893 for the world’s first driving licences, in France. See also 13/3/1935, driving tests in the UK.
1/9/1902. The AA (Automobile Association) organised a motor car trial to demonstrate the reliability of the new machines. 63 cars drove from Crystal Palace, south London, to Folkestone and back. Most completed the 139 mile route successfully, and the AA logged the performance of each car.
29/6/1902. The French car maker Marcel Renault won the first Paris to Vienna motor race.
30/9/1901. France made it compulsory to register cars capable of more than 20 mph.
21/8/1901. In Detroit, USA, the Cadillac motor company was founded.
31/3/1901. The first Mercedes car was built. Its inventor, the German, Gottleib Daimler, named it after his daughter. The car had a maximum speed of 53 mph.
25/3/1901. In Britain, the world’s first diesel motor went on show.
27/8/1900, The first long-distance bus service in England began, between London and Leeds, taking 2 days.
6/3/1900. The German motor car designer, Gottleib Daimler, died. He improved the internal combustion engine and made the first motor bike.
9/10/1899. The first petrol driven motor bus began operating in London.
1898, The Royal Automibile Club was founded in London.
20/2/1898, Enzio Ferrari, Italian car manufacturer, was born in Modena.
12/2/1898. Henry Lindfield of Brighton became the first British motorist to be killed in a car crash. As a result of a steering failure he had a leg amputated, and died of shock.
19/10/1897, Henry Sturmey, co-inventor of Sturmey-Archer bicycle gears, completed the first car trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats. It took him ten days, driving a Daimler.
25/9/1897. Britain’s first motor bus service began, in Bradford, Yorkshire.
10/9/1897. London taxi driver George Smith was fined £1, at Marlborough Street Court. He was the first Briton to be convicted of drunken driving. The defendant had driven his electric cab onto the pavement and into the front corridor of 165 Bond Street. He was found guilty and fined £1.
19/8/1897, The first taxi cabs began operating in the UK. They were restricted to the City and West End of London.
10/8/1897. The Royal Automobile Club was founded, under the name of The Automobile Club of Great Britain.
22/5/1897. The Prince of Wales opened the Blackwall Tunnel in London.
14/11/1896. The speed limit for ‘horseless carriages’ was raised from 4mph, or 2mph in towns, to 14 mph.
13/11/1896, The Arnold car, made by Walter Arnold of Peckham, south London, made its first appearance on British roads. This was the first car to have an electric starter; older cars had to be crank-started by hand.
2/11/1896, General Accident issued the first motor insurance policies in Britain.
17/8/1896. The first pedestrian was killed by a motor vehicle in Britain. A car doing 4 mph killed Mrs Bridget Driscoll of Croydon. She froze in panic as the car approached.
4/6/1896. Henry Ford took his Ford automobile for a trial run around the streets of Detroit.
9/5/1896. The first Horseless Carriage Show opened to the motor trade, with ten models on show at London’s Imperial Institute.
28/1/1896, Arnold Miller, of East Peckham, became the first motorist charged with speeding, at Tonbridge Magistrates Court. He had driven at over the 2 mph speed limit in a built up area past the window of the local constable’s house just as he was about to have dinner. The constable left his meal, grabbed his helmet, and gave chase on a bicycle, catching up the driver after 5 miles. Miller was driving at about 8 mph, according to witnesses. He was fined 1s plus costs.
1/11/1895, (-18,085) The first motoring association, the American Motor League, was founded in Chicago, Illinois.
17/10/1895, (-18,100) The first motoring offence in the UK resulting in a court summons. John Henry Knight of Farnham was charged with ‘permitting a locomotive to be at work’ in Castle Street Farnham without a licence, and James Pullinger was charged with operating the same ‘locomotive’ during prohibited hours. The prosecution was brought under a Surrey Council by-law requiring all locomotives other than those used in agriculture or road maintenance to be licensed by the Council and to be driven on the public highway only during set hours. The case was heard on 31/10/1895 before R H Combe at Farnham Petty Sessions. The locomotive was a motor vehicle owned by Knight, who watched whilst Pullinger drove it. Both defendants were fined 2s 6d each.
15/10/1895, The first UK motor show, at the Agricultural Showground, Tunbridge Wells, Kent.
11/6/1895, The first pneumatic-tyred car appeared on French roads. This was Edoaurd Michelin’s Peugeot, which was a competitor in the Paris-Bordeaux motor race. This car only came ninth, because it needed 22 inner tube changes, but gave a very smooth ride.
11/12/1894. The first motor show opened in Paris, with nine exhibitors. It closed on 25/12/1894.
1/12/1894, The first motoring journal, La Locomotion Automobile, was published in Paris. According to this publication, cars were unlikely to replace horse drawn traffic and would improve things in cities.
22/7/1894. The first automobile race took place, between Paris and Rouen.
30/6/1894. London’s Tower Bridge was officially opened to traffic. Sir Horace Jones and J Wolfe Barry designed it.
6/11/1893. Edsel Ford, US car executive, only child of Henry Ford, was born in Detroit.
14/8/1893. The world’s first car registration plates were introduced, in France. French drivers also were required to have driving licences from this date, for which the passing of a driving test was needed; French tests also began from 14/8/1893. See 13/3/1935 for British tests. From 10/3/1899 French motorists had to carry a driving licence in card form at all times. See 14/1/1903 for the UK.
23/2/1893, The diesel engine was patented by Rudolf Deisel.
21/7/1890, Lord Rosebery opened Battersea Bridge.
31/10/1888. Pneumatic bicycle tyres (see 10/12/1845) were patented by the Scottish inventor John Royd Dunlop.
16/3/1888, In France, Emile Roger made the first recorded purchase of a motor car, a Benz.
18/6/1887, Hammersmith Bridge, London, was opened.
20/4/1887. The world’s first motor race took place, along the banks of the River Seine from the centre of Paris to Neuilly. There was only one entrant, Georges Bouton, who completed the course in his steam quadricycle to become the winner.
4/3/1887, The first Daimler cars appeared on the rioad.
3/7/1886, The first successful petrol powered car made its first public run at Mannheim, Germany. Designed by Karl Benz, it travelled half a mile at 9mph.
29/1/1886. Karl Benz patented the first practical car with a petrol-driven internal combustion engine. It had three rubber tyres and went at 9.3 mph.
29/8/1885. Gottlieb Daimler in Germany patented the first motorcycle, a wooden bicycle frame with a single cylinder engine..
24/5/1883. Brooklyn Bridge, New York, was opened. At over a mile long, with a central span of 1595 feet, this was then the longest suspension bridge in the world, and was the first bridge in New York City. It was designed by John Augustus Roebling.
1/5/1883, The new road system at Hyde Park Corner, London, opened.
23/12/1879, An unprecedented traffic jam occurred in New York. Horse drawn carts and coaches created a jam that lasted 5 hours.
10/10/1877. Motoring pioneer William Morris, 1st Viscount Sheffield, Lord Nuffield, was born in Worcester.
27/8/1877, Charles Stewart Rolls, partner of Rolls Royce, was born in London.
17/5/1876, Nikolaus August Otto patented the world’s first four-stroke internal combustion engine. However the patent office uncovered earlier work done on the fo9ur stroke cycle by Frenchman Alphonse Beau de Rochas in 1862. Otto’s patent was deemed invalid and others were free to use his idea. Karl Benz refined the four stroke engine and made it run not on gas but liquid fuel, kerosene or gasoline, thereby making the engine mobile.
23/8/1873, The Albert Bridge across the Thames was opened.
3/1/1870, Work began on the Brooklyn – New York bridge over the East River.
1869, Holborn Viaduct road bridge, London, opened, after six years construction.
6/11/1869, Blackfriars Bridge, London, opened.
10/12/1868. London’s first traffic lights were installed in Parliament Square, Westminster, to help MPs get to the House of Commons. The lights were like a railway signal, and operated by gas; they later exploded, killing a policeman. The lights were removed in 1872 and traffic lights were not used again until 3/8/1926.
8/11/1866. The Birmingham car manufacturer Herbert Austin was born in Little Missenden.
5/7/1865, The Locomotives and Highways Act in Britain introduced a speed limit for road vehicles of 4mph in the countryside and 2mph in the towns.
8/12/1864, Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge over the River Avon in Bristol was opened.
30/7/1863. Henry Ford, father of the mass-produced car, was born in Dearborn, Michigan, the son of a farmer. He built his first car in his spare time in a shed behind his house in Detroit.
27/3/1863. Sir Frederick Henry Royce, co-founder of the Rolls Royce Motor Company, was born in Alwalton, near Peterborough, the son of a miller.
1862, Lambeth Bridge, London, opened. The earliest mention of a ferry here is in 1513; this ferry ceased operations when the first Westminister Bridge opened in 1750. The current Lambeth Bridge opened in 1932.
24/5/1862. London’s Westminster Bridge was opened.
19/10/1860. The first company to manufacture internal combustion engines was formed in Florence, Italy. The engines were designed by Eugenio Barsanti and Felice Matteucci.
1/7/1860, Charles Goodyear, American inventor of the vulcanised rubber tyre, died a pauper.
18/3/1858. Rudolf Diesel, inventor of the diesel engine, was born in Paris.
7/1/1857. The London Central Omnibus Company began running a London bus service. See 30/8/1860.
16/1/1853, Andre Michelin, French manufacturer of pneumatic tyres, was born.
1846, Farringdon Road, London, was opened. It was planned as early as 1830, to cut through a slum area. It was known as Victoria Street until 1863.
10/12/1845. The Scottish civil engineer Robert Thompson patented the first pneumatic tyres (see 31/10/1888). However the invention failed to catch on in the absence of a method of hardening the rubber.
25/11/1844, Karl Friedrich Benz, German engineer and motor car pioneer, was born in Karlsruhe.
15/6/1844. Charles Goodyear patented the vulcanised rubber process in the USA. This made possible the commercial use of rubber, such as for motor vehicle tyres.
21/11/1843. Vulcanised rubber was patented in England by Thomas Hancock.
5/2/1840, John Boyd Dunlop, vet and patenter of the pneumatic bicycle tyre, was born at Dreghorn, Ayrshire.
26/11/1836. John McAdam, the road engineer who gave his name to a new type of road surface, tarmac, died, aged 80. He was the son of a banker in Ayr, and developed the idea of a raised road surface of broken stone with a drain either side.
2/9/1834. Thomas Telford, born 9/8/1757, died. He was known as the ‘Colossus of Roads’ for his engineering works. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.
17/3/1834, Gottleib Daimler, German engineer who improved the internal combustion engine, was born in Schondorf.
1/8/1831. King William IV opened New London Bridge, designed by John Rennie. It lasted 140 years before being dismantled, sold to an American, and rebuilt in Arizona.
4/7/1829. The first bus service in Britain began. See 18/3/1662. George Shilibeer operated a horse drawn service between Marylebone and the Bank, via the City Road. The fare was 1s for the full distance or 6d for any intermediate distance.
1827, Hammersmith Bridge, the first suspension bridge in London, opened. It was replced by the current structure on 1883.
15/6/1825, The Duke of York laid the foundation stone of London Bridge.
15/3/1824, Construction work began on John Rennie’s London Bridge.
4/10/1821, The Scottish civil engineer John Rennie, bridge designer, died in London.
1819, A Seelct Committee of the House of Commons considered John Mac Adams’s report on road surfaces. His major innovation was, not to go for a firm base but to seal the top surface of the road.
22/6/1817. London’s Waterloo Bridge, built by John Rennie, was opened. It was originally called Strand Bridge but was renamed on the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. It was replaced in 1945.
1816, Vauxhall Bridge in London opened; it was initially known as The Regent’s Bridge. It was thre first iron bridge over the Thames in central London. Vauxhall Rridge Road was also built in 1816,
1810, John Mac Adam began experiments in different types of road surface. See 1819.
27/3/1809, Baron Georges Hausmann, who planned the long boulevards of Paris, was born.
26/10/1803. Birth of Joseph Hansom, inventor of the famous London Hansom Cab in 1834. Later they were introduced to New York.
24/12/1801, Richard Trevithick trialled his steam carriage, the first steam powered vehicle, on British roads. James Watt warned that the boiler pressures would blow the vehicle up. On 27/12/1801 Trevithick took some friends to the pub in his steam carriage, and later emerged to find the vehicle a smoking wreck.
29/12/1800, Charles Goodyear, US inventor who developed vulcanised rubber, was born in New Haven, Connecticut.
1791, The River Trent was first bridged at Gainsborough.
1785, Road improvements in England meant it was now possible to travel from London to Newcastle on Tyne in three days, whereas in 1754 the journey from London to York took four days. The time from London to Birmingham was cut from 2 days to 19 hours over the same period. In 1754 thejourney from London to Edinburgh took 10 days in summer and 12 in winter; in 1776 the journey took 4 days. In 1881 the journey time was 60 hours and in 1836 a mail coach could do the journey in 45 hours, at just under 10 mph, actual travel time exclusive of breaks for meals etc.
2/8/1784. The first specially constructed mail coach ran in Britain, from Bristol. to London.
1/1/1781. The first wholly iron bridge in the world was opened at Ironbridge, Shropshire, consisting of a 100 foot span across the Severn. In 1755 an iron bridge had been planned across the Rhone at Lyons but owing to the high cost only one span was made of iron; the others of wood.
20/4/1770. The first tracked vehicle was patented by Richard Lovell Edgeworth. It worked similarly to modern tanks. The idea was to overcome traction problems caused by rough or soggy ground. Far ahead of its time, the vehicle never caught on.
1759, The first road bridge at Kew, W London, was built of wood, It was replaced by a stone bridge in 1789; the present bridge dates from 1903.
9/8/1757, Thomas Telford, road, canal, and bridge engineer, was born at Westerkirk, near Langholm, the son of a shepherd.
21/9/1756, John Mac Adam, Scottish surveyor who pioneered the use of tar-macadam for road surfacing, was born in Ayr.
1753, The first Thames Bridge at Hampton Court opened. It was made of wood; the current concrete bridge opened in 1933.
11/1750, Westminister Bridge, London, opened.
7/4/1739. The infamous robber Dick Turpin was hanged at York for murder, sheep-stealing, smuggling, and holding up stage coaches. He was buried in York as ‘John Palmer’.
16/11/1724. The highwayman Jack Sheppard was hanged at Tyburn in front of a crowd of 200,000.
1717, Britain’s first road engineer, John Metcalfe, was born in Knaresborough, Yorkshire.
18/3/1662. The world’s first bus service began, in Paris. Eight seater horse drawn vehicles ran every 8 minutes, and were at first used by the aristocracy, who left their carriages at the terminus, for the novelty factor. However by the summer of 1662 the nobility had returned to their carriages and the less wealthy walked to save the fare. The bus service managed to stay going till the 1680s. Bus services did not restart anywhere until a Parisian service began in 1819. The word ‘omnibus’ was coined in Nantes in 1823, as people of all sorts were using the service there. See 4/7/1829.
1/7/1658, Coaches travelled at about 3 mph, on often atrocious roads.
From London to Dover, 2 ½ days.
From London to Exeter cost 40 shillings (4 days),
From London to Durham cost 55 shillings (no set journey time).
From London to Salisbury (2 days journey) was 20 shillings.
From London to York, 7 days.
23/8/1617, The first one-way street was established, in London. It was Pudding Lane.
1269, The first toll roads in England.
1219, William de Coventry was Appointed Master of Kingston Bridge (S W London). This is one of the oldest bridges over the Thames in the London area.
924, The first record of a bridge over the Trent at Nottingham.
Appendix 1 – Land Speed Records
15/10/1997, Andy Green drove the land vehicle, Thrust SSC, at faster than sound, in the Nevada Desert. He achieved 763.035 mph, and produced a sonic boom.
25/9/1997, The British Thrust supersonic car set a new world land speed record of 714.1 mph in Nevada.
18/12/1979. Stanley Barrett became the first man to break the sound barrier on land, driving in California at 739.5 mph.
23/10/1970, American Gary Gabelich achieved a world land speed record of 631.367 mph in a rocket engine powered car on Bonneville salt flats in Utah.
15/11/1965, In the USA, Craig Breedlove set a new land speed record of 613 mph at Bonneville salt flats.
17/7/1964. Donald Campbell set a world land speed record of 403mph. He was driving a car called Bluebird, on the salt flats at Lake Eyre, South Australia.
16/9/1947. John Cobb broke the world land speed record at 394 mph.
23/8/1939. John Cobb, British motorist, set a new speed record of 368.85 mph at Bonneville salt flats, Utah, USA.
19/11/1937, George Eyston set a new world land speed record of 311 mph.
3/9/1935. Sir Malcolm Campbell set a new world land speed record, in Utah, of 301.337 mph.
7/3/1933. Malcolm Campbell set a new land speed record of 276 mph.
5/3/1933. Sir Malcolm Campbell set a new world land speed record of 272mph in ‘Bluebird’.
24/2/1932, Malcolm Campbell set a new world land speed record of 253.96 mph at Daytona Beach.
5/2/1931, In the UK, Campbell broke the land speed record in Bluebird. The new record was now 245 mph.
11/3/1929. Major H O D Seagrave reached 231.36 mph in his racing car at Daytona Beach.
19/2/1928. A new world land speed record of 206.35 mph was set by Malcolm Campbell in the US.
29/3/1927. A new land speed record of 203.841 mph was set by Major Harry Seagrave at the Daytona Beach racetrack, Florida.
4/2/1927. Malcolm Campbell set a new world land speed record of 174.224 mph in his car, Bluebird, on Pendine Sands.
7/8/1926. The first motor racing Grand Prix in Britain was held at Brooklands, with the winning car averaging 71.61 mph. The race was over 110 laps, or 287 miles.
1925, Malcolm Campbell set a new land speed record of 150.86 mph.
26/5/1923, The annual Le Mans 24-hour race for sports cars was first held, on the Sarthe circuit. The winners, Andre Lagache and Rene Leonard, averaged 57.2 mph.
22/12/1913, British racing driver L.G. Hornsted set a new land speed record in excess of 120 mph at the Brooklands racing circuit in southern England.
26/6/1906. The first Grand Prix took place at Le Mans. The race was over 12 laps of a 65-mile triangular circuit at Le Mans. The race was won by Hungarian Ference Szisz, driving a Renault at an average speed of 63 mph.
2/1/1906. New French Darraq racing car set a speed record of 108 mph.
4/5/1904. Charles Rolls and Henry Royce agreed to join forces in the motor trade. Charles Rolls had set a new land speed record of 93 mph in Phoenix Park in Dublin in 1904, and now agreed to sell cars produced by Royce. Rolls had won the Thousand-Mile Trial of 1900, which had popularised motoring in Britain. Henry Royce was an electrical engineer from Manchester who produced his first car on 1/4/1904, a ten horsepower model praised for its excellent running.
12/1/1904. Henry Ford set a new car speed record of 91.37 mph. The record was set on frozen Lake St Clair near Detroit.
13/4/1902. A new record car speed of 74 mph was set in Paris.
4/3/1899, Count Gaston de Chasseloup Laubat raised the world land speed record to 57.6 mph (92.96 kph), see 18/12/1898.
18/12/1898, At Acheres, near Paris, Count Gaston de Chasseloup Laubat set a land speed record of 39.23 mph (63.13 kph) in a Jeantaud electric car.