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Perspective

The Hidden History of American Anti-Car Protests

A wave of traffic safety activism in the 1970s helped reshape Dutch streets. But the U.S. had its own anti-car movement earlier, led largely by women.
Residents block a Philadelphia intersection on a July weekend in 1953. Stop signs were installed the following Monday.
Residents block a Philadelphia intersection on a July weekend in 1953. Stop signs were installed the following Monday.Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, April 1956/Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia

Among advocates of safe, sustainable, and bike-friendly mobility, the Netherlands has long been the success story to point to. But in English-speaking countries—especially the car-dominated United States—how useful is the Netherlands as an example to emulate? The question has been divisive.

Many have said that the Dutch example won’t suit the U.S.; its government presumably always favored cycling, and the American love affair with the automobile means the car will always come first here.