Rick Prelinger of the Prelinger Library recently screened "Lost Landscapes of Detroit," public domain footage of the city at the height of the age of the automobile. The video is avaiable for free downloading, and, Rick hopes, "massive and widespread re-editing." 

He adds: "I need your help. If you have archival film of Detroit, preferably unseen (especially family and home movies), I'd love to connect. If the material looks as if it might fit, I'd like to speak with you about transferring it to high-quality video at my expense for use in the next program. This is a pro-bono project, and the help of many makes it possible."

This is a wonderful vision of a city shaped (on more levels than one) by the automobile, with many bitterly ironic moments. At the beginning, for example, Detroit is re-imagined through "trick photography" to be devoid of cars (similar to David Yoon's photoshopped re-visioning of Los Angeles as carfree). The point: "Any picture of America without automobiles is hopelessly out of date."

But after decades of witnessing the social and ecological damage cars have caused, today many people are trying to design post-car cities, as in the following film:

"Fixing the Great Mistake" is a new Streetfilms series that examines what went wrong in the early part of the 20th Century, when our cities began catering to the automobile, and how those decisions continue to affect our lives today. In this episode, Transportation Alternatives director Paul Steely White shows how planning for cars drastically altered Park Avenue. Watch and see what Park Avenue used to look like, how we ceded it to the automobile, and what we need to do to reclaim the street as a space where people take precedence over traffic.

Jeremy Adam Smith


Jeremy Adam Smith

Jeremy Adam Smith is the editor who helped launch Shareable.net. He's the author of The Daddy Shift (Beacon Press, June 2009); co-editor of The Compassionate Instinct (W.W. Norton

Things I share: Mainly babysitting with other parents! I also share all the transportation I can, through bikes and buses and trains and carpooling.