This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is not supported by advertising, it's supported by the generosity of my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

The changing attitude towards death and destruction on Phoenix streets


In my lifetime I've seen some dramatic changes in the attitudes of the death and destruction on the streets of Phoenix. It's changed so much in just a few decades that nowadays a lot of people really can't imagine how dangerous it was, and how that danger was just taken for granted.

And I'm not talking about exciting danger. I'm talking about pain and misery. Sometimes I talk to Phoenix Old-Timers who remember the days of east Bell Road being more like a demolition derby than a road that someone could actually drive safely on. For whatever reason, in my younger days I preferred not to risk my life, and especially my car, just to drive on the streets of Phoenix. I even wore a seat belt before it became part of the law. Yes, I was an embarrassment to most people, who considered it part of the thrill of life to survive several close calls, and occasional wrecks, in order to go to the Circle K for a package of gum. I disagreed, and I still do.

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When I bought the house that I am in now, twenty years ago, I was very impressed by the safe engineering of the new roads in Glendale. They had medians, and turn lanes. Nowadays, of course, most of the major streets in the Phoenix area have them, but before those types of "traffic calming" devices became popular, and accepted, many streets of Phoenix were just high-speed free-for alls, as if freeways had been built with cars going in just about every direction, criss-crossing, going fast and slow. It was a recipe for disaster, and a lot of people suffered.

Of course, those dangerous streets that I remember were designed for very little traffic. It wasn't the fault of the street engineers that they became overwhelmed. The image above, of 48th Street looking north in the 1960s, is how the roads were used for many, many years. But by the time I got to Phoenix, these old roads were becoming overwhelmed with traffic, and carnage.