Many of Rome’s famous sites sit within
the city’s Limited Traffic Zone, where
motor vehicle access is restricted.
Ancient Rome had its traffic problems, too, and used some of the same
techniques being tried in our big cities
today to solve their problems.
Rome’s narrow streets were not
marked “One Way” but in effect they
were, because each driver sent a runner ahead to hold up traffic at the
other end of the street or alley until
the chariot had passed through.
The fringe parking plan used in modern large cities to relieve the downtown
parking problem was used in Rome in
the days of Julius Caesar. In the Roman
day there were 12 hours of “daylight”
adjusted according to the season. Private vehicles were forbidden on the
city streets from dawn until two hours
before dark. A traveler coming to Rome
had to park his carriage at the city gates
and continue into town either on foot
or in a carrying chair or litter.
Traffic officers in ancient Rome
belonged to a corps originally organized to guard against fires. They were
officially known as Vigiles, but popularly called the “little bucket fellows.”
Most traffic restrictions and regulations were lifted at sundown, but the
Vigiles handled the situation when
two wagon drivers would get into a
noisy dispute about the right of way.
The police-firemen in Rome were freed
slaves, Kenneth D. Matthews Jr., of the
University of Pennsylvania’s Museum,
reports in Expedition, 2: 22, 1960.
Women drivers were not a problem
in ancient Rome. In the third century B.C. a law was passed forbidding
women to ride in carriages. Twenty
years later the ladies of Rome forced
the repeal of this law but during the
first century A.D. the restriction was
again in force.
Congestion in ancient city isn’t a thing of the past
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