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This Great Public Transit GIF Was Missing One Thing: Bicycles

You may have seen a great GIF showing how public transit can clean up the streets. But what about other alternative modes of transportation.

This Great Public Transit GIF Was Missing One Thing: Bicycles
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Last week the GIF shown above ping ponged around several online news sites that care about public transit. It’s a tidy illustration. It shows a few dozen drivers in a traffic jam compared to a few dozen public transit riders in a full street car.

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So where did this handy illustration come from?

Tumblr, of course! Or Reddit?

In fact, the pictures were taken by the Toronto Transportation Commission in the early 1990s. According to the TTC’s Mike Detoma, they were from a school-transit partnership attempting to get transit and environmental concerns onto the high school curriculum. Students from a high school in Toronto’s West End spent part of their weekend making the photos possible. (And earning some extra credit, one would hope.)

“The main point of the photo shoot was to illustrate how public transit unlocks gridlock and spares the air,” says DeToma. “Statements that ring clearer with every passing year!”

The TTC’s own caption puts the images in the context of Toronto today: “It takes 55 cars to carry 61 commuters, who can otherwise be comfortably seated on 1 articulated streetcar heading downtown.”


But the message and the method of illustration are more universal. In fact, the GIF bears a striking resemblance to a campaign credited to the City of Münster, Germany from the year 2001, which adds a third element: what the street would look like if everyone was riding bicycles.

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That one, though, was still waiting for its GIF. So we made it:


About the author

Stan Alcorn is a print, radio and video journalist, regularly reporting for WNYC and NPR. He grew up in New Mexico.

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