Take, for instance, the scene that occurred on lower Broadway in New York City on the afternoon of December 23, 1879, an "extraordinary and unprecedented blockade of traffic" that lasted five hours. Who was in this "nondescript jam," as the New York Times called it? The list is staggering: "single and double teams, double teams with a tandem leader, and four-horse teams; hacks, coupes, trucks, drays, butcher carts, passenger stages, express wagons, grocers' and hucksters' wagons, two-wheeled 'dog carts,' furniture carts and piano trucks, and jewelers' and fancy goods dealers' light delivery wagons, and two or three advertising vans, with flimsy transparent canvas sides to show illumination at night."
Just when it seemed as if things could not get more complicated on the road along came a novel and controversial machine, the first new form of personal transportation since the days of Caesar's Rome, a new-fangled contrivance that upset the fragile balance of traffic. I am talking of course, about the bicycle.
-- Tom Vanderbilt, Traffic (2008)