Atomic Highways

This post combines two of my recent obsessions — the atomic landscape and traffic (not to mention plugging my previous book), and the advertising image shown is typical of the times — playing on deep nuclear paranoia to help push a corporate agenda.

There’s an academic article, if not already done, to be written on the appearance of the mushroom cloud or other intimations of nuclear holocaust in 1950s advertising — I even have one in my collection for a paint company ‘now what should we paint the bedroom, honey? Nuclear winter?’ (no, it doesn’t really say that); in any case a mushroom cloud is no doubt more effective an image for road building than rote statistics about lost productivity.

In light of recent evacuation troubles (e.g., Katrina in New Orleans) with anticipated natural disasters, it’s hard to imagine that in a surprise strike on major population centers a nice new ribbon of asphalt would have really meant much to the average citizen.

Still, if you were going to hit the road, a “Survival Car” might have come in handy.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 at 8:38 am and is filed under Etc., Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “Atomic Highways”

  1. Jack Says:

    Outstanding, I’ve been looking for this type of rationalized explanation for some time in a concise form and this ad displays it well. Can you provide access in a pdf form for easier copying?

  2. Ken Lowery Says:

    When worlds collide…

    Andrew’s done a few great posts on atomic age mania/paranoia, partially to feed my own obsession kickstarted by the video game Fallout 3 (about which here, among other things. It’s him that put me onto Survival City, actually, which I’m looking forward to reading.

  3. Yokota Fritz Says:


    In the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s experience from a past disaster (the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake) that prompts investment into non-highway transportation. The partial collapse of the Bay Bridge and portions of other area highways highlighted the importance of alternate modes of transportation.

  4. Bossi Says:

    The more I dabbled in evacuation planning, the more convinced I became that in the event of an unanticipated disaster: transport lines to evacuate on could be destroyed, the population to be evacuated could be destroyed, and we may not want to evacuate the population, anyway.

    However, with anticipated events, I must agree with a previous comment with regards to the value of proper planning and mass transportation. Britain’s Operation Pied Piper during WWII was a stellar example of a successful evacuation (though it also provides excellent case material of what could be improved) and even generally highway-based evacuations for hurricanes in America have, by and large, been highly successful.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Transport column to me at:

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Upcoming Talks

April 9, 2008.
California Office of Traffic Safety Summit
San Francisco, CA.

May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
Bloomington, MN

June 23, 2009
Driving Assessment 2009
Big Sky, Montana

June 26, 2009
PRI World Congress
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

June 27, 2009
Day of Architecture
Utrecht, The Netherlands

July 13, 2009
Association of Transportation Safety Information Professionals (ATSIP)
Phoenix, AZ.

August 12-14
Texas Department of Transportation “Save a Life Summit”
San Antonio, Texas

September 2, 2009
Governors Highway Safety Association Annual Meeting
Savannah, Georgia

September 11, 2009
Oregon Transportation Summit
Portland, Oregon

October 8
Honda R&D Americas
Raymond, Ohio

October 10-11
INFORMS Roundtable
San Diego, CA

October 21, 2009
California State University-San Bernardino, Leonard Transportation Center
San Bernardino, CA

November 5
Southern New England Planning Association Planning Conference
Uncasville, Connecticut

January 6
Texas Transportation Forum
Austin, TX

January 19
Yale University
(with Donald Shoup; details to come)

Monday, February 22
Yale University School of Architecture
Eero Saarinen Lecture

Friday, March 19
University of Delaware
Delaware Center for Transportation

April 5-7
University of Utah
Salt Lake City
McMurrin Lectureship

April 19
International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (Organization Management Workshop)
Austin, Texas

Monday, April 26
Edmonton Traffic Safety Conference
Edmonton, Canada

Monday, June 7
Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals
Niagara Falls, Ontario

Wednesday, July 6
Fondo de Prevención Vial
Bogotá, Colombia

Tuesday, August 31
Royal Automobile Club
Perth, Australia

Wednesday, September 1
Australasian Road Safety Conference
Canberra, Australia

Wednesday, September 22

Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s
Traffic Incident Management Enhancement Program
Statewide Conference
Wisconsin Dells, WI

Wednesday, October 20
Rutgers University
Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation
Piscataway, NJ

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre
Injury Prevention Forum

Monday, May 2
Idaho Public Driver Education Conference
Boise, Idaho

Tuesday, June 2, 2011
California Association of Cities
Costa Mesa, California

Sunday, August 21, 2011
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
Madrid, Spain

April 16, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Gardens Theatre, QUT
Brisbane, Australia

April 17, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Centennial Plaza, Sydney
Sydney, Australia

April 19, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Melbourne Town Hall
Melbourne, Australia

January 30, 2013
University of Minnesota City Engineers Association Meeting
Minneapolis, MN

January 31, 2013
Metropolis and Mobile Life
School of Architecture, University of Toronto

February 22, 2013
ISL Engineering
Edmonton, Canada

March 1, 2013
Australian Road Summit
Melbourne, Australia

May 8, 2013
New York State Association of
Transportation Engineers
Rochester, NY

August 18, 2013 “Ingenuity” Conference
San Francisco, CA

September 26, 2013
TransComm 2013
(Meeting of American Association
of State Highway and Transportation
Officials’ Subcommittee on Transportation
Grand Rapids MI



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