“For being such a seemingly ordinary vehicle, the wheelbarrow has a surprisingly exciting history. This is especially true in the East, where it became a universal means of transportation for both passengers and goods, even over long distances. The Chinese wheelbarrow – which was driven by human labour, beasts of burden and wind power – was of a different design than its European counterpart. By placing a large wheel in the middle of the vehicle instead of a smaller wheel in front, one could easily carry three to six times as much weight than if using a European wheelbarrow. The one-wheeled vehicle appeared around the time the extensive ancient Chinese road infrastructure began to disintegrate. Instead of holding on to carts, wagons and wide paved roads, the Chinese turned their focus to a much more easily maintainable network of narrow paths designed for wheelbarrows. The Europeans, faced with similar problems at the time, did not adapt and subsequently lost the option of smooth land transportation for almost one thousand years…” From Kris De Decker’s Low-Tech magazine
All transport systems, including wheelbarrows, fit the size and culture of the economy they serve.
As a child living in what was then a much smaller economy than we have now, I remember trams and trolleybuses in Birmingham. And long train journeys to Cornwall for our annual family holiday – in trains with slip coaches in which carriages were uncoupled by the guard from the rear of the moving train. And sent off down branch lines to somewhere I could only imagine.
Everything was also much slower. I wonder if the shrinking economy of the future will also be slower.
I can imagine a future when our economy will be smaller and shrinking, and passenger and freight trams are powered by electricity generated by their parent companies. They will be running on tracks along roads which were at one time used by electric vehicles (EVs), which will turn out to no longer be financially viable.
In the past, transport links often generated new development, mostly unplanned. How will the transport/land-use link work in future?
So much that we are used to today will gradually pass into history.