By far the biggest change in transport occurred with the arrival of the motor car, though it was slow to make its impact initially as its was only affordable by the rich. The first car to hit the streets of Sydney, a 1900 De Dion Bouton, chugged its way along Harris Street, Pyrmont, in April 1900.

By 1911, there were 3,975 cars, three vans and 2,788 motorcycles on Sydney’s roads. By 1939, the numbers had mushroomed to 216,443 cars, 85,742 vans and lorries and 23,009 motor cycles. By comparison with horse drawn vehicles, in 1900 there were 35,218 horses kept in the metropolitan area which were mainly privately owned and used to pull sulkys. Sydney had 155 coachbuilding establishments which employed 1,754 people. On Castlereagh Street between Circular Quay and King Street there were seven coachbuilders and one coach importer. By the end of World War II, only a handful remained, and then only in the outer suburbs.

In 1920, when the average weekly wage was £4/14/-, a new Chevrolet cost £545. By 1926, the weekly wage had risen to £5/2/11, but the cost of a new Chevrolet had fallen to £210. Sydney’s first petrol bowser was installed at a garage in Wentworth Avenue in 1926. The first traffic lights were installed on the corner of Kent and Market Streets and began operation on 13th October 1933. Pointsmen supervised the corner for nine months until the government was sure that drivers understood how they worked and were comfortable with them.

Under the first Metropolitan Traffic Act, which became law in 1902, a speed limit of 8mph (13kph) was imposed on roads within a 6km radius of the General Post Office in Martin Place. Councils outside of that area were free to set their own limits, most adopted a limit between 10 and 16kph. By 1937, the speed limit in built up areas had been gradually increased to 50kph and 80kph on open roads.

Photo; The first car imported Into New South Wales, a 1900 De Dion Bouton

Ref: (extract) Visit Sydney Australia


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