Author Rudy Croken discussed his new book, “Ban the Automobile: Instrument of Death,” at a book signing and launch at Kensington Heritage Library on Saturday.
Croken spent the past six years leafing through newspaper stories, in archives and libraries to uncover a tumultuous time when automobiles were banned from Island highways – 1908 to 1913.
“The interest for the book came from a cross-Canada tour my wife and I did in 2010,” said Croken. “I was looking up the Island history from 100 years ago only to find there was no history on cars because they were not allowed on the roads. I started doing more research, and six years later I have a book.”
In the book, he outlines how the Island received criticism from all over the world for its horse-driven society, with about 90 per cent of Islanders being against the car.
“Cars scared the horses and everybody went by horse in the early 1900s,” said Croken. “The men would be working in the fields and the women and children would be out on the roads going to markets, and they claimed the roads were too narrow.”
Devil Wagons, Death Dealing Machines, Terror Wagons and Instruments of Death, were among the terms frequently used to describe the mechanized transportation.
“You couldn’t put the horse and the car on the same road, and the farmers built the roads, so they believed the roads belonged to them,” he said.
In 1908, there were seven cars on P.E.I.
They were only allowed on certain roads three days a week – Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.
“They were only allowed on roads where 75 per cent of the people wanted them.”
Finally, “people gradually got use to them,” said Croken.
In 1919 the ban was finally lifted and cars were given full privilege on the roads, every day of the week.