The story behind the one-way street:
One way streets are a relatively recent addition to cities in North America, most coming in the post-WWII era. Since the vast majority of streets here are wide enough to accommodate two vehicles side-by-side, the sole reason for originally putting in one way streets was to increase vehicle speeds.
In almost all North American cities, freeways were cut through downtowns in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. With one-way on ramps and off ramps descending onto city streets, it was a relatively easy step to then make those streets one way as well. Automobiles could easily access the freeways with fewer opportunities for accidents with everyone going in the same direction. Traffic flow could be sped up with the synchronization of traffic lights. As downtowns were seen mainly as business centres for workers to flee from after 5pm, the smoother the traffic flow the better.
But after a long history, the one-way street may be a thing of the past:
Now evidence shows that two-way streets are better for business, encouraging drivers to pay attention to business as they pass by.
We’ll see if two ways are better than one.