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William Phelps Eno

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William Phelps Eno

William Phelps Eno (1858-1945) was an internationally recognized pioneer in traffic control and regulation. Dubbed the “Father of Traffic Safety,” Eno developed the first traffic plans for major cities including New York, London, and Paris, and is credited with helping to invent and popularize stop signs, taxi stands, pedestrian safety islands, and other traffic features commonly used throughout the world.

Eno started out in his family’s real estate business, but his interest in transportation led him to concentrate his spare time on traffic reform. In 1899, at the age of 40, he left real estate behind and devoted the rest of his life to implementing his concepts for sane and orderly transportation. His “Rules of the Road,” adopted by New York City in 1909, became the world’s first city traffic plan. He also wrote the first-ever manual of police traffic regulations.

Eno gradually embraced multimodal transportation interests. He developed a plan for subways in New York City long before anyone else seriously considered the concept. He also became interested in maritime activities, supported railroad development, and instigated research in the 1920s on the future impact of aviation.

Eno died in 1945 at the age of 86. Ironically, he never drove a car during his lifetime. The Father of Traffic Safety, an avid horseback rider, distrusted automobiles.

The Eno Transportation Foundation

Eno Logo old
The Eno Center for Transportation’s original name and logo.

In 1921, William P. Eno created a corporation whose purpose was to continue his lifetime’s work – the promotion of safety on roads and highways. He endowed the Foundation and began the work of attracting other transportation experts and specialists in order to provide a forum for unbiased discussions that would lead to improvements in the movement of people and goods.

On April 21, 1921, Eno published the Foundation’s Articles of Association. These Articles laid out the purposes of the foundation:

  1. Devise traffic methods and rules
  2. Publish information on traffic
  3. Standardize general highway traffic regulations
  4. Familiarize the public with traffic laws
  5. Promote special traffic regulations
  6. Provide proper instruction of traffic police
  7. Promote proper understanding by all police that they have general traffic obligations when in uniform
  8. Furnish advice on traffic regulation generally
  9. Recommend physical changes, such as widening of roadbeds, to assist the movement of traffic

Since 1921, the Foundation has undergone many changes. What began as a Foundation for Highway Traffic Regulation has now morphed into an independent, non-profit think tank that works in federal transportation policy and transportation leadership development. What has not changed is Eno’s constant presence in the world of transportation.

If you have more questions regarding the history of Eno or its founder, contact Communications Manager, Ann Henebery, at ahenebery@enotrans.org.