William Phelps Eno

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William Phelps Eno (June 3, 1858 – December 3, 1945) was an American businessman responsible for many of the earliest innovations in road safety and traffic control. He is sometimes known as the "Father of traffic safety", despite never having learned to drive a car himself.

Eno was born in New York City, the youngest child of Amos R. Eno and his wife, Lucy Jane Phelps Eno. He attended Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven and Williston Academy, and graduated from Yale University in 1882, where he had been a member of Skull and Bones.[1]:9 Eno died of bronchopneumoma, and is buried in Center Cemetery, Simsbury, Connecticut.

Though automobiles were rare until Eno was an older man, horse-drawn carriages were already causing significant traffic problems in urban areas like Eno's home town of New York City. In 1867, at the age of 9, he and his mother were caught in a traffic jam. He later wrote, "That very first traffic jam (many years before the motor car came into use) will always remain in my memory. There were only about a dozen horses and carriages involved, and all that was needed was a little order to keep the traffic moving. Yet nobody knew exactly what to do; neither the drivers nor the police knew anything about the control of traffic." In 1900, he wrote a piece on traffic safety entitled Reform in Our Street Traffic Urgently Needed. In 1903, he wrote a city traffic code for New York, the first such code in the world, and subsequently designed traffic plans for New York, London, and Paris.

Among the innovations credited to Eno are the stop sign, the pedestrian crosswalk, the traffic circle, the one-way street, the taxi stand, and pedestrian safety islands.[2] His rotary traffic plan was put into effect at Columbus Circle, New York City, in 1905, at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, 1907, Piccadilly Circus in 1926, and Rond Ponte on the Champs-Élysées in 1927.

In 1921 Eno founded the Eno Foundation for Highway Traffic Control in Westport, Connecticut, today known as the Eno Center for Transportation. The Foundation is a non-profit organization with the mission of improving transportation policy and leadership. His Westport office has been recreated as the William Phelps Eno Memorial Center in the Simsbury Free Library in Simsbury, Connecticut.

Eno was awarded the cross of the Legion of Honour by the French government, and was one of the first honorary members of the Institute of Transportation Engineers. He was a member of the New York Yacht Club and the first owner of the steam yacht Aquilo, built in Boston in 1901.


  • The Science of Highway Traffic Regulation 1899-1920, 1920
  • Fundamentals of Highway Traffic Regulation, 1926
  • Simplification of Highway Traffic, 1929
  • Crime, A National Disgrace, 1938
  • The Story of Highway Traffic Control 1899-1939, 1939
  • The Parking Problem, 1942

Further reading[edit]

  • John A. Montgomery, Eno — The Man and the Foundation: A Chronicle of Transportation, 1988


  1. ^ "OBITUARY RECORD OF GRADUATES OF YALE UNIVERSITY DECEASED DURING THE YEAR 1945-1946" (PDF). Yale University. January 1, 1947. Retrieved April 18, 2011. 
  2. ^ The Father of Traffic Safety at snopes.com

External links[edit]