Monday, December 22, 2014

Woe to the endangered pedestrian

"The pretext Darren Wilson used to stop Michael Brown was jaywalking, the same offense for which Raquel Nelson nearly went to jail. Jaywalking, as Peter Norton shows in his landmark history Fighting Traffic, is an invented crime. It was the product of a massive publicity campaign orchestrated by automobile companies and allied motoring interests in the 1920s. Ostensibly aimed to promote safety, the real purpose of this effort was to push pedestrians off the street so that cars would move faster and be easier to sell.
Along with their invention of jaywalking, the automakers exerted a controlling influence over the nascent discipline of traffic engineering. Industry-funded experts denied that speed was to blame for an epidemic of pedestrian crashes. They designed new roadways with the overriding objective of moving cars faster.
As the years went by, engineering practices evolved to place those on foot at ever-greater disadvantage. Sidewalks disappeared, first on residential streets and then on main roads. Suburbs laid out to funnel traffic onto main arteries sent anyone who walked on long detours. Street corners were reconfigured to promote high-speed turns by cars. Highways widened and signage moved overhead, inviting freeway-speed movement on local roads."

 Some roads actually act as walls between communities.  And I hadn't thought about the economic division before, but it is certainly an aspect that should be considered when cities decide whether cares or people are more important.

No comments: