Thursday, June 17, 2010
Sometimes I go through ebbs and flows of more aggressive and cooperative stances with the world of driving. Lately reading the book Fighting Traffic, about the history of the dawn of the auto age in America, has me leaning a little more on the aggressive side. Automobile interest groups and drivers wrestled the purpose of streets from everyone else, often by bloody force (200,000 Americans were killed on roads in the 1920's, a majority were pedestrians back then). It was not uncommon in the early decades of automobiles on the streets for newspapers to depict the typical driver as Satan, and mass memorial services for slain children were common in urban places. Safety campaigns eventually brought down the proportion of pedestrian fatalities, but in the process began to highly limit what had been previously very liberal rights to those who walked in cities. Eventually "motordom", as the auto interests called them selves began influencing the entire design of cities around principles essentially tailored to sell more cars. Auto clubs tried to sell the idea of cars with sexy ads, and promises of freedom, but just as often they were launching campaigns against pedestrians, referring to them as bumbling idiots and creating the term jay walker, blasting against campaigns for car regulation with counter ads that fed on anti-government fears and even stoking racism at times. If we are going to create a culture change of the purpose and dynamics of city streets to be safer and more inviting for all users, we will sometimes have to play dirty too, and we cannot simply back down and make way for every driver who is quick to their horn.
at 2:11 PM Posted by Gary