How "jaywalking" was invented

Sarah Goodyear relates the events that gave rise to the concept of "jaywalking," and describes what American life was like before the assumption that roads were primarily for cars became the norm, and when the streets were "vibrant places with a multitude of users and uses."

It wasn’t always like this. Browse through New York Times accounts of pedestrians dying after being struck by automobiles prior to 1930, and you’ll see that in nearly every case, the driver is charged with something like “technical manslaughter.” And it wasn’t just New York. Across the country, drivers were held criminally responsible when they killed or injured people with their vehicles...

“If you ask people today what a street is for, they will say cars,” says Norton. “That’s practically the opposite of what they would have said 100 years ago.”

Streets back then were vibrant places with a multitude of users and uses. When the automobile first showed up, Norton says, it was seen as an intruder and a menace. Editorial cartoons regularly depicted the Grim Reaper behind the wheel. That image persisted well into the 1920s...

The industry lobbied to change the law, promoting the adoption of traffic statutes to supplant common law. The statutes were designed to restrict pedestrian use of the street and give primacy to cars. The idea of "jaywalking” – a concept that had not really existed prior to 1920 – was enshrined in law.

The current configuration of the American street, and the rules that govern it, are not the result of some inevitable organic process. "It’s more like a brawl," says Norton. "Where the strongest brawler wins."

The Invention of Jaywalking (via Making Light)

(Image: Jaywalking, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from acidxedz's photostream)


    1. Unfortunately the US has been built around cars now to the point where your job is usually far away from your home and there are no reasonable public transportation routes to it.  We’ve built sprawling suburbs and on top of it removed much of the pre-car rail system.  Pandora’s Box is already open sadly.

      1. Yeah, but that isn’t like…the forever doom? It was a thing that was done, a concerted effort to break down public transit & create a nation of steel & petroleum consumers. You can’t just throw up your hands & say the cat is out of the bag; catch the cat & put it back in the bag! I mean, that is what “unsustainable” means. Either put the cat back…or suffer a massive collapse that destroys your economy (again).

  1. As usual, corporatism is all about making society liable for idiot uses of corporate products…

    1. It goes beyond that though, doesn’t it?  In this case we’re talking about creating an environment in which society became liable for all uses of a product, so that the car could thrive at the expense of all other means of transport.  The automobile was only able to come into its own when it had the freedom to travel at higher speed, which it obviously couldn’t do if it had to really share the road.  This was the first step in creating a completely car-centered culture.

  2. This old film of San Francisco’s Market Street in 1906 made the rounds last year. It’s a good example of   streets that were “vibrant places with a multitude of users and uses.”

    San Francisco Market St, Full & Repaired Version

    1. That’s been shopped. I can tell. I’ve been to San Francisco and they have traffic lights there on Market St. I’ve SEEN them.

    2. I’ve crossed the Place de l’Étoile at surface level.  There are no crosswalks.  You just launch yourself off the sidewalk and maintain a steady pace.  The drivers drive around you.

  3. In Japan, pedestrians still have the ultimate right of way (I saw a woman in her 70’s waltz into a busy intersection and not get hit). Then again, walking or taking public transit is much more common in Japan than the states.

    1. Japan has strict liability in cases of auto accidents. Probably a reason why they have the right away, aside from courtesy. 

      1.  Here in the US you can be maimed for life and not see a dime.  A senior woman who walks with difficulty near my home was hit by a teenage girl driver decades ago and was never able to collect from her.  She has to take care of her Alzheimer’s ill husband on top of it.  Pretty sad.

    2. I live in Canada and here pedestrians always have the right of way. That is the first rule of driving as I was taught.

      It may be a ticketable offense to cross at an unsafe location (this is just basic safety) but swerving around a pedestrian with the horn blaring will get you a way bigger ticket than jaywalking. If someone is in the street – however inappropriately – you stop. You don’t even need a law to tell you that – the alternative could cost a life.

      1. Pedestrians gotta do some work too; I hit a guy who was jaywalking…at night…dressed all in black…where there was no lighting. Literally only saw him when he was already past my front bumper! 

        Fortunately for me the police realized I wasn’t at fault. If pedestrians could just act with the basic self-preservation skills of any animal not transfixed by vehicle lights there would be a lot less accidents. 

        1. Yes of course everyone should be vigilant. Dark clothed pedestrians on rainy Vancouver winter nights are practically invisible!

        2.  We get that a lot here in the Phoenix area too.  I’ve seen lots of problems- first, drivers who don’t know the rules for pedestrians in crosswalks.  Except in school zones (which are marked fairly reliably) one has to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk when that pedestrian is on one’s side of the street, which basically is determined by which side of the double yellow line they’re on.  Some drivers will damn near hit pedestrians who are on their side, and other drivers won’t cross even though there’s both plenty of room to do so and  they’re on the other side.

          On the pedestrian side of things, if you’re crossing a busy road, it doesn’t really matter to you if you’re in the right or not if you’re dead.  Cross the street quickly dammit, don’t linger and if in a group, stay together.  Get out of the road when the right-of-way you’re crossing with ceases, and try looking before walking out into the street.  If I hit you with my work vehicle you’re probably just going to die, and since as an hourly employee I have no incentive to speed or to willfully break any traffic laws, odds are good that I won’t be found liable, and even if I am, that my employer will be saddled with the problem instead of me personally.

          1. I’ve had to cross the street in the middle of a severe asthma attack. It’s hard to run when you need all your strength just to breath. I’ve also had trouble with people making turns. Sometimes you just need to wait before that last lane because there are thirty people making right-hand turns and they’re not going to stop.

        3. I hit a guy who was jaywalking…at night…dressed all in black…where there was no lighting.

          There’s a headlight switch usually on the wiper stalk, or to the left of the steering wheel on the dash. Just FYI!

          1. I live in a city where many neighborhoods have no street lights. You’d be surprised how close you have to get to someone to see them in your headlights in a really dark area.

          2. The technical limitations of one’s vehicle do not excuse injuring or killing a pedestrian.

            If your headlights can’t sufficiently illuminate the area, maybe you should be driving a car with better lights.
            If you still can’t see what’s in front of you fast enough to react, maybe you should be driving slower.
            If you’re still in danger of hitting people, maybe you shouldn’t be driving a car.
            If you decide to get behind the wheel of a powerful industrial machine (a.k.a. car) without being sure that you won’t hurt anyone, you’re at fault.

  4. I’m not sure I agree with the conclusion (brawl vs. organic process).   It’s not like people insisted on walking all over railroad tracks in the early days of trains, and then someone passed laws limiting the tracks to people.  Or that Medieval folk insisted on getting in the way of galloping wagons [sic].   If you take the growth of ICE vehicles as a given,  creating right-of-way for them has pretty much got to follow.

    1. True, but the context here really is about urban areas such as New York City, etc, where roads predated the automobile by centuries. 

    2. might-of-way?

      We end up with crosswalks, and the expectation that we’re supposed to restrict ourselves to them. Sometimes we have to avoid the worst crosswalks, because we can’t see approaching drivers from them, and the drivers can’t see us as they approach. Sometimes we get hit at the ‘safe’ ones.

    3. It’s not like people insisted on walking all over railroad tracks in the early days of trains, and then someone passed laws limiting the tracks to people.

      That might have something to do with the fact that you don’t need to step out onto a railway every time you leave your house or any other building.

    4. “If you take the growth of ICE vehicles as a given, creating right-of-way for them has pretty much got to follow.”

      I think you have that backwards, actually.  Giving the car right-of-way allowed it to flourish in ways that it couldn’t have if it had been held back by the speed restriction of truly sharing the road. 
      Adding to what Antinous pointed out about railroads, in many places today people do share space with trains on railroad tracks, and it’s only the long stopping distance needed by trains that necessitates that you get out of their way.  Also, Mediaeval folk didn’t routinely have to deal with “galloping wagons” because horse and especially wagon traffic would have been traveling more slowly than pedestrians.

  5. I live in the UK, and have always found jaywalking to be a completely bizarre concept. I do appreciate the notion of road-user safety, of course – pedestrians should take care not to put themselves or motorists in danger when crossing roads – but it seems unnecessary to make it illegal to cross except in determined places. If it is putting no-one in danger, I will happily cross through stationary traffic, or at a marked crossing where the traffic lights are green for vehicles, providing there are no cars coming. 
    It just seems to me like the laws regarding jaywalking assume that nobody has any common sense. This may be true in some cases, but idiots will get themselves into trouble no matter what laws you pass.

    1. I came to say more or less exactly this.  How anyone could criminalise crossing a road, rather than driving without care (if the NYT article is to be believed), is completely beyond me.  Such a misuse of law to apparently protect people with no common sense whatsoever tends to sadly perpetuate the ‘all americans are stupid’ myth.

      1.  Conversely, I think I’m right in saying that it’s perfectly possible to get hit by a car here in the UK and the car user *not* be liable, because of the circumstances.  I’m pretty certain that the only places a pedestrian actually has right of way are at road junctions, and on crossings, etc. (of course).

        We seem to have a perfectly rational balance of responsibility without resorting to strange laws.

    2. This. I think it’s key that, because there’s no laws against it, drivers are taught to deal with it using tools like the hazard perception test, and kids are taught how to cross safely in school. Seems to work.

        1. I had completely forgotten those adverts! They were on all the time when I was a child – and I still remember most of the words! Thanks for the nostalgia trip.

    3. I just like it when people rush out into the street to cross it then once you stop they go nice and slow.

      1. Sort of like when I’m standing on the sidewalk waiting to cross and the fastest cars slow down to make sure that there’s no gap in traffic in which to cross safely.

          1. I’m pretty certain that drivers who notice someone on the sidewalk waiting to cross tend to check their speed.  And since drivers generally go a bit above the speed limit where physically possible, they then tend to slow down a bit, allowing the next raft of traffic to catch up and destroying the crossing gap.

  6. Hmm, wonder if I can find time today to go play in traffic.

    I thrive on the indignation emitted by smalltown road users when they are “forced” to share the roads people who don’t use cars. In fact, if I could find a way to convert scorn to glucose, I could go pretty much forever.

    1.  I grew up in a small town, and sometimes I get indignant just by having to share the road with other cars

  7. Readers of this post might want to spend time in a place like Taiwan.  In Taiwan, sidewalks are for parking scooters and for “street-side” vendors — no easy walking on the sidewalks.  The streets are used by pedestrians, scooters, bikes, cars, trucks and buses in a pell-mell fashion.  I think any romantic feelings for jaywalking might evaporate after spending time in a place like Taiwan and the Western readers of this post would then pine for the order of a nice, Western transportation system.

      1. “Lower Manhattan: Mike Rogalle, 58, Hit on Sidewalk By SUV Driver, Died From Injuries; No Charges.”

    1. I just have to step outside to see this…

      My city is basically this – there are either NO sidewalks anywhere, or they’re encroached, or they’re too high for people to actually get onto and walk (with frequent interruptions for driveways), or even when they’re there and usable, people are so used to not having them that they walk on the streets ANYWAY!

      It’s frustrating! Both as a driver and a pedestrian (I’m both, quite regularly)…

  8. was in tiawan, there was a single roundabout in this city, pretty much its a 10km/hour or less roundabout as people can walk which ever way, and you MUST look left, right, back and front just because a car/person/bike/motorbike saw that going the WRONG way has an opening instead of doing the 270* to get there. Also in some cities they allow scooters/bikes to go the wrong way on one way streets. so much more convenient :D

    1. Indeed.  Give me Western transportation order and rules over Taiwan’s accident-inducing chaos any day!  Statistics bear out how unsafe traffic is in Taiwan.

  9.  I don’t have a problem with people being indignant about car culture … though I am neither wealthy enough nor city-loving enough to live in a place like NYC,  I can recognize the personal and ecological benefits of not driving everywhere, and I can see that even if you’re lucky enough to be in one of the few places you can live without a car and not be professionally and socially handicapped, you’re then faced with the reality that the design of the city and the laws of the land are probably not set up in your favor.

    That said, I think complaining about jaywalking being a crime is silly. Requiring pedestrians to cross in certain places and at certain times is just about imposing a minimum of order and predictability in pedestrian and vehicular traffic. I consider it directly analogous to insisting cars always drive on the right hand side of the road (in the US anyway), obey traffic lights, and signal turns. There’s those videos on youtube of notorious intersections in India or less developed parts of Africa or the middle east, in which you can see these innovations aren’t totally necessary for traffic to flow. But imposing some law and order surely must be a safer and more efficient way of doing things.

    Rules benefit everyone. At least in regards to traffic laws.

      1. The best I can do without spending more than a few minutes on this is this review of literature concerning pedestrian safety. Judging by the oldness of the references and the monospaced type, it is a little dated, but most jaywalking initiatives were first launched a long time ago so it might not be inappropriate (I was looking for ‘before vs after’ comparisons, which should exist, but again I didn’t want to spend too much time on this).

        Section 5.3.1 concerns jaywalking. Based on the cited articles, anti-jaywalking campaigns and enforcement do have a positive effect on pedestrian safety, but this is somewhat complicated by the fact that communities that institute such policies simultaneously try to improve enforcement of vehicular traffic laws, so it is hard to determine what accomplished what. Though, I argue that traffic laws and traffic law enforcement itself is a good thing, so that isn’t an issue for me.

        The authors of the literature review have what I would call a ‘benign pro-car bias’, in that they assume cars are a permanent feature of urban life, and aren’t so liberal to think that they should be restricted in favor of pedestrians. The jaywalking section is in a ‘pedestrian risk taking’ chapter.  However, that ‘benign bias’ seems to be focused on pragmatically improving pedestrian safety, acknowledging that pedestrians will cross where convenient and will ignore pedestrian safety features (cross walks, pedestrian bridges, etc.) that are poorly placed, and therefore real pedestrian needs should be considered when developing these features.

    1. Most of the crosswalks are put at busy corners, where we have to watch for people making right-hand turns without checking right and hitting us, we have to watch out for people making last-minute left-hand-turns after the light changes and speeding up to avoid other cars and careening a couple feet in front of us, we have to watch for people who keep going until they’re past the sidewalk, and then we have to watch for people making another set of right-hand turns. It’s not predictable for us, and it’s dangerous for us.

      Some of the crosswalks are at blind corners. We’re supposed to cross there? People drive through there as close to full speed as they can manage, and sometimes they wouldn’t be able to see us, and we wouldn’t be able to see them, until we were ten feet apart. I avoid that death trap and cross forty or so feet down the road.

      1.  I’ve been almost hit by right-turners a couple of times too.  The experience definitely had made me more sensitive to the problem when I’m driving. The instinct is to be more sensitive to your left when you are turning right, because the left is where the high speed pieces of metal are coming from. But looking where you are going is obviously important too. :-)

    2. Shared streets work well for most users. Crossings and traffic lights are removed and pedestrians have free access to the roadway. Accidents have been reduced. The only concern is among blind pedestrians who would like clearer markings between pavement and roadway. The concept originated in the Netherlands and is now spreading. No rules are necessary. But that is European car culture for you!

    3. More efficient for drivers, less efficient for walkers.  Going most of your average city block, as I understand the idea (I’m a UK resident) is rather less trivial for a walker than a driver.

      In the UK there is no such thing as Jaywalking, there’s lots of cars, and look at this:

      Overall, about half the deaths per car, less than that per person.  It’s certainly not a binary between US road rules and Indian chaos – British roads are hardly safe, but they are relatively orderly.  
      I’ll admit I’ve never seen US roads for myself, but a friend of mine tells me the US driving test is massively simplistic compared to the UK test, and driving is much more aggressive in the US and relatively very defensive in the UK.

      Predictability, however, is another matter.  It can apply only so far in driving, and the skill of driving and the requirement of a test and licenses surely exist to ensure drivers are capable of dealing with that unremovable element of unpredictability. 

      In the end, though, jaywalking existing as a crime is clearly an undeserved privilege that has become a right.  It’s symptomatic of a reckless lack of constraints put on drivers of what, it must be said, is a deadly weapon as much as a means of transport.  If law does not compel drivers to be responsible, as they are the ones with control of the things that cause death and injury, it is surely absurd.

  10. NJ recently changed its “drivers must yield to pedestrians in cross walk” to “drivers must stop for pedestrians in crosswalk and not continue past the stop line until pedestrian has cleared the half of the road the driver intends to drive through or turn onto”. Based on how I’ve always interpreted “yield for pedestrians” I’m not sure what the difference is, but oh my goodness you should have seen the whiny letters to the editor and bitching online. Granted, online bitching by a minority does not say anything about the majority position, but I really don’t understand how anyone could complain about this law.

    Even more fun, a year after the law was in place my local town had a ‘crosswalk sting’ in which they had plain clothes cops walk in crosswalks and  then had other cops issue tickets to people who didn’t stop. This sort of thing makes people unhappy, to say the least, and leads to lots of complaining about traffic enforcement as fundraising and/or police harassment and miss-allocation of police resources. But it makes me almost giggle with glee. As a sometimes pedestrian, I appreciate police actions that make me safer. As a (sometimes self-righteously) law-abiding driver, I like watching the rule breakers finally get what is coming to them. And as a misanthropic Internet user, I love reading indignant complaints from people about how unfair it is they got a ticket for knowingly breaking the law, and how the police must be out to get them.

    1. For the past several years there have been bills in the legislature requiring drivers to stop for pedestrians waiting at the curb of a crosswalk and remain stopped until the pedestrian reaches the other side of the street.  Luckily none of these have been passed.

      New Jersey does have some interesting laws regarding pedestrians.  The law treats marked crosswalks and unmarked crosswalks equally.  There are unmarked crosswalks at every intersection.

      The state also requires drivers to yield right of way to a blind person using a cane or guide dog at all times except when directed otherwise by a traffic officer.  I have never encountered a blind person in New Jersey trying to cross a street.

  11. Where I live, the town has several places where the crosswalk signs don’t work, where there is no sidewalk, where there are trees where the street and sidewalk meet, and there is only a two block section of bicycle lane in the whole town. I am someone trying to loose weight by walking & biking, and this makes things difficult because I don’t want to walk in the street, and I don’t trust the drivers not to hit me if I bike in the street.

  12. Agree that the shift to deference to motor vehicles has been negative. And one can look at cities like Copenhagen, where they realized this shift was happening and took steps to reverse it (some 50 years ago), to see how much better the transportation infrastructure works when it accommodates pedestrians, cyclists, and public transit rather than being dedicated to private motor vehicles.

    But, we could even keep the concept of jaywalking and still make HUGE improvements in highway safety by simply holding motor vehicle drivers to the same standards we hold people in other situations. In the US, you can be just as negligent with a motor vehicle as in some other equally dangerous scenario, kill someone, and get off scot-free, whereas the same negligence in other scenarios results in jailtime.

    It’s crazy. We treat driving as though it’s a right, when in fact it’s a terrible responsibility, that one should only be taking on if they are willing a) to keep their entire focus on the task of driving and ensure the safety of those around them, and b) to go to jail if they fail in that responsibility.

    There is still room for a “not guilty” verdict if a pedestrians steps out into the street right into the path of a moving vehicle, but the fact is today that the vast majority of property damage, injuries, and fatalities caused by motor vehicles are directly due to the negligence of the driver of the vehicle that caused the harm. That we almost always let those drivers just walk away with no criminal punishment is itself, criminal.

    1. I have no idea what the penalties for hitting a pedestrian legally in a crosswalk are. I always assumed they’d be pretty severe, since a driver who did so is the law-violator in every jurisdiction I’ve driven in. I was not aware that US drivers got off scot free for killing legally crossing pedestrians — I might say, ‘citation needed’, because that’s a pretty incredible claim. But if true, I agree that’s a problem. And I agree 100% with the ‘driving is a privilege’, and while I think all traffic laws should be enforced (pedestrian, bike, or car), driving around big pieces of metal is a much bigger responsibility.

      1. If you read something like streetsblog regularly, this is certainly the impression you’d get. They try to get info from the city on pedestrian injuries or killings, track the number of drivers charged, etc. I believe the bottom line is “not many”. As a driver, it seems that pretty much the only way to get yourself in trouble is to literally be falling down drunk when you hit someone, or perhaps to raise suspicion by fleeing the scene. In most cases, police seem to sympathize with the driver, and the pedestrian or cyclist is assumed to be at fault.

        One of the problems is that in order to determine something like “was the pedestrian legally in the crosswalk” you need to thoroughly examine the scene, ask questions, find witnesses, etc. Most cities have a specialized “accident investigation squad” or the like to do this. But all too frequently, the officers involved will simply assume the motorist is blameless, call it an “accident”, and do not investigate the matter further or call in the investigation squad…

        If a driver hits a pedestrian who is legally in the crosswalk, and nobody bothers to find out that that’s what happened, does the “law-violator” ever get charged?

      2. Just a random recent example:

        A cab suddenly reversed direction in traffic and backed into a cyclist who was riding perfectly legally. There were witnesses. The cyclist went through the back window and was taken to the hospital with a “crushed face” and other injuries. Bicycle mangled and totaled.

        No charges.

        Another particularly memorable case:

        Unattended delivery van left in reverse. Jumps curb and plows into a class of preschoolers walking *on the sidewalk*. Kills two. DA refuses to prosecute operator.

        Anecdotal to be sure, but as streetsblog notes, in NY alone a pedestrian is killed every 36 hours or so. Certainly *some* of those drivers must be at fault. Yet drivers are hardly ever prosecuted, or even investigated.

    2. We almost always let publically-held companies that destroy economies, the environment, and peoples’ lives walk away scot-free (or with a fine).  Why the surprise that other segments of the population get the same benefits?  We selectively enforce justice here in ‘murrica.
      Also, there are localities (like Washington state) that are starting to make changes; see, for example, .  This is just a start, but it’s a promising start (it passed last year, and takes effet in June).  Of course, it’s happening on a state level.  Hopefully as these things move along, more laws will gain popularity amongst states.

  13. “when the streets were “vibrant places with a multitude of users and uses.””

    This is the most hilariously hyperbolic statement I’ve read in a while.

    Like I mean, I can get wanting to reach or return to a state where streets aren’t as car-centric, but this is like calling public restrooms or fire escapes VIBRANT PLACES WITH A MULTITUDE OF USERS AND USES. They’re just basic infrastructure.

    1. …this is like calling public restrooms or fire escapes VIBRANT PLACES WITH A MULTITUDE OF USERS AND USES.

      Fire escapes are a major neighborhood party venue in cities like New York. And public restrooms can be even livelier, if you catch my drift. Maybe you should move to a city that doesn’t roll up the sidewalks at sunset.

  14. In the past 6 months, streets in my London neighbourhood have been made UNsafe! 

    They removed all the barriers separating sidewalks from roads. They removed the rail keeping the people coming out the park gate from flowing into the street. The posts on the corners that protect people from being run down by cars are gone. The bottom lit pillarboxes in the medians are gone. They removed road signs telling drivers who had the right of way on the narrow road. (I noticed this yesterday. Now drivers have to communicate with each other.)

    The theory is that channelling pedestrians off the road allows cars to drive like they own the place. So planners do the opposite: they remove boundaries. They create uncertainty. No one really has the right of way. Everything needs to be negotiated. It’s a bit like the small village in France that installed geese instead of speed bumps. Although we are using our children instead of geese.

    1. They most likely did this because it has proven successful elsewhere. Making drivers pay attention reduces accidents. Not sure how long it lasts but the effect is real.

  15. Really? You happily live in a world where everything goes whoosh and now you are going to find fault in one little aspect of that enormous cultural phenomenon that was the twentieth century? How can you even think to separate out the automobile and its ascendancy from all the other crap that happened. It is just plain bizarre.

    1. Are you practicing your logical fallacies for a tournament? I’d say you’ve got a shot at a medal.

  16. So, the only “cool” modes of locomotion are one’s own shoe leather and pack animals traveling < 20MPH that are fueled by oats and carrots?

    There isn't a middle ground between the above mindset and that of Los Angeles' cult of the car?

    1. Wow, false dichotomy^2!

      A great (I would say the best) solution for really big (livable) cities is a kick-ass public transportation system that’s way faster than any car could ever be, a few major arteries and elevated highways for cars (mostly commercial traffic) and essentially no cars in between those major arteries (no sidewalks, pedestrians rule the scene, the driving is slow -> very few cars) and a whole load of pedestrian zones.

      And guess what, this exists in a number of places (including the biggest and one of the most densely populated metro areas on earth), people just go about their lives and don’t waste their time honking just because they like being angry at somebody.

      There are better and faster ways to move within a city than your own personal 2-ton block of steel.

  17. NYC is the only place where pedestrians will step off the curb against the light, in the middle of the block with a cell phone up to their ear (on the oncoming traffic side of course)  and when a motorist honks, essentially to save their life,  they will give that motorist the finger and then complain how “cars kill”.   Bikes are no better.

    1. The very fact that you portray pedestrians and cyclists as the irrational ones but leave drivers unscathed speaks volumes about the American car culture.

      1. Hang on… so you think it’s OK to step onto traffic in the middle of a block without looking (or thinking)?    What is your point precisely,  you want co0operation to mean, drivers should be the only ones responsible?

        1. First of all, your first sentence was demonstrably wrong; as has been stated here before, there is no such thing as jaywalking in some parts of the world (the only difference is, drivers don’t get irate and start honking). Also, yes, cars kill, so those people you incriminate are right; again, in many places a driver is responsible if he kills somebody, period. Which leads to people driving more carefully BTW. You drive that tank, it’s your job not to kill other people no matter the circumstances. If I ride a bike it’s my job not to kill small kids etc. If you can’t avoid a pedestrian at NYC traffic speeds (or any other situation) as a cyclist or driver you have no business driving; such is the law in many places.

          IOW, your comment isn’t about everyone being responsible at all; you single out pedestrians and cyclists (who are less likely to “kill” as you so eloquently put it).

      1. in the real world,  on a one way street, traffic comes from just one direction…Of course a biker might hit you going the wrong way! :)

    2. Yeah, those cyclists huh… I flipped off a driver on my bike once. He was speeding in a school zone, squeezed me onto a sidewalk, I flipped him off, and then he drove onto the sidewalk and tried to run me down.

      I learned my lesson! I will never give the finger to drivers again!

  18. With all the optimization for cars we have now, I don’t think they make much better time downtown that those in 1906. (This was meant to be a reply to the 1906 film of SF Market St.)

  19. Wow, there’s a lot of anti-automobile hate around here. I share everyone’s indignation about vehicular assault and manslaughter; I believe that drivers should be held liable when they hit pedestrians, and that everyone should share the road. But I enjoy driving and find it useful, just as I enjoy walking and cycling and find them useful. (I recently transitioned from driving my 40 mpg hybrid car to cycling to work instead.) I take full responsibility for my actions, no matter what mode of transportation I’m using; I don’t desire preferential treatment when I happen to be a pedestrian.

    Sure, there may have been a concerted effort over the decades to marginalize other forms of transportation in favor of the automobile, but corporate greed doesn’t tell the whole story. Cars are still awesome, despite the perhaps inorganic proliferation of car culture. I feel like a lot of the commenters here would like to see the “tanks” disappear entirely, and dream of cities (and not suburbs or rural routes) without 2-ton personal conveyances. Let me just say that, while they may not be steel, and they may not weight 2 tons, my visions of the future still contain high-speed personal conveyances, and I’m not seeking to prevent that.

  20. It seems like the US is the only country with death-penalty for pedestrians? Am I correct in this? Jaywalking is legal anywhere else? In Norway there are always traffic-lights for pedestrians as well as for cars, but it’s always been my understanding that these were more of a way to tell whether it’s safe to cross than anything else.. 

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