Jaywalking – or how streets got reserved for cars

Jaywalking – or how streets got reserved for cars

Bike Auckland

There’s an interesting (if rather sobering) article on this US blog and a related blog post on Copenhagenize about how “jaywalking” was invented as a concept – i.e. that it could be wrong for a pedestrian to freely use or cross a street.

It turns out that a growing, powerful lobby of car clubs and automobile manufacturers in the 1920s realised that this was the best way to cement their increasing dominance. To ensure – through laws, publicity campaigns and education (aimed particularly at children) – that if something happened to a pedestrian while crossing the road then it would be seen as really his own fault.

A classic reversal of responsibility, and all in the spirit of better road safety, because “roads are for auto(mobile)s” (see example from 1923).

As cyclists, we often still face the same kind of attitude, especially when tempers are high after cycling crashes – and cyclists ask for more consideration of their needs, pointing to the fact that over 2/3rds of all serious cycle crashes have the motorist at fault (NZTA statistics). Roads are for cars, some tell us. And where there’s a cycle path (no matter how bad, or inconvenient) we are told to use it – with some even calling for cyclists to be banned from roads like Tamaki Drive.

Well, no. Cyclists belong on roads too, not just paths. It is up to all of us to behave safely and courteously, drive and ride appropriately, and respect the fact that any road is a shared space, even where it is not officially a “shared space“.

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