betacity


who owns the street?
January 4, 2015, 3:09 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,
I recently saw a guy in an oversize pickup almost hit a girl while turning a corner. He yelled at her – watch where you’re going, you’ll get yourself killed – in his mind it was her fault. Some of us onlookers yelled back at him and he drove off. He wasn’t used to not getting his two tonne way.
Below is a history of what it used to be like: manslaughter charges, the driver responsible not the pedestrian, streets for multiple uses, fatalities a public issue. Car lobbies changed all that and might became right and today we have bullies in a playground.

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.”

[…]

“If a child is struck and killed by a car in 2012, it is treated as a private loss, to be grieved privately by the family,” Norton says. “Before, this stuff was treated as a public loss – much like the death of soldiers.” Mayors dedicated monuments to the victims of traffic crimes, accompanied by marching bands and children dressed in white, carrying flowers.

[…]

Norton explains that in the automobile’s earliest years, the principles of common law applied to crashes. In the case of a collision, the larger, heavier vehicle was deemed to be at fault. The responsibility for crashes always lay with the driver.

[…]

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, The forgotten history of how the auto industry won the right of way for cars, Sarah Goodyear

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