Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Jaywalking vs. streets as social spaces

The BBC did a piece on jaywalking in the US, "Jaywalking: How the car industry outlawed crossing the road," in response to the recent spate of enforcement incidents in New York City and Los Angeles.  It turns out that people from Europe find US jaywalking laws surprising, because it is not illegal in Europe.  (I worked with the reporter for the piece, although I didn't get quoted.)

The article is important in how it lays out the landscape for where we are today, where motor vehicles have been given the privileged place in the hierarchy of street users. 

When motor vehicles became more prevalent and capable of higher speeds, pro-vehicle forces campaigned to demonize pedestrian and other users, so that motor vehicles could be driven at high speeds on road network.  This is discussed by Peter Norton in Fighting Traffic - The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City as well as by others.

The article illustrates the point I make frequently, that culture is constructed, that the way we do things isn't some "natural order" but the culmination of events and actions.   (This point was neglected in a recent GGW post on the topic, "Putting pedestrians and cyclists first upsets the social order of the roads.") 

Opining about "how things are" without understanding how we got to this point tends to provide an incomplete and under-informed picture--not that this approach has stopped George Will.  When "the social order" reflects discrimination, how that discrimination was produced should be discussed.

The BBC piece includes a link to a BBC Radio 4 program on "shared spaces," called "Thinking Streets," which is also worth listening to, such as learning about the PAMELA Lab--Pedestrian Accessibility and Movement Environment Laboratory--at the University College London, which is an indoor full mock up of an urban street, which is used to test changes to the street environment.

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At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Aziza said...

Your blog helps me organise my thoughts. I don't remember subscribing to some of the stuff that appears in my inbox, and most of it turns out to be a waste of time to read, but your words have come to play a major role in my life and have even inspired me to play a more active role in society again (rather than just be angry inside). Living in a small south coast town in England, I can definitely say your lessons are universal. Don't stop teaching!

At 11:13 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

well, that helps me keep writing.


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