Thursday, March 30, 2017

Woodward Ave., Detroit, circa 1917:

"When streetcars and private automobiles moved slowly, everyone shared the street. Speed--and a concerted effort by automobile clubs and manufacturers over the next decade--changed the dynamic forever."

"Drivers joined with automobile dealers and manufacturers to launch a war of ideas that would redefine the urban street. They wanted the right to go faster. They wanted more space. And they wanted pedestrians, cyclists, and streetcar users to get out of their way. They called this new movement Motordom....

"Motordom faced an uphill battle. It did not take an engineer to see that the most efficient way to move lots of people in and out of dense, crowded downtowns was by streetcar or bus. In the Chicago Loop, streetcars used 2 percent of the road space but still carried three-quarters of road users. The more cars you added the slower the going would be for everyone. So Motordom's soldiers waged their psychological war under the cover of two ideals: safety and freedom.

"First they had to convince people that the problem with safety lay in controlling pedestrians, not cars. In the 1920s auto clubs began to compete directly with urban safety councils, campaigning to redirect the blame for accidents from car drivers to pedestrians. Crossing a street freely got a pejorative name--jaywalking--and became a crime.

"Most people came to accept that the street was not such a free place anymore--which was ironic, because freedom was Motordom's rallying cry."
-- Charles Montgomery, Happy City, 70-71
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