Recently, I was researching an article – Cycling Facts – one interesting thing I came across is how in the 1920s American pedestrians were successfully demonised for crossing the road. A strong road lobby decided it would be good to shame pedestrians who wanted nothing more than to cross the road (and therefore inconvenience motorists). A law was passed making jaywalking illegal (In the US pedestrians can only cross a road at a marked crossing – if you cross the road where you feel like it, you could end up with a fine of $200). But, this law was also accompanied with a sophisticated campaign to make pedestrians seem outdated and ‘dangerous’. – Successfully taking blame away from the real cause of the surge in road accidents – speeding motorists.
According to the BBC
Clowns were commonly used in parades or pageants to portray jaywalkers as a throwback to rural, ignorant, pre-motor age ways.
Another ruse was to provide local newspapers with a free service. Reporters would submit a few facts about local traffic accidents to Detroit, and the auto industry’s safety committee would send back a full report on the situation in their city.
“The newspaper coverage quite suddenly changes, so that in 1923 they’re all blaming the drivers, and by late 1924 they’re all blaming jaywalking,” Norton says.
Breakdown of all trips made in the US
- Driving: 83%
- Walking: 10.4%
- Other (includes cycling): 4.2%
- Public transport: 1.9%
Source: National Household Travel Survey, 2009
Speeding drivers kill every year. In the UK, there are 2,500 deaths on the road. These are not caused by cyclists or pedestrians, but almost entirely by cars, lorries and buses.
Yet, speeding has no real social stigma. There is no outrage from British newspapers at the preventable accidents caused by speeding drivers. In fact, the only outrage you are likely to get is the fact that speeding cameras ‘caught you’ i.e. breaking the law.