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1920s Boy Scouts kicked people out of streets

Today's Dr. Gridlock column in the Post discusses the term "jaywalking," which reinforces the idea that streets are for cars and not people.

Photo by Daniel Hoye on Flickr.
"The street a hundred years ago was a place where anyone could go if they didn't make a nuisance or get in someone's way," said [Peter D.] Norton, a faculty member at the University of Virginia.

But the pejorative term for pedestrians that he found in a 1909 Chicago Tribune had become popular by the 1920s, thanks to auto advocates, who among other tactics got Boy Scouts to hand out cards asking pedestrians, "Did you know you were jaywalking?"

I'm buying Norton's new book, The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City.
David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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In the article the guy complains about being missed by six inches... HA In Rome, six inches was standard. I got hit three times by side mirrors. There however cars and people are in coexistence, and when you're hit its at very low speed. Cars and people can exist on the same street, without completely conceding the ownership to one or the other.

by Boots on Jun 8, 2008 11:51 am • linkreport


I think the most amazing thing about traffic in Rome is the Piazza Venezia. At this intersection, where the main street to the Vatican, the street to the Piazza del Popolo, the street to train station, the street to the Colosseum, and the street to the Circus Maximus and Aventine Hill all come together, there is no street light or even a stop sign. Yet, somehow people cross it without getting run over and I was told by my host, that fenderbenders are rare.

by Vadranor on Jun 8, 2008 12:41 pm • linkreport

Yeah, but the streets 100 years ago were filled with horse manure and mud.

by RJ on Jun 8, 2008 6:36 pm • linkreport

Piazza Venezia is still a mess, but yeah, very little problem crossing there, though you gotta be careful. In the four months I was there I think I saw ONE accident.

I think its our litigious culture that contributes to accidents here ironically. Its the "If its someone else's fault, I'll just hit him." I get the sense in Europe they don't have that attitude at all, rather they just would rather not be bothered.


The streets today in Rome are filled with feces still, albeit human and dog.... But which is worse, manure or diesel fumes? I wish that Rome was like Amsterdam with public toilets everywhere, made for a place that didn't reek of urine

by Boots on Jun 9, 2008 9:21 am • linkreport

I'd like to find a way to give cards to bicycle and segway riders telling them it is illegal for them to be on the sidewalks downtown.

by Andy on Jun 9, 2008 2:51 pm • linkreport

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