Matt Novak at Paleofuture lays out a key moment in the development of Motordom in this post: The Invention of Jaywalking was a Massive Shaming Campaign.

He picks up on Peter Norton’s 2007 paper, “Street Rivals: Jaywalking and the Invention of the Motor Age Street,” in which he describes how ridicule was recognized early on as the best socializing force to control pedestrian behavior.

And then wonderfully illustrates it:

Jay 2


Why the emphasis on jaywalking?

As Norton explains, “before the city street could be physically reconstructed to accommodate motor vehicles, it had first to be socially reconstructed as a modern thoroughfare.” And that social reconstruction meant redefining who belonged on the street, by poking fun at those who were seen as unwanted.

It worked: “By the 1920s, newspapers and auto organizations felt they could be openly hostile to pedestrians who were seen as reckless on city streets.”

Novak also provides a recent example of a protest and how shocking it can be when pedestrians walk where law, practice and common sense says they should not be:

Jay 3


If you want the experience for yourself, now is a good time to visit Point Grey Road (had to fit that in, didn’t I?).

When standing in the middle of the street to take photos, I found that approaching drivers were often disconcerted to see a human being where one should not be.  Their faces contorted, their hands instinctively moved towards the horn, and then … oh wait.

These are not jaywalkers.



[Okay, a cyclist is not a pedestrian.  Does the dog count?  I welcome any illustrative images people have taken of the use of PGR – pricetags at shaw dot ca.]