Monday, December 23, 2019

Satirizing Pedestrian Licenses in 1919: Not Enough has Changed

Stay out of the way!
As the City publicizes the "safer crossings" program, it reinforces the false equivalence between those in fast and powerful cars and other vulnerable road users. "Nothing can substitute for personal caution," they say. Not slower speeds and less driving?

Faux balance and egalitarianism
in the City's recent release on "safety"
The rhetoric still minimizes that it is the drivers who employ lethal force and a "dangerous instrumentality." It redirects and makes potential victims responsible for their safety. "It's still up to you..." (and if you get hit, it's your own damn fault).

We've seen this before. A deadpan piece of satire from 100 years ago today is not in fact so distant from our current recommendations.

December 23rd, 1919

From the piece:
The licensing of pedestrians who use the public throughfares, and the examination of these same pedestrians to determine their ability to keep out of the way of automobiles is suggested in a set of rules and regulations received by the secretary of state's office from an anonymous Portland writer, Monday. The proposed regulations follow:

1. Pedestrians crossing street at night shall wear a white light In front and a red light In the rear.
2. Before turning to the right or left they shall give three short blasts on a horn at-least three Inches in diameter.
3. When an Inexperienced automobile driver Is made nervous by a pedestrian, he shall Indicate the same, and the pedestrian shall hide behind a tree until the automobile has passed.
4. Pedestrians shall not carry In their pockets any sharp instrument which may cut automobile tires.
5. Dodging automobiles, pedestrians shall not run more than seven miles an hour.
6. Pedestrians must register at the beginning of each year and pay a license fee of $5 for the privilege of living. There shall be no rebate if they do not live the entire year.
7. Each pedestrian before receiving his license to walk upon the streets must demonstrate before an examining board his skill In dodging, leaping, crawling and extricating himself from machinery.
8. Pedestrians will be held responsible for all damages done to automobiles or their occupants by collision...
And here are two contemporary exhortations from this fall. There's not that much difference between them and the earlier satire. They testify to the way autoism prevailed and normalized shifting the burden for safety onto people walking and indemnifying drivers against fault.

The typo suggests this was not really very thoughtful
A City PSA earlier this fall

Responsibility always shifted to those on foot - twitter
We saw in Arizona that software for an autonomous car was programmed to ignore people crossing the street outside of a marked crosswalks. The manufacturers of robot cars are going try to make people walking use special transponders, special clothing, or stay only in marked crosswalks at designated moments. They are going to inconvenience people on foot to maintain the convenience of people using the robot cars. And because of the asymmetrical lethality of the two modes, walking and driving, without compensatory regulation, the cars will be in a position to make their power play stick.

The satire from 1919 is too close for comfort.

Previously on jaywalking and our wayward framing on safety:

Historical notes
Contemporary notes

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