Our streets today are dangerous places for everyone involved—because we chose to turn our most prolific public spaces over for use as high-speed motorways. As we covered in detail in August, that evolution was a gradual one that took place throughout the 20th century and was orchestrated largely by the automobile industry as a way to sell more cars. Beginning in earnest in the 1920s, propaganda campaigns demonized “jaywalking,” scolded children for playing in the street, and redefined the term street itself. You can read all about it here.
If you’d prefer the condensed version, just watch the video clip above from truTV’s “Adam Ruins Everything.” The segment uses research from Peter Norton’s Fighting Traffic, a 2011 book chronicling the history of how the motor car took over American streets.
We made our streets into what they are today, and we can remake them again into something better.