Jaywalking: How the car industry outlawed crossing the road.
The idea of being fined for crossing the road at the wrong place can bemuse foreign visitors to the US, where the origins of so-called jaywalking lie in a propaganda campaign by the motor industry in the 1920s.
“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.
Soon, he adds, car lobby groups also started taking over school safety education, stressing that “streets are for cars and children need to stay out of them”. Anti-jaywalking laws were adopted in many cities in the late 1920s, and became the norm by the 1930s.”
Adam Ruins Everything (or fixes everything, depending on how you look at it) reveals the derogatory origins of jaywalking and explains how the auto industry made it illegal.