In the history of roads, pedestrians have long been the dominant user class. In the early 20th century, the use of automobiles was increasing, and with it, the conflicts between cars and people on foot. This conflict came to a head in 1923 in Cincinnati
, when people were outraged about the number of children killed by autos, and a there was a petition that "would have required all vehicles in the city to be fitted with speed governors limiting them to 25 miles per hour." In response, the young automotive companies organized and started a move to give dominance to cars in the streets. The petition failed, and pedestrians had lost. This was a key moment, marked with the invention of jaywalking
Before cars, pedestrians and bicyclists had to compete with horse-drawn carts and horsebusses
that were increasing in number to move more people and goods. This brought up two issues: the sheer volume of manure produced by horses, and the danger from horse-drawn vehicles colliding with people
Cities didn't have to deal with a rising tide of horse poop, thanks to automobiles. But as the number of drivers increased, the conflict between pedestrians and vehicles increased. At first, drivers were considered at fault in auto versus pedestrian crashes, in part because driving was seen as a privileged sport
. The City Club of New York published municipal murder maps for the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn
, identifying where children under the age of 15 were killed in traffic accidents. Children struck and killed by cars were treated as a public loss, similar to the death of a soldier, complete with public mourning.
Part of the shift from roads being the domain of pedestrians to being land of cars where people should fear to tread was the "social reconstruction" of the space, and this came in wide-spread public shaming campaigns
. In San Francisco, jay-walkers were pulled into mock courtrooms and lectured about the perils of crossing the street. Boy Scouts handed people little cards that explained it was safe to cut corners when the traffic was horse-drawn, but "conditions have changed" with cars. Even the term "jaywalking" includes shaming, as "jay" is a simpleton, rube, or country bumpkin
Automobile drivers were actually riding upon the successes of early bicycle advocates
and the Good Roads Movement
, who pushed for better roads and unlimited access to roads. But the automobile makers had more money invested, and with that, they brought more clout to their movement.