In Orwellian fashion, Americans have been stripped of the right to walk, challenging their humanity, freedom and health. Car culture, NIMBY-ism, class struggles, and fear of outsiders are making it harder for people to get around on foot, whether that's to get to work or just go out for a stroll.
As poverty moves to the suburbs, criminalization of walking intensifies. "Jaywalking" was the reason Michael Brown was first accosted, it is the offense that nearly sent a mother to jail for vehicular homicide when a drunk driver killed her child.
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. [more inside]
Interesting article at Slate, In Defense of Jaywalking, where the author describes how the media and others often slant coverage of pedestrian vs auto accidents--examples include San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe , and New York Post columns. Police, who are typically car-bound, are often biased in favor of other drivers. Not unexpectedly the Federal Highway Administration has curious language regarding walkers--"Still, almost no one can avoid occasional pedestrian status". Even the term jaywalking is commonly misused. Solutions? More money towards safer walking (including a reversal of funding policies that favor cars), better places to walk, pedestrian-friendly engineering, lower urban speed limits, harsher penalties for drivers that violate pedestrian's rights, and critical reading of the often selective and sensationalized media coverage of traffic crashes.
Historian assaulted then arrested for jaywalking in Atlanta. A historian at the "Historians against the war" conference in Atlanta was stopped for jaywalking. Being from the UK, he thanked the officer, then realized the officer didn’t have any name tag or identification. He asked to see the police officers identification, and the police officer took offense stating "See my Uniform!". The officer kicked the mans leg out, pushed him to the ground and handcuffed him. The police officer had 5 other police officers step on the historian causing bruises on his neck. After being in jail for 8 hours, he arranged 1000 dollar bail. He refused to accept a please bargain that would effect his green card, so the case was dropped.
Citizen wins 3-year battle on bogus jaywalking ticket, but his lawyer pockets most of the $27,500 settlement. Ahh, well, at least he fought the good fight and won.