The culture of walking And how cars drove people off the streets

Emmitt Square today, with, clockwise from lower left, Eddy, Fountain, Sabin, West Exchange, Francis, Exchange Terrace and Dorrance streets entering or leaving the "square."Originally posted By Mar Abad (@marabad) in Yorokobu Magazine.

Poor Cain is to blame for everything. That the feet have been nailed to the ground with the vehemence of a pick. That the feet have become lazy. That, as David Breton says in praise of walking, the car is now the king of daily life and has made the superfluous body for millions of people.

The human condition has become in a position sitting or immobile, assisted by a number of prostheses,” writes the French anthropologist. “Individual activity consumes more nervous than physical energy. The body is a remaining debris crashing against modernity (…). The feet serve mainly to drive a car or to hold the pedestrian standing momentarily in the elevator or sidewalk. This transforms them into invalids beings whose body just does more to ruin their lives. Moreover, due to underestimation feet are often a nuisance that could be stored without problems in a suitcase. “

Maybe Cain is at fault because their descendants built the first cities and sedentary lifestyles. Abel was always the nomad. Cain, the sedentary. Abel enjoying nature as it was and not tied to any place. It was the homo ludens. Cain, the sinner is bound and tried to tame a land to build a new world. It was the homo faber.

The philosophy of walking has distant origins. Rooted to the Bible itself, as recounted British academic Merlin Coverley in his book The Art of wandering. Jesus and Mohammed were also great walkers. But the virtues of walking are not confined to religious texts and legends. Socrates, in the V century BC, was a walker philosopher.” Even then they knew that thoughts emerge more easily when walking. Aristotle and his followers, the Peripatetics, also walked to spark your intellect.

The list of philosophers who associated their feet to their thoughts is endless. What did Hobbes, Kant, Rousseau, De Quency … and Kierkegaard. In 1847 the Danish existentialist wrote to Henrietta Lund in which he said:

Most importantly, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I‘ve been walking towards a welfare state and similarly, walking, walk away from the disease. I have walked up to my best thoughts and I have never found such a heavy thought that walking would not scare. “

Nietzsche said that sitting still, not moving, it was a sin against the Holy Spirit and that the most valuable thoughts arose when walking. The ideas you wrote in Thus Spoke Zarathustra come from long hours wandering the Italian hills of Rapallo, according Coverley. The philosopher wrote in The Gaya Science (1882): “I do not write only by hand”. The foot always want to also write ‘and, six years later, in a letter to Georg Brandes, wrote:Deep state of inspiration. All this is on the road, during long marches. Extreme body elasticity and fullness. “

The habit of walking alone in nature to escape the noise has been boasted by many philosophers. Not only for Nietzsche. So did Rousseau or Thoreau. The American was even flee civilization and took refuge for two years, in a literary cottage. There Walden wrote and from there ran every day for four hours, walking through the woods.

Walden, published in 1854, in the USA, by Ticknor and Fields (

The paths of history are marked with shoe prints. There are also rows of cartwheels, but the memory of human routes more human foot horse legs. The invention of the railway, in the eighteenth century was a turning point in the path of history. Especially in the West.

“The improvement of transport and infrastructure led to the figure of the traveler at the end of the eighteenth century also marked the beginning of a trend that would eventually replace the activity of walking through the use of a means of transport,” writes Merlin Coverley, Walking was soon relegated to the domestic sphere and became the form of displacement of women, the poor, the sick and the individuals who stubbornly rejected speed and clamor of metropolitan life.”

This rejection of the speed, noise and fumes that brought the inventions have emerged from the industrial revolution in Henry David Thoreau one of his most lucid voices. The American naturalist philosopher was one of the great defenders of the culture of walking. In 1862, in an essay entitled Walking and the Wild, wrote that walking is an expression of freedom and wildness. The poet detested the expansion of urban culture and, to escape it, was delivered to the “art walk“.

In the early twentieth century, the speed never went down the street. But in the decade of the 20’s and 30‘s auto industry began to fill the cities of cars. Individuals were not used to seeing appear suddenly a fast machine with no specific direction. Then there were separate spaces for humans and machines. The cars proved intruders on the harmonic coexistence of walkers and bicycles and also destroyed the social life that flourished in the street since early civilizations.

The cars were moving around obstacles and pedestrians ran to where they could when they saw them appear. Vehicles killed thousands of children each year,” says American journalist Roman Mars in his article The Modern Moloch: “Many people saw the car as a killing machine. A cartoon in a newspaper even compared to the car with Moloch, the Phoenician god who sacrificed children.

The deaths of pedestrians were considered public tragedies. In cities were built parades and memorials to the children run over and killed by cars“, he continues. “Mothers who lost their children in the streets received a white star in recognition of the loss.”

An article in The New York Times, published in November 1924, said that the horrors of peace seem as terrifying as the horrors of war. The car looms as a much more destructive than a machine gun. The daredevil bikers cause more deaths than guns. The man in the street seems less certain that the man in the trench. The major lethal factor is the automobile. He left after destroying their way in 1923.

That slayer image threatened to ruin the auto industry. But it is not so easy to fight a market heartless. Sector companies partnered in a pressure group called Motordom. The lobby launched a public relations campaign, devised by EB Lefferts, who circled the accusing finger.

Do not blame the car.
Blame human recklessness “

The lobby of automobile clubs shot to kill. He focused his communication in the younger audience to change the mindset of future generations, according to an article in The Atlantic Cities called The Invention of Jaywalking. They financed programs and road safety education in public schools to make children believe that the streets were for cars. It was they who had to stop to avoid interrupting the passage of a vehicle and never the reverse.

Sign prohibiting a pedestrian crossing the street in Singapore.

While in Cincinnati, growing anger against the abuses pedestrians. The academic at the University of Virginia Peter Norton in his book Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City, in 1923, submitted 7,000 signatures in support of a law limiting vehicle speed to 40 miles per hour. The automobile clubs thought that this limitation would reduce its sales and redeployed all their artillery. They sent letters to all owners of cars in the city and told them that this measure would condemn the USA the same fate as China, the country, in his view, further back the world. And besides, they hired attractive women to invite men to lead the propaganda against the law. Both positions are met in a referendum and the machine won the man.

The automotive industry was becoming stronger battle after battle. He did it in public opinion and the law. The lobby customary law had ordered urban life for centuries and managed to impose a traffic law that turned the streets into territory for cars. The pedestrian was relegated to the edges of the road and also could not leave the exclusion zone where the new urban development had relegated.

First, they sought a name loaded wickedness jaywalker. In the early twentieth century, jay was a pejorative term referring to rural people. Therefore a jaywalker is someone walking around town like a jay, gaping buildings around and completely unaware of traffic passing their side”, Roman writes. Then it criminalized: “The term originally was used to belittle those who crossed the path of other pedestrians, but Motordom him a legal term for people crossing the street at the wrong place or the wrong time.”

You wander the street became suspicious activity. Wander seems an anachronism in a world in which man reigns rushed: enjoy the time, place; running is an escape, a way to give the slip to modernity, writes Breton in praise of walking: A shortcut in the frenetic pace of our lives, proper way to take away.”

French says that our feet have roots. Were made ​​to move. But in Western societies and nobody looks at as a means of transport. Not even for shorter distances or climb stairs. Walking has become

“a recreational activity, self assertion, seeking tranquility, silence and contact with nature trails, trekking, popularity of walking clubs of old pilgrimage routes, especially the Santiago recovery ride .

“The way in which denigrates massive walk in daily use and its parallel revaluation as a means of entertainment are facts that reveal the status of the body in our society,” he continues. Prowl, so little tolerated in our society as silence, it stands in opposition to the demands of powerful performance, the urgency and absolute availability at work or for others.”

The hiker, according to Breton, has become anachronistic character’:

The city is transformed into distances to be traveled with the desire not to waste time. The functionality comes first, “he writes in his book. The sidewalk is a straight line to be traveled fast,” and that is the same speed that “kills the street to make it a functional space travel (…). Walking around the city is an experience of tension and surveillance. The proximity of the cars is a permanent danger, though his behavior is supposedly governed by the rules of the road .

Resistance to this expulsion was extended as much as he could. Not so long ago children played in the street and adults drew chairs to the curb to make it in the community room of all the neighbors. Cars overwhelmed these two habits and turned these scenes into something quite exceptional in the West.

Walking has become, in a sense, a form of activism, nostalgia or resistance. Walking is a sensory journey, and hikers often seek to discover those details that hides and destroys the city.

The background music has become an effective weapon against a certain phobia of silence and aggressive way to capture the attention of passers-by shops” thinks Breton. The urbanite is not comfortable in spaces bathed in silence. Runs away or is quick to add sounds to make you feel safe, talking loudly, leaving the car radio on or the phone to call someone to comfort you. A quiet and peaceful world eventually becomes a disturbing world in which they feel lost all accustomed to the noise. “

This resistance to a world for cars has never quite dead. Many people constantly claim that public space is not dissipated at all. Several European cities are building bike paths and pedestrianized historic centers have in recent years. But, at the same time, 60 million vehicles are added to the world’s roads each year. And the abuses have not disappeared. Every year 270,000 people die overwhelmed by a vehicle, according to a recent BBC article titled Pedestrian power to shape future cities. These cars also make increasing pollution and sedentary lifestyles. More obese and heart attacks.

A century later still struggling passers more walkable cities. In Cincinnati they did not succeed but people insist movements. In Europe call cities 30′ so no vehicles exceeding that speed. Also claim back public space because it not only snatched the traffic. Some cities, like Madrid have made many public places in cement concourses for sale to the highest bidder. Bars rented a floor that was all before to deploy its terraces. Brands rent that space where maybe before there were trees, riding events.

The association of passers A Pie voluntarily working in Madrid since 1995, so that politicians do not forget the walkers in their urban and social policies. We support walking as a means of healthy, economical and sustainable transportation,” said Veronica Martinez, a member of this association. “We also care about the public space. It is a place of play and sharing, but the massive introduction of vehicles has snatched these spaces people. Often cities put pedestrians to extreme situations. “

Walk function to begin with, is to publicize the rights of pedestrians and try to alleviate many of the fences where they are trapped in a city. “We propose simple solutions to the City or the person responsible for improving conflicting crosses, reclaim space for walking or extend the shelters are sidewalks,” says Mateus Porto Schettino, a member of the association. “You have to be careful about how we sell traffic. They say that they do for our safety but actually leave us without mobility. “

At the moment there are no plans for a new revised and updated edition of the Bible. But if this happens you can either Cain no absolute evil. Motordom also have theirs. #walkablecities


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