New. Before the advent of the automobile, users of city streets were diverseand included children at play and pedestrians at large. By 1930, most streets wereprimarily a motor thoroughfares where children did not belong and where pedestrianswere condemned as 'jaywalkers. ' In Fighting Traffic, Peter Norton arguesthat to accommodate automobiles, the American city required not only a physicalchange but also a social one: before the city could be reconstructed for the sake ofmotorists, its streets had to be socially reconstructed as places where motoristsbelonged. It was not an evolution, he writes, but a bloody and sometimes violentrevolution. Norton describes how street users struggled to define and redefine whatstreets were for. He examines developments in the crucial transitional years fromthe 1910s to the 1930s, uncovering a broad anti-automobile campaign that reviledmotorists as 'road hogs' or 'speed demons' and cars as'juggernauts' or 'death cars. ' He considers the perspectives ofall users--pedestrians, police (who had to become 'traffic cops'), streetrailways, downtown businesses, traffic engineers (who often saw cars as the problem, not the solution), and automobile promoters. He finds that pedestrians and parentscampaigned in moral terms, fighting for 'justice. ' Cities and downtownbusinesses tried to regulate traffic in the name of 'efficiency. 'Automotive interest groups, meanwhile, legitimized their claim to the streets byinvoking 'freedom'--a rhetorical stance of particular power in the UnitedStates. Fighting Traffic offers a new look at both the origins of the automotivecity in America and how social groups shape technological change. Peter D. Norton isAssistant Professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society at theUniversity of Virginia. The fight for the future of the city street between pedestrians, street railways, and promoters of the automobile between 1915 and 1930.
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