It's a depressing read, yet a fascinating one, and the stuff about how the auto industry basically invented the concept of "jaywalking" to steal the streets from us is especially eye-opening:
Not to mention incredibly effective, since here we are in 2014 "Vision Zero" New York City and it's still your fault if you get run over by a car:
This, by the way, is a warning cheekily disguised as a summons, and the NYPD should really avoid any attempt at "humor," especially when death is involved, and especially especially when they can't wright too good:
So now we can add "hearby" to the official NYPD style manual, right alongside "helment:"
And using "pedestrian" as the plural of "pedestrian:"
Really, I think the only solution at this point is to take back the act of "jaywalking" from the Automotive Industrial Complex. We are, after all, Homo sapiens sapiens (the primate so nice they had to name us twice), a proud beast distinguished by--among other things--our ability to walk upright on two legs.
Hey, walking upright is a big deal. We don't do it just to look cute, either, like meerkats or dogs begging for scraps. No, walking upright is who we are, and we should be able to do it wherever the hell we damn well please--and that goes beyond the streets, too. You know when you're walking and you see some tourists setting up for a picture? Do wait for them to finish so you don't spoil the photo-op? I don't! No, I walk right through and "photobomb" that shit, because these boots were made for walking (and for riding, since they're SPD compatible). Oh, and what's that, cyclocross race marshall? You want me to use the course crossing? Portage this, Fancy Shants! I'll stroll right through that course tape like a racewalker crossing the finish line:
("Hey! I'm walkin' here!")
And as for PAs on film sets who ask me to wait while they finish shooting their scene, I have a simple response for them, and it's as follows:
"Oh, actually I'm in this scene. I'd show you my SAG card but I need two hands to carry this Grande Venti Trenta Pork Frappuccino. If you want to see it though go feel free to rummage around, I keep it in my pants flush up against my unwashed scranus. Wow is it ever hot today!"
Sorry to be so graphic, but I like to really drive the message home for these people.
Anyway, as far as how to take back our evolutionarily-given right to walk o'er hill and dale, the first thing we need to do is find a new word for "jaywalking." It should be something proud and important-sounding, like "priority traversing:"
Though then you run the risk of the whole movement being taken over by "vehicular pedestrians:"
(Vehicular pedestrian "taking the lane.")
I also think we should produce a series of PSAs highlighting just how important our right to erect bipedalism is. Think about it: over the course of our evolution we actually gave up the ability to easily fellate/perform cunnilingus on ourselves (though some of us do retain the vestigial ability), so walking upright must have been really fucking important to our survival. Those are some serious stakes! So I'm thinking a bunch of ads like this might do the trick:
If you do have the gift of auto-fellatio though, at least wait until you get to the other side of the street to engage in it. Otherwise you're liable to run over like the pigeon who can't lift the bagel he's found.
Really though, when you consider the consequences of what the Auto-Industrial Complex has done to us it's kind of disturbing. Consider a city block:
There are like 70,000 people per square mile in Manhattan, so how many people live on a block like this? Thousands? I don't know, but it's a lot--more than live in your whole shitty town. Now consider the fact that all of these people are only legally allowed to leave their block at four (4) designated access points:
BUT only if the little light says they can:
Kind of absurd, isn't it? It almost seems like martial law.
Of course, bear in mind I'm as guilty as anybody, since unlike David Byrne I own a car--dents, roof rack, AM/FM stereo with CD player and all:
("You're right, I don't own a car. But if it did it would have a Dolby tape deck with a broken auto-reverse and a Duran Duran "cassingle" permanently lodged in it.")
By the way, ironically, whenever Talking Heads come on the radio I turn it up a little, open the window (the one that still works), and relish the feeling of the wind running through what remains of my hair--because if nothing else, the man made some good driving tunes.
Still, if I'm going to drive around cranking the Byrne I should at least understand what I'm taking part in, and the whole "Murder Machines" thing happens to tie neatly into my latest obsession, which is old photos of New York. I couldn't care less about bike porn, but show me some good New York City history porn and I'll go weak in the knees and start trying to auto-fellate. It is pornography too, because there is nothing more tantalizingly out-of-reach than the past. Anyway, check out this old photo of a subway station from 1908:
Horses! Trolley tracks! Ferris wheel!
Here's a photo from that same subway station a decade or so later:
Note the cars have replaced the horses. Also, there's a bike, probably purchased via "Craigory's List:"
Here's street level, same station. They're jaywalking!
Did you notice the guy waiting for the Tweed Ride to roll out?
Anyway, same station again, and after a few more decades the cars get bigger and start blocking the trolleys:
And here's where we are today:
(Photo via here.)
Well over a hundred years later and the trolleys are gone (replaced with buses) and the subway station is as indispensable as ever, but see how it's been streeetched the fuck out to make way for the cars?
That kind of depressed me at first, but now I find it kind of comical. They just said, "Fuck it, let's stretch it!" Oh, there's the tweed rider's great-grandson:
Funny how there's always that one token cyclist there. I like to think it's this guy in a time-traveling "Twelve Monkeys"-type scenario:
Most importantly though, "What the fuck happened to the Ferris wheel?"
We may never know.
Anyway, the retro-grouch in my longs for the tweedy bucolic horsey days I never experienced, but the pragmatist reminds the retro-grouch that, while I was a lot less likely to have been hit by a car back then, I almost certainly would have gotten polio. (Also, rotting horses were a major problem back in the 19th century, so there's that.) It's the great Shell Game of Mortality I suppose--first we figure out how to save your life, then we invent a new way to take it.
In the meantime, I'll take comfort in the fact that, in the last 100-plus years, the two constants in New York City have been subways and bicycles, which just so happen to be by far the best ways to get around this town.