Car Privilege, as Enforced by the LAPD

This is quite a striking piece from the NYT:

In a city of seemingly endless highways — with its daily parade of car accidents, frustrating traffic jams and aggressive drivers — the Los Angeles Police Department these days is training its sights on a different road menace: jaywalkers.

…the enforcement has struck many of the pedestrians — the new kids on the block — as more than a little one-sided and strikingly strict. When Adam Bialik, a bartender, stepped off the curb on his way to work at the Ritz-Carlton a few blinks after the crossing signal began its red “Don’t Walk” countdown, he was met by a waiting police officer on the other side of the street and issued a ticket for $197.

Like Matt Yglesias was writing the other day, this has little to do with safety, and everything to do with enforcing a normative value that cars are the best method of transportation. It’s of a piece with a much longer and broader campaign against public transportation of any kind (including sidewalks) and for cars everywhere. From Robert Moses’s city-wrecking freeway-building spree in New York and across the country, to the auto industry’s war on trains and streetcars, dominant culture both private and public was actively trying to stamp out walkable urbanism for the better part of two generations.

However, from this point in history, an absurd jeremiad against jaywalking looks like a weak backlash. Walkable urbanism is clearly where things are going, and Los Angeles is actually spending huge money on public transport upgrades. The police will come around eventually.

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Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper is national correspondent for the Week, and a former web editor for the Washington Monthly.