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Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City
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Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  69 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
Before the advent of the automobile, users of city streets were diverse and included children at play and pedestrians at large. By 1930, most streets were primarily a motor thoroughfares where children did not belong and where pedestrians were condemned as "jaywalkers." In Fighting Traffic, Peter Norton argues that to accommodate automobiles, the American city required not ...more
Hardcover, 396 pages
Published June 1st 2008 by MIT Press (MA) (first published April 18th 2008)
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Jan 30, 2015 Erok rated it really liked it
I like a good origin story. This one is about that awkward time when all of the sudden, a whole bunch of automobiles started showing up in our cities. People without cars, kept doing what they had been doing, walking around, playing baseball in the streets, etc, but they inconveniently kept dying because people kept running them over. Turns out, as soon as the car came around, people with them automatically had a bloated sense of entitlement. The book drills down into the struggle between the ...more
Jan 01, 2010 Payton rated it it was amazing
Shelves: transportation
I got excited when I saw this since I've so loved finding out, via Wolfgang Sachs' "For Love of the Automobile," that our public streets were stolen by the auto industry less than a century ago -- and especially excited to see that someone has documented that process as it took place here in the homeland of car culture. Looks quite promising.
Oct 12, 2016 Macartney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: streets
A well-researched account of how forces redefined the street, its uses and its users in the early part of the 20th Century. Norton documents how the "Motor Age" was not inevitable but actually a concerted effort on the part of automobile manufacturers and enthusiasts to upend ancient pedestrian rights in favor of car domination. A valuable reminder that the paradigm in which we find ourselves is not "natural" or "by happenstance"; once we realize that, we then have the power to be able to change ...more
David Moss
The great amount of research that went into this work was unfortunately bogged down in the reading by a real issue with redundancy and a mediocre facility with writing in general. This lead me to wonder how much time was spent editing the book. If you are really interested in the topic of the changing use of the street to accommodate the automobile, then you might be able to struggle through it. However, if you're just looking for a fun quick read that seems mildly interesting, you're unlikely ...more
Aug 12, 2009 Sam rated it it was amazing
Academic and a little hard to read, but so much incredible information
Stroll into the middle of any American city today, and provided you are not in Detroit, odds are better than not you will be sent flying by a car. Streets are the province of the constant flow of automobile traffic, and anything else -- bicycles, horses, skateboards, pedestrians -- is most unwelcome. This is a comparatively recent development, however; for most of human history, streets were an integral part of the human landscape, the site of markets and ad hoc playgrounds. Fighting Traffic ...more
Apr 01, 2014 Charles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfic-picks
Charles Exner
Reflection 3
April 1 2013
Summary and Analysis

The third text for the class, Cotton Seiler’s Republic of Driver, is a look at the way in which automobiles and American culture have interacted since their introduction. The book begins with a lengthy academic discussion about the terminology used by Seiler which is helpful. The later chapters of the book deal with “individualism.” The first chapter discusses the beginnings of individualism in the United States and the later chapters focu
Michael Lewyn
Dec 11, 2014 Michael Lewyn rated it it was amazing
Before the 1920s, streets were shared space- pedestrians, horses and cars intermingled on major streets, while children played in minor ones. But as automobile speeds kept rising, thousands of pedestrians were slain. As a result, by the early 1920s, the automobile industry and related industries such as the auto parts, tire and rubber companies (or, as some industry representatives called them, "motordom") were on the run. Because of autos' bad public relations and the difficulty of driving in ...more
Jul 07, 2016 Art rated it it was amazing
A common-law tradition going back centuries ensured that all people and users have an equal right to streets and highways. This excellent book details the transition from that traditional expectation to the modern autocentric city in the United States. Battles to define uses of American city streets became most heated in the nineteen-teens and twenties, writes Peter Norton.

Automobiles were considered incompatible with other uses of the street, including pedestrians, bicyclists, streetcars, vend
Christophe Bonnet
A very, very interesting topic, on which Dr Norton gathered a considerable documentation. From that, he draws a compelling narration on how, in a very short time (the 20s, roughly), the American city street was retooled as a space reserved for motor vehicles.

In that respect, it is a nice historian work - even though he sort of falls into an error which, funnily enough, he denounces in his own conclusion: "to miss evidence from social groups that lost the struggle to shape a technology". The 20s
Tom Darrow
This book covers the transition of urban areas from a pedestrian dominated street to one dominated by cars. Norton breaks down the topic into three general topics.

The first is "Justice", where community organizations try to demonize drivers, teach safety to children and memorialize the dead. What results is a patchwork of ineffective local laws.

In the second section, titled "Efficiency", the cities bring in traffic experts and, as an offshoot of the Progressive Movement, they attempt to apply
Nick Black
Aug 25, 2009 Nick Black marked it as to-read
Recommended to Nick by: Tom Vanderbilt
Shelves: to-acquire
So, aside from textbooks, something like %80 of my recent reads have been from the MIT Press (why doesn't GoodReads provide me these and other stats at the touch of a button? Because Otis is reading malcolm "I sold 43897212098 books for every man, woman, child and barbershop in the world but can't afford a fucking shearing" gladwell during prime hacking hours is why, and because michael hasn't finished Hacker's Delight). I've got to say that I'm entirely satisfied with that ratio, since they bas ...more
Jan 30, 2013 Alice rated it liked it
This book tells the story (or tells nine semi-simultaneous stories) about how streets might not have just been rivers of cars but that ultimately the cries for "freedom" and "modernity" meant that pedestrians and street cars had to get out of the way. Incredibly well-researched and critical for understanding the alternatives to the urban transportation fabric that we have today.

The visual learner in me enjoyed all the old posters and photographs, but I also really wanted a good time line and so
Lisa Kane
Sep 08, 2012 Lisa Kane rated it it was amazing
I am compiling a reading list for transport planners on the 21st century, and this is top of the list. It's an engaging, humorous, but also deeply unsettling exposé of political and commercial interests in the early development of American city streets and it finally answers some of the questions about how they get to be the way they are....and why any country that followed the model is stuck in traffic.
Jul 29, 2015 Hunter rated it it was amazing
A disturbing expose on the early days of motor vehicles and how they transformed American roads from shared space to the extremely dangerous places they are today.
May 04, 2016 Timothy rated it it was amazing
Excellent review of the early days of automobility and the resistance to it in the first decades of the 20th century.
Nicholas Tulach
Aug 08, 2013 Nicholas Tulach rated it it was amazing
If i had to limit myself to one book on transportation "planning" this would be the one. Fantastic piece of work.
Alice Lemon
Jul 11, 2016 Alice Lemon rated it really liked it
While it was a bit dry even for me, this was an incredibly illuminating book on the origins of modern American laws and social conventions regarding city streets.
Sarah rated it really liked it
Jan 19, 2016
Gary Kavanagh
Gary Kavanagh rated it it was amazing
Sep 23, 2012
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Dec 31, 2015
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Joey Schwartz rated it really liked it
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Jan 13, 2016
Erik Swedlund
Erik Swedlund rated it it was amazing
Jun 29, 2012
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Jeff Butts rated it it was amazing
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