The invention of one incredibly minor traffic offense had massive consequences for legal systems around the world. When did we lose the right to cross the street wherever and whenever we wanted?

Featured image: Pedestrians jaywalk in midtown Manhattan in the 1970s, before modern crackdowns on jaywalking. (Image source)

A photograph of London’s Marble Arch area taken in 1890. As you can see in this typical street scene, there are no street markings, pedestrians are crossing wherever they want, and carriages are driving on both sides of the street. (Image source)

A replica of Ransom E. Old’s steam carriage from the 1880s. (Image source)

An electric car from 1895. This was modified to be a racecar–although it didn’t go very fast by today’s standards. (Image source)

A 1908 advertisement for the Ford Model T, a gas-powered car that would change the automobile industry forever. (Image source)

A poster from 1937 reminding pedestrians not to jaywalk. (Image source)

A 1940s poster from the American Office for Emergency Management, which is doing a two-for-one PSA by encouraging you to take vitamins and not cross the street in the wrong spot. (Image source)

Another poster from the 1940s, this one by the AAA. (Image source)

Deputy Mayor Henry Scagnoli of Boston celebrates making jaywalking illegal in the 1960s. (Image source)

A modern road in the Netherlands with a traffic-calming double dip speed bump. Dutch urban design over the last few decades has prioritized traffic calming, road sharing, and pedestrian areas to reduce traffic fatalities. (Image source)

Seattleites wait for the light to change instead of crossing the street against the light during a Superbowl celebration. Seattle’s “polite riot” made national headlines as videos like this circulated.


Jaywalking and traffic laws

The history of the automobile

Miscellaneous sources