There used to be lots of room for pedestrians in our streets, before cars came along and pushed them all onto little sidewalks. In Toronto in 1944 it was becoming a problem, so they passed a new bylaw:
...pedestrians proceeding in opposite directions shall pass each other on the right, and no person shall run or race on any highway or crowd or jostle other pedestrians so as to cause disturbance, discomfort, or confusion.
In the wonderful Historicist column in Torontoist, David Wencer describes how it turned the city into a national laughingstock, but not before going back further with a little history from Peter D. Norton:
“In the mid-1920s,” Norton writes, “motordom began . . . [a] lasting campaign to keep school children out of the streets except to cross them, and to train them to cross streets carefully.” Police, city governments, and automobile organizations introduced programs designed to encourage the use of cars, and to get pedestrians to assume responsibility for their safety.
Wencer describes how one policeman, Edward Dunn, felt about pedestrians, particularly kids and seniors.
“Elderly people and children cause or contribute to more than 50 percent of traffic accidents,” he claimed. “Elderly people offend most by walking from behind one vehicle into the path of another.” Dunn also hinted at a personal desire for increased pedestrian regulation, saying “We have many regulations for car drivers, but comparatively few for pedestrians.”
Others suggested that the new law wasn't strong enough, and that it should be extended “to cover public gum chewers, people who tell you about their operations, pests who want to know whether it is warm enough for you, and so on.”
Unfortunately, enforcement was lax. One reporter...
...walked to City Hall from King and York, and reckoned that he passed 182 other pedestrians on the left side, while also committing other infractions such as jostling and running for a streetcar. Comparing his transgressions to the relevant fines, the reporter estimated that if the law were enforced, this stroll alone would have generated $9,030 in revenue for the City.
Today of course the law should ban talking on the cell phone while walking, texting, talking to friends more than two abreast instead of single file, and I would add a maximum width and wheelbase on baby strollers. Then Toronto would truly be a world class city.
Read the whole thing in Torontoist