What Giedion called “anonymous history” – the pathology of everyday technology – is a glimpse behind the curtain, a Burroughsian “naked lunch”, the moment you see exactly what’s on the end of your fork. A given is shown to be a complicated fiction, a plotted assemblage of dreams, nightmares and designs. There are few clearer examples than “Whose Street?”. Today, streets are for cars and pavements are for pedestrians and we are so accustomed to this arrangement that it is regarded as the natural order. When the car first appeared, streets were shared, and motor and foot traffic mingled. It was carnage, and a debate played out. Cars won, pedestrians lost. It could easily have gone the other way, and Norton shows why it didn’t.
In Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City, MIT Press, 2008