Rights of Passage
Sidewalks and the Regulation of Public Flow
Routledge – 2011 – 134 pages
Series: Social Justice
Rights of Passage: Sidewalks and the Regulation of Public Flow documents a powerful and under-researched form of urban governance that focuses on pedestrian flow. This logic, which Nicholas Blomley terms 'pedestrianism', values public space not in terms of its aesthetic merits, or its success in promoting public citizenship and democracy. Rather, the function of the sidewalk is understood to be the promotion and facilitation of pedestrian flow and circulation, predicated on the appropriate arrangement of people and objects. This remarkably pervasive yet overlooked logic shapes the ways in which public space is regulated, conceived of, and argued about. Rights of Passage shows how the sidewalk is literally produced, encoded, rendered legible and operational with reference to a dense array of codes, diagrams, specifications, academic and professional networks, engineering rubrics, regulation and case law – all in the name of unfettered circulation.
Although a powerful form of governance, pedestrianism tends to be obscured by grander and more visible forms of urban regulation. The rationality at work here may appear commonplace; but, precisely because it is uncontroversial, pedestrianism is able to operate below the academic and political radar. Complicating the prevailing tendency to focus on the socially directive nature of public space regulation, Blomley reveals the particular ways in which pedestrianism deactivates rights-based claims to public space.
'… Rights of Passage serves to document the particular rationality by which sidewalks are understood, regulated, and evaluated. Blomley argues that an inability to appreciate what leads to an engineer's narrow "goal of balancing street traffic in an inclusionary and rational manner" (p. 30) is to miss how such spaces for the public are reproduced over time. The book presents the perspectives of governing authorities tasked with sidewalk management; introduces prevailing laws, legal decisions, and design standards; and describes the history that shapes our collective understanding of sidewalks.' - Katia Balassiano, Journal of Planning Education and Research
1. Pedestrianism Pedestrianism and Police. Pedestrianism, People and Things. Pedestrianism and Social Justice. Overview of Contents 2. Civic Humanism and the Sidewalk The Sidewalk as Political Space. The Sidewalk as Civic Space. The Sidewalk as Walking Space 3. Thinking Like an Engineer Administrative Pedestrianism. Pervasive Pedestrianism. The Taken for Granted 4. Producing and Policing the Sidewalk Sidewalk Law; Obstruction and Encroachments. Other Sidewalk Rationalities 5. The History of Pedestrianism The Invention of the Sidewalk. The Reformist Sidewalk. Administrative Pedestrianism at Work. The Public Sidewalk. The Incomplete Sidewalk 6. Judicial Pedestrianism Introduction. The Public Highway 7. Obstructions of Justice? Speech, Protest and Circulation. Sidewalks, the Homeless, and Judicial Pedestrianism. Things and Bodies 8. Taking a Constitutional: Circulation, Begging, and the Mobile Self Introduction; Political Pedestrianism. Conclusions 9. Hidden in Plain View
Nicholas Blomley is Professor of Geography at Simon Fraser University, Canada.