How the Media 'Walk-Shames' Pedestrians

Innocent until proven guilty—unless you're a pedestrian in the court of opinion.

September 17, 2015, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


No Walking

Rhonda Roth / Shutterstock

"Media outlets frequently shame walking in the way they cover issues related to walking, and these tactics contribute to a culture where death and destruction are accepted as unavoidable byproducts of our auto-oriented mobility norms," according to the argument of a recent article by Matt Steele.

To help members of the media be more deliberate in their presentation of the issues and politics surrounding walking, Steele goes on to highlight several examples of "walk-shaming," including:

  • Misunderstandings about crosswalks. Victim blaming, according to Steele, is especially easy when crosswalks are so poor in so many cities. In Minnesota, for example, every corner is a crosswalk—even when unmarked. That doesn't stop the media from implying the fault of the pedestrian when struck and killed or injured when crossing the street legally.
  • The use of the word "accident," which, according to Steele, "serves to entrench the fatalistic concept that, in the absence of intent, carnage is merely an occurrence of chance."
  • Walk-shaming advertisements.

Each of the above examples, and the others mentioned in the article, include recent, specific examples of the media perpetrating a walk-shaming narrative. 

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