August 13, 1929
A pedestrian advocacy organization that has been not only long-lived but influential was established at a meeting at Essex Hall in London, England. The Pedestrians’ Association was formed in response to the dramatic increase in automobiles throughout England during the 1920s and the resultant road fatalities — a large portion involving pedestrians — that steadily grew into thousands per year.
Many people sought to guarantee greater safety for pedestrians on England’s roads during that time, but efforts to push for changes were easier said than done. The Pedestrians’ Protection Association, for example, had been launched in 1925 but was gone by 1929.
Those seeking to make the Pedestrians’ Association a more durable and effective group included journalist Tom Foley, who helped convene the invitation-only organizational meeting at Essex Hall and became the association’s first treasurer. An equally staunch and even more high-profile leader of the Pedestrians’ Association was Viscount Cecil of Chelwood. While Cecil’s biggest claim to fame involves helping to create the League of Nations and receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1937 for his service on behalf of that organization, he also devoted his considerable energies to improving pedestrian rights and safety in his native land.
Cecil served as the president of the Pedestrians’ Association from its founding to 1944. During those first several years of its existence, the association not only thrived but helped bring about some landmark achievements. These achievements included successfully pushing for implementation of drivers’ tests; creation of the Highway Code; and introduction of pedestrian crossings, which were initially marked with black and white poles topped by orange globes and eventually replaced by the now-familiar broad white stripes on the road itself. (The above photo features the London-based pedestrian crossing that appears on the cover of the Beatles’ 1969 album Abbey Road.)
The organization, which was renamed the Pedestrians Association for Road Safety in 1952 and has been called Living Streets since 2001, remains active today.
Additional information on the history of pedestrian advocacy efforts in England is available at http://plangate.no/trafikksikkerhet/Shared%20Space.%20Crossing%20the%20Road%20-%2027-1.pdf