Rights of Passage: Sidewalks and the Regulation of Public Flow, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Rights of Passage

Sidewalks and the Regulation of Public Flow, 1st Edition

By Nicholas Blomley


134 pages | 10 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Paperback: 9780415598378
pub: 2011-10-06
SAVE ~$9.19
Hardback: 9780415575614
pub: 2010-10-08
SAVE ~$31.00
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780203840405
pub: 2010-10-18
from $22.98

FREE Standard Shipping!


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

Table of Contents

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

About the Author

Nicholas Blomley is Professor of Geography at Simon Fraser University, Canada.

About the Series

Social Justice

Within a broad geopolitical and intellectual landscape, this new, theoretically engaged, interdisciplinary series explores institutional and grassroots practices of social justice across a range of spatial scales. While the pursuit of social justice is as important as it has ever been, its character, conditions, values, and means of advancement are being radically questioned and rethought in the light of contemporary challenges and choices. Attuned to these varied and evolving contexts, Social Justice explores the complex conditions social justice politics confronts and inhabits – of crisis, shock, and erosion, as well as renewal and social invention, of change as well as continuity.

Foregrounding struggle, imagined alternatives and the embedding of new norms, the Social Justice series welcomes books which critically and normatively address the values underpinning new social politics, everyday forms of embodied practice, new dissident knowledges, and struggles to institutionalise change. In particular, the series seeks to explore state and non-state forms of organisation, analysing the different pathways through which social justice projects are put into practice, and the contests their practice generates. More generally, submissions are welcomed exploring the following themes:

• The changing politics of equality and social justice

• The establishment of alternative, organised sites and networks through which social and political experimentation take place

• The phenomenology of power, inequality and changing social relations

• Techniques of governance through which social change and equality agendas are advanced and institutionalised across different geographic scales

• Institutionalisation of new norms (through official and unofficial forms of institutionalisation) and struggles over them

• Practices of resistance, reversal, counter-hegemony and anti-normativity

• Changing values, practices, and the ways in which relations of inequality and difference are understood

Social Justice is intended as a critical interdisciplinary series, at the interface of law, social theory, politics and cultural studies. The series welcomes proposals that advance theoretical discussion about social justice, power, institutions, grass-roots practice and values/ ethics. Seeking to develop new conversations across different disciplines and fields, and working with wide-ranging methodologies, Social Justice seeks contributions that are open, engaging, and which speak to a wide, diverse academic audience across all areas of the law, social sciences and humanities.

For further information on the series, or to discuss a possible contribution, please contact the Series Editors at:

Davina Cooper, Kent Law School, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, UK
Tel: +44 (1227) 824172

Sarah Lamble, School of Law, Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX
Tel: +44 (0)207 631 6017

Sarah Keenan, School of Law, Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX
Tel: +44 (0)207 631 6017


Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General
LAW / Housing & Urban Development
LAW / Legal History
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Criminology
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Human Geography
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / Urban