There’s something of an unspoken rule among city residents of many major metropolitan cities, whether it be D.C. or San Francisco or New York City: If you’re standing at an intersection with traffic lights, no cars are approaching and you’re waiting at a red light, you can cross the street.
Now, this isn’t standard practice everywhere — nor is it probably a great idea on, say, an intersection by a highway exit or an extended, dual road. It’s also not much of a thing in super car-centric places like ’s 19th district, including portions of 2015 Vox explainer dives deeper into that.)
“What we wanted to do is make sure that there was fairness in enforcement, and also ensure that we could continue to encourage more and more people to walk to work, walk to school, walk in their everyday life without fear of being unfairly cited,” Ting said.
Ting pointed to tickets over jaywalking being outsized relative to the proportion of the crime, and largely affect poor and working-class residents — with a fine costing up to $250.
Assembly Bill 1238 would have banned fines for jaywalking “when there is no immediate hazard” and permitted pedestrians to “use a crosswalk on a yellow light.” The bill would still prohibit risky jaywalking, such as on a crowded throughway or on a highway.
It was advocated for by a number of bicyclist and walking groups in the state and the city of Berkeley, many of whom argued that the bill would have leveled the playing field for pedestrians in a heavily car-centric state.
“The concept of ‘jaywalking’ is fundamentally flawed and devalues people walking,” said Jodie Medeiros of Walk SF in a statement to SFGATE. “It continues the narrative of the driver reigning supreme over people who are not in cars.”
But the bill faced significant opposition from law enforcement groups, the most notable of which was the told the Los Angeles Times that the bill would “cause confusion and remove expectations drivers and pedestrians may have about safe roadway usage.” The organization did not respond to a request for comment from SFGATE.
Ting disputed this claim, noting that most Californians who jaywalk don’t think they’re doing anything illegal. “Right down to this very second, we probably have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Californians, crossing the street in the middle of the street right now,” he said. “I don’t think it’s creating chaos. I don’t think it’s creating confusion.”
Other experts, such as the Governors Highway Safety Association’s Richard Retting, have attributed an increase in pedestrian deaths not to jaywalkers, but to poor, inattentive drivers and larger vehicles like SUVs becoming more popular on the market.
And for other advocates in the legal sphere, the move to decriminalize jaywalking in tased to death by deputies working for the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office after one officer stopped him for jaywalking. The sheriffs were cleared of wrongdoing a year later. Elsewhere in fatally shot last year by two police officers assigned to be “homeless liaisons” after they stopped Reinhold for jaywalking.
Progressive legal and political organizations, such as the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the Los Angeles (Surfing) chapter, argued that safety on streets can be achieved without punishing jaywalkers.
“We can have safe streets without criminal punishment for walking — and we have seen this to be true in wealthy, white neighborhoods where jaywalking occurs but citations are not enforced,” Rio Scharf of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the when the bill was initially proposed in March.
And the laws around jaywalking have been changed in other states. Virginia enacted a similar law this year that decriminalized jaywalking by reducing it to a secondary offense — meaning that individuals cannot be cited solely for jaywalking. So, too, did Nevada.