Opinion: California Jaywalking Law a Step in Right Direction

A new law doesn’t fully decriminalize jaywalking, but bars law enforcement from issuing citations to pedestrians when crossings aren’t ‘truly dangerous.’

Read Time: 2 minutes

October 11, 2022, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Pedestrian stoplight with green 'walk' silhouette lit up and blurry city buildings in background

Steve Lovegrove / Pedestrian stoplight

Pedestrian advocates have long criticized jaywalking laws as a tool for asserting the dominance of the car on American roads and deprioritizing the needs of other road users. Now, states like California are recognizing the harmful effects of jaywalking criminalization, writes Peter Norton in an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times.

As Norton points out, “California’s new Freedom to Walk Act does not exactly decriminalize jaywalking. It leaves plenty of room for police discretion to ticket unsafe walking, and it doesn’t challenge cars’ domination of city streets.” But the law does acknowledge the need to make walking safer in other, less punitive ways that improve infrastructure and road conditions rather than punish pedestrians.

Norton outlines the rise of the automobile and, consequently, jaywalking laws, which became the norm after a strong lobbying effort from motor vehicle interests who explicitly called for “a radical revision of our conception of what a city street is for.” Norton walks the reader through the history of jaywalking laws in Los Angeles, where the first regulations took hold. According to Norton, “Their effort to protect their market for automobiles left us a legacy of highly restricted walking and the notion that streets are primarily for cars.”

Now, Norton writes, the Freedom to Walk Act, which limits enforcement of jaywalking regulations, is a step in the right direction to reclaim roads and shift the focus of road safety efforts to encourage more walking and multimodal transportation.

Sunday, October 9, 2022 in Los Angeles Times

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