Charles T. Brown and Angie Schmitt are two of the top experts on pedestrian safety in the country, who think “it is time for cities to consider decriminalizing jaywalking or eliminating the infraction altogether. ” Asbury Park Complete Streets Coalition could not agree more. Just last week a group of peaceful protesters were walking in the street front of the site of a recent police shooting when the organizer of the protest was arrested for being in the street. There was no traffic to obstruct, the group of people was relatively small, and the people didn’t present a danger to themselves or the community. While this wasn’t technically “jaywalking”, the crime was simply being in the street, so the police enforced the law which stopped the protest. Thankfully there were no serious injuries in this case.
For those who follow this blog, you know that this topic has been covered extensively, describing jaywalking as “fake” here, explaining the weaponization of jaywalking here, why it’s a crime here, and the history of jaywalking here.
The subject never gets old – partly because it’s origin surprises everyone who learns about it, and critically because jaywalking been used in the extreme to target Black people (mostly men and boys) who are unjustifiably arrested and killed.
This ProPublica story, “Walking While Black”, was presented at an event in 2017 by Charles Brown at Rutgers University, which I was fortunate to attend. The study reveals the numbers which attest to the outrageous percentages of Blacks being stopped for “jaywalking” in Jacksonville, Florida. These statistics are not unusual in cities all over the US.
It’s time to get rid of jaywalking laws everywhere and create streets for people, rather than for prioritization of automotive traffic. It’s time to reallocate police responsibilities, to examine and restructure traffic enforcement by police, and for a complete reevaluation of policing culture.
9 Reasons to Eliminate Jaywalking Laws Now
They’ve rarely protected pedestrians, and their enforcement is racially biased. Two street safety experts say there are better ways to curb traffic violence.Angie Schmitt and Charles T. Brown 1. Jaywalking is a made-up thing by auto companies to deflect blame when drivers hit pedestrians.
Although jaywalking is foundational to the way we think about streets and access today, it is a relatively young concept. As University of Virginia historian Peter Norton explains in his book Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City, the notion of “jaywalking” — “jay” being an early 20th century term for someone stupid or unsophisticated — was introduced by a group of auto industry-aligned groups in the 1930s. Prior to the emergence of cars in cities, no such concept existed; pedestrians had free rein in public right-of-ways. But as city streets became sites of increasing carnage in the early days of America’s auto era — about 200,000 Americans (many of them children) were killed by cars in the 1920s — automakers sought regulations that would shift blame away from drivers.