The secret history of jaywalking: The disturbing reason it was outlawed — and why we should lift the ban
Tensions between cars & pedestrians aren’t new, but pedestrians are working to make jaywalking the rule of the road
RAVI MANGLA AUGUST 21, 2015
“The criminalization of jaywalking may be in part justified if crosswalks were in fact safer, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Crosswalks that aren’t supported by traffic lights or stop signs are no safer than unmarked zones. One study published in Transportation Research Board of the National Academies found that the risk of injury inside the painted lines was the same as it was outside of them. On roadways with multiple lanes and high-volume traffic the crosswalk proved the more precarious option. A safety study conducted by NYU Langone Medical Center was even more decisive in its findings: Of those injured, 44 percent had used a crosswalk with the traffic signal on their side, while 23 percent had been struck crossing mid-block. In what can only be attributed to dreadful luck, 6 percent had been injured while on the sidewalk.
To compound the issue, most crosswalk buttons are nonoperational. Only 9 percent of buttons in New York City, the Department of Transportation estimates, are responsive to user commands. The remaining 91 percent, which are set to fixed timers, serve as placebos for Type A personalities or germ-laden playthings for restive children. In car-centric cities like Dallas, the number of functioning buttons is even lower. Many of these buttons worked at one point but have been deactivated to improve efficiency and flow. Explanations of this sort are par for the course. Efficiency has been the mantra of the urban planning profession for the better part of 60 years. However, by prioritizing efficiency above all other ideals, such as equity and livability, we strip pedestrians of their personal agency and demote non-drivers to the status of second-class citizens.”
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