Jaywalking Laws Need To Be Abolished

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.

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.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-10-16/jaywalking-laws-don-t-make-streets-safer

Life Now And after Lockdown – A Call To Action

We shouldn’t look forward to “back to normal”

From The Editor

Polli Schildge April 26th, 2020

Most of the world was experiencing an environmental and human health crisis before the onslaught of the Corona Virus. Vehicles were spewing pollution, and we were experiencing a human health catastrophe in crash deaths.  Air quality around the world has vastly improved with the reduction of driving, and the crash fatality rate has plummeted. (Unfortunately entitled drivers are currently speeding more.)

Taking glimpses of cities around the world: “The skies are clearing of pollution, wildlife is returning to newly clear waters”… But “how people react to the return of normalcy after the pandemic will help define the crises racking the environment… “A key question will be do we have a green recovery, do we seize the opportunity to create jobs in renewable energy and in making coastlines more resilient to climate change?”

We need to reduce the use of motorized vehicles, and reduce vehicle speeds to protect the environment and human life.  Milan, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, and Oakland, CA are beginning now and planning for the future, creating networks of bike lanes, and widening sidewalks to enable more walking.

The plan in Milan, Italy , which will “boldly and beneficially re-imagine our lives, landscapes, and future on the other side is hailed as an “excellent example of #buildbackbetter and activists like Greta Thunberg called for “crafting similar schemes for other major cities like New York, London, and beyond.”

The World Resources Institute cites cities like Bogota, Mexico City, London, Chicago, and Philadelphia which are opening streets to people for walking and biking, and planning permanent infrastructure. “Today’s COVID-19 lockdowns could reveal solutions that have far-reaching benefits for cities long into the future, pointing the way to more resilient, accessible and safe urban transport. A city with more cycling is a city with healthier people, safer streets, cleaner air and better connectivity.”

Asbury Park’s Plan for Walking and Biking, outlines incremental development of a network of bike lanes and walking infrastructure. There are discussions about future re-allocation of road space to provide for walking and biking, and to reduce traffic and parking problems. We believe that this is the perfect time to launch some of these plans and ideas. People are walking and biking more than ever now, and we’re demonstrating the need for more space. As the weather warms there will be more walkers and people biking, and our sidewalks are too narrow, and our streets are too accommodating for cars and trucks.  We can’t immediately build wider sidewalks, or instantaneously create bike infrastructure, but we can open streets to people, and reduce access to motor vehicles. Asbury Park can emulate other cities and countries where they have utilized tactical urbanism to quickly turn streets into places for people: New Zealand makes tactical urbanism a part of its national policy during the pandemic. 

 

This is a call to action. When the pandemic is over, will streets be even more clogged with cars, risking the lives of people walking and on bikes?  It doesn’t have to happen. We can start now to prioritize people, and not vehicles on our city streets. This article in The Atlantic sums it up. The Pandemic Shows What Cars Have Done to Cities.


New York City before the pandemic ERNST HAAS / GETTY

Let’s stay safe and healthy walking and riding bikes now, and let’s work to make streets safe for the most vulnerable users for after this terrible and challenging time has passed. We can learn from life during a pandemic, and work diligently to create a new normal.