Why we should get rid of jaywalking laws

That might possibly be true where you’re from, but I doubt it. It is absolutely false where I live.

Section 180 of my Motor Vehicle Act:
“ When a pedestrian is crossing a highway at a point not in a crosswalk, the pedestrian must yield the right of way to a vehicle.”

(“Highway” in this context being defined in the Act as including “every road, street, lane or right of way designed or intended for or used by the general public for the passage of vehicle”)

So, no. Pedestrians have right of way over vehicles in a crosswalk and nowhere else. You may wish to check your local laws. Because it is absurd in the extreme that a pedestrian can stride out into eight lanes of 80km/h traffic nowhere near an intersection and have any legal expectation that vehicles should stop for them, which is what you’re suggesting.


There is a big conversation in the City of Los Angeles surrounding its Vision Zero initiative to eliminate traffic deaths. With the initial roll out, there was a push to increase enforcement with citations against pedestrians and people on bikes. As mentioned in the article, this disproportionately impacts the poor, immigrants and people of color, and there was a strong push back on their behalf. The agencies are backing away from this now. The council (with a couple of notable exceptions) seems asleep at the wheel, refusing to fund what is really needed - traffic calming infrastructure changes - while continue to spend millions on settlements for people maimed and killed on our streets. (L.A. Vision Zero got $3M in 2017, while NYC put $115M into theirs)

To clarify, this includes “unmarked crosswalks”, which is to say pedestrians do have the right of way at all intersections and crosswalks.

1 Like

It’s not, they don’t have right of way to stride onto the road, whether at 80 whatevers or whatever but once on a road all other traffic has the obligation to yield to them.

They do not have the right to step onto the road unless it is clear.

1 Like

Jaywalking laws are the perfect conservative regulations: promulgated to benefit polluting for-profit corporations and then twisted to discriminate against minorities and the poor.


I’m afraid that you forget that right on red is legal virtually everywhere and that almost no drivers approach expecting to stop. Instead its’s a tap of the brake and keep rolling. Plus most intersections aren’t controlled by lights but instead boast stop signs.

Lots of research shows that pedestrians are most commonly hit when legally crossing in the crosswalk with a green light. Few peds are hit when crossing illegally mid-block.


Cars are much faster than animals (humans). Often it is safe when we step off the curb, only to have someone who drives just like everyone else—speeding and distracted—come zipping at you, ignoring red lights, yellow lights, stop signs, yield signs…


I’m open to the argument that selective enforcement is worse than the rule itself. But it really tweaks me when persuasive essays start with a false assertion. Not everybody jaywalks.

1 Like

It may be safer, but it’s never going to become the norm.

If it were discovered that it’s safer for drivers to avoid going straight through intersections, and instead turn right, make a mid-block U-turn, and turn right again - nobody would do that either. Because we want to get to our destinations in a reasonable time, so we want to travel in a fairly straight line.

Of course not. Do you think those who want to end drug prohibition are arguing that heroin is health food? No, the point is that drug prohibition does little good and much harm

The point is not that jaywalking is a good idea. It’s that the laws do

  1. Little good: people are already sufficiently motivated by a desire not to die, that the chance of a $75 ticket doesn’t significantly change behaviour (witness: people still use crosswalks just as much when there are no jaywalking laws).

  2. Much harm:

2a) When a legal crosswalk is obviously unsafe, people with the privilege to brave the fine will do so and cross where it is illegal and safe, accepting their low risk of paying a fine that is a small amount of money for them. People without the said privilege face a much higher risk of paying a fine that is a much larger amount of money for them, so they’re more likely to expose themselves to danger.

2b) If there are places where people are often getting hit or nearly hit while jaywalking, the jaywalking law permits traffic engineers to just blame the people getting hit for not complying with the law. In the absence of such a law, they have no “out” - they have to examine why the situation is unsafe - why are they judging jaywalking to be the best option, why is it not as safe as it appears, what can we do to make the place where it is natural and safe-seeming to cross, also be a place where it IS safe to cross?


For the longest time in Boston the ticket for jaywalking was $1- certainly only ceremonial, and people generally crossed the street wherever the hell they felt like risking their lives (although there is a social expectation that cars will stop for you, albeit unhappily and likely accompanied by a horn/finger.) Shortly before I moved away they raised the fine to $20, however I feel pretty confident that cops there still don’t bother.

1 Like

The only place where jaywalking was practically unknown (that I know of) is Germany. There, even the most rowdy punk will wait for the pedestrian light to turn green. But give a German pedestrian a zebra crossing, and bei Gott they will use their right and glare at the motorist who was going too fast and had to stomp the brakes.

Oh, and a jaydriver? In Germany, that’s called a Geisterfahrer, and they can be fatal on the Autobahn.

It depends on the city, in my limited experience.

In Berlin and Cologne, it seemed people would cross where and when it made sense to cross, which often but not always meant at the crosswalk with the crossing light.

If Munich had been the divided capital of the two Germanies, they wouldn’t have needed a wall - a road with crosswalk lights that never turn green would have been enough.


I nearly hit a jaywalker yesterday while making a legal turn. There were tall vehicles blocking the view of the street before the turn and someone was crossing 3 parked cars from the corner. It was night, they were wearing dark clothes, and it was close! So, no, jaywalking isn’t safer!

Another common jaywalk is walking against the “don’t walk” signal when there’s a green arrow for turning traffic, effectively cancelling part of the traffic flow design. This forces dangerous, aggressive confrontations between drivers and jaywalking pedestrians.


The way that one person jaywalked isn’t safer than an abstract hypothetical way they might have crossed at the intersection but didn’t. I’ll grant you that.

The average of how millions of people jaywalk mid-block, compared to the average of how millions of people cross at intersections - you’d need data for that.

1 Like

Yes! I jaywalk approximately 6 to 8 times a day. I also drive the same urban area at least twice a day, sometimes more, and I am still more worried about other automobiles than the jaywalking pedestrians.


It’s when a police officer does something so criminally egregious that they have to find a job at a different police department.

Your position only works if we pretend that there are always intersections. With traffic lights. That safely indicate when pedestrians can cross. (And if that’s not the case, the locality will add them.) And drivers respect that. The problem is, that’s never all true. I know plenty of roads that don’t have reasonably spaced intersections - to cross the road, one has to walk half-a-mile or more out of the way to the nearest intersection and back. (This leaves aside large areas of the country that have no sidewalks at all, where simply walking is legally considered jaywalking.) Intersections don’t necessarily have traffic lights. Intersections with traffic lights don’t necessarily have pedestrian crossing indicators. Often jaywalking is legally defined as crossing the road once the green light portion of the pedestrian crossing indicator is over, even if the pedestrian crossing indicator still displays more time to cross. Except it’s also common for the green portion to be a second (or less) in duration, making it impossible for some to avoid jaywalking even if they immediately step off the crosswalk into the street when the light changes (which isn’t always safe because there are still cars going through). Some intersections only display a pedestrian crossing light at all if you press the button - and guess what, buttons break (and the city/county might take weeks or months to fix it, if ever). I’ve seen intersections with pedestrian crossing indicators that were timed to coincide with oncoming vehicular traffic that also had the green light - at T-intersections, for example. And even if all of that is working ideally (impossibly), there’s still the issue, pointed out, that drivers violate the law, fail to see pedestrians and deliberately ignore their right of way. Pedestrians are necessarily “playing Russian roulette with cars” every time they step into the street (and occasionally on the sidewalk, too).

Honestly, I’m surprised it’s not higher. Seems to me that locally, pedestrians being hit make up the majority of traffic fatalities. (And a good portion of those are hit-and-runs.)


I had a similar issue with your OP, but I think this clears up the point nicely. Thanks!

because if walking is fucking illegal, you can chop of my bloody legs RIGHT now! JUST DO IT MAN! TAKE MY LEG! TAKE IT!!

1 Like

This is definitely a your mileage may vary situation, the data for a suburb will be quite different for where I live in one of the densest cities in the country where pedestrians can be extremely aggressive, literally stepping off the curb when you have a green light daring you to screw with them. I’ve had people walk out into a one-way street diagonally with their back to traffic and just stroll lazily across.

The situation described above with half mile between lights certainly begs for jaywalking, but here is a grid of 200 by 400 foot blocks, there’s simply no need.

1 Like

Very true, can you imagine living in a so-called developing nation where goats just walk out in front of you!

Perhaps jay-walking interfered or impeded travel when automobile technology improved their speed, leading to the Automobile lobbying industry.

Notice the pedestrian travel on main through fare on Market Street San Francsico 1906

video by Mike Upchurch