A crackdown on jaywalking In Los Angeles has stirred up a fierce debate over how to protect pedestrians without unfairly targeting them.
A Downtown News story this week reports the Los Angeles police officers have been ticketing jaywalkers in the Historic Core and the Financial District. Penalties range from $190 to $250.
“We’re heavily enforcing pedestrian violations because they’re impeding traffic and causing too many accidents and deaths,” Lt. Lydia Leos told the newspaper.
Fair enough. Crossing on a red light is dangerous, as is crossing mid-block. The surprise is that the LAPD is enforcing the letter of the law, ticketing walkers who step into the street during the “countdown.”
The countdown begins when the hand on the crosswalk signal switches from white to a blinking red, and the timer ticks down to zero.
California law says you’re not supposed to set foot in the street once the “Don’t Walk” sign or red hand begins flashing, even if there is still plenty of time on the countdown.
That may be the law, but officers should be encouraged to use common sense and courtesy before enforcing it.
There is an inherent bias against pedestrians at intersections. Walkers get a few seconds to step into the street legally, while drivers get the full length of the green light.
How many times have you arrived at an intersection just as the countdown is beginning? There are 15 seconds to go before the light changes and you’re supposed to just stand there and wait for the next light cycle? That’s not practical or desirable in a dense, pedestrian-oriented environment. Walkers are good for the environment. They're embracing exercise and reducing traffic congestion. Cut them some slack.
Pedestrians can be careless and distracted, and that’s a real problem. Officers should ticket egregious offenders — and there are a lot of them — who dash into the street with a couple of seconds left on the countdown or who choose to cross mid-block when there is a crosswalk a few steps away.
But $250 is a big penalty to pay for stepping off the curb a few seconds late.