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Guilty of ‘Crossing While Elderly’

I don’t use a cane, which gave me a clear advantage.

The challenge? Trying to cross the street where 82-year-old Mayvis Coyle got a $114 jaywalking ticket from an overeager LAPD crime-buster for not making it across in time.

I was at the intersection of Foothill Boulevard and Woodward Avenue in Sunland, near Jimmy-Dean’s Char-Broiled Burgers and not far from the grocery store Coyle had walked to with the aid of her walking stick.

“This is the first ticket I ever got in my life,” an angry and crusading Coyle told The Times. She wants the “Walk” signal changed to allow more time for pedestrians. “I think people can see I’m being sincere. I’m speaking for all those seniors who can’t get across the street.”

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Foothill Boulevard is four lanes wide and roughly 75 feet across. The police claim that on Feb. 15, Coyle -- whose case is now drawing international attention -- entered the intersection after the “Don’t Walk” sign started flashing. She disputes that and suggests the Los Angeles Police Department officer should have gotten off his motorcycle and helped her “when he saw me struggling” instead of writing a ticket.

For my investigation of the Mayvis Coyle case I took up a position at the northeast point of the intersection for a while, watching the flow of traffic, and noticed the light barely allowed time for cars to get across Foothill on Woodward.

In fact, the light is green for precisely 10 seconds, and the pedestrian sign doesn’t even give you a “Walk” sign unless you first press the crossing button.

So I pressed it. The electronic sign gave me the “Walk” signal -- a stick figure on the move. The stick figure, I noted, did not have a cane.

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I stepped off the curb, moving at a normal gait, and before I could even make it to the double yellow line in the middle of the street, the “Don’t Walk” sign started flashing.

Should I run for my life, and if so, in which direction?

Imagine poor Mayvis Coyle, weighted down with groceries and picking along with a cane. Why not put hurdles out there to make it even tougher on seniors?

I was able to make it across just as the flashing light switched to a solid “Don’t Walk,” but barely. In all, I had 27 seconds -- a tough test for a senior citizen.

“Are you timing the light?” a driver asked, having read about Mayvis Coyle. “We’ve lived here for 10 years and you can never make it across this intersection in time.”

The driver, Nell Canter, had a strong opinion about Mayvis Coyle’s ticket.

“It’s obscene. You never even see a cop in Sunland,” she said, and now one shows up to write a jaywalking ticket.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants to jack up the garbage removal fee by 155% to pay for more cops. Maybe if cops weren’t wasting their time writing frivolous tickets, we wouldn’t need more of them.

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By chance, I was leaving the USC campus Thursday when I saw an officer writing a ticket to a cyclist. I didn’t know what was going on, but when I got back to my office I had an e-mail from reader Ethan Drogin saying cyclists were being cited for riding their bikes across intersections rather than walking them.

I know the police are trying to protect pedestrians and motorists, and yeah, it’s dangerous out there. But come on. You can cross the border illegally and be left alone, but we’re ticketing people crossing intersections? Anybody on foot or bike in this traffic-choked city ought to get a commendation, not a citation.

Take it to court, Mayvis. I’ll be with you every step of the way.


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