Jaywalking is decriminalized in California under new law
Pedestrians take note: A new law decriminalizes safe jaywalking in California.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed the “Freedom to Walk” bill sponsored by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco). The law, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, comes years after activists have argued that jaywalking rules disproportionately affect marginalized and low-income residents.
Under the new law, pedestrians would be able to legally cross the street outside of designated intersections without the threat of a hefty citation “unless a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of collision with a moving vehicle or other device moving exclusively by human power.”
Jaywalking laws were enacted in the 1930s as the auto industry emerged. Though technically prohibited throughout the country, ticketing is less common in many major cities such as Boston or New York. That has not been the case in much of California.
Angelenos can be spotted a mile away in other locales, waiting for the walk sign while locals jaywalk with abandon. What’s that about? And what happens when people do jaywalk here?
Pedestrians currently face a ticket if they cross the street outside of a marked crosswalk and don’t finish their trek before the countdown signal finishes. In some cases, ticketing has escalated.
Data cited by Ting’s office from the California Racial and Identity Profiling Act shows that Black Californians are up to 4.5 times more likely to be stopped for jaywalking than those who are white.
“It should not be a criminal offense to safely cross the street,” Ting said in a statement. “When expensive tickets and unnecessary confrontations with police impact only certain communities, it’s time to reconsider how we use our law enforcement resources and whether our jaywalking laws really do protect pedestrians. Plus, we should be encouraging people to get out of their cars and walk for health and environmental reasons.”
The Commissioner of the California Highway Patrol in consultation with the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California must submit a report to the California legislature by Jan. 1, 2028, regarding statewide pedestrian-related traffic crash data to determine how the law affects overall safety.
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