Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Abolish Jaywalking Laws

Arwa Mahdawi in The Guardian:
Police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, made headlines this week when they violently detained two teenage African American boys, and arrested one, for walking down a quiet street that didn’t have a sidewalk. When one of the teenagers asked what they had done wrong, he was told: “You were jaywalking; you broke the law.”

But why is jaywalking even against the law? There is no such offence in much of Europe, including in the UK – although Ken Livingstone apparently proposed making jaywalking illegal while he was mayor of London. In the US, however, you can get a hefty fine and even go to jail for it.  . . .

Jaywalking laws are not evenly applied: enforcement disproportionally targets people of colour. In 2019, for example, 90% of illegal-walking tickets issued by New York police were to black and Hispanic people. 
I've always hated jaywalking laws, and at this point anything we can do to reduce friction between the police and minority Americans seems like a good idea to me. I mean, I don't think the British have any more trouble with people blocking traffic while they amble across the street than we do.


G. Verloren said...

I always understood jaywalking to refer to crossing a street at a point other than a crosswalk, which arguably should be illegal (at least if/when there is traffic). Walking down a street I always knew as "obstructing traffic", although if there is no sidewalk AND no shoulder to walk on, I don't know what else a person is supposed to do - presumably find another route?

Regardless, I suspect part of why such laws don't exist in Euope is that they built their road systems differently than we did. We have always given cars a much higher priority than pedestrians, whereas the opposite is true of Europe. Consequently, much of the country is "installable", because the assumption has long been that everyone would use cars to get everywhere, always.

G. Verloren said...

Autocracy typo - "unwalkable"

G. Verloren said...

Auto Correct, even. I need to get my usual computer fixed.

Shadow said...

I'm more interested in how it got its name. "It is a compound word derived from the word jay, an inexperienced person and a curse word that originated in the early 1900s, and walk." (Wikipedia) So there you have it, Jay is a curse word.