American Cities and the Creeping Criminalization of Walking

Montclair, California, is the latest American city to fall for the dangerous fiction that outlawing the act of walking while looking at a mobile device will make people safer.

Photo: Don Kostelec
Photo: Don Kostelec

Walking in America is dangerous business. If you get around on your own two feet, odds are you routinely have to deal with high-speed streets designed with little if any accommodation for walking, dodging aggressive drivers any time you cross.

It takes a toll. Almost 6,000 pedestrians were killed in 2016 — a nearly 50 percent rise over 2009. A disproportionate share of victims are people of color and the elderly.

Then there are the laws that criminalize the basic act of walking. Jacksonville, Florida, for instance, has a confusing array of 28 different laws limiting pedestrian behavior, which police wield selectively to harass and fine people of color, according to an investigation by ProPublica and the Times-Union.

Instead of addressing the root causes of pedestrian deaths, our institutions have criminalized the ordinary act of walking, exposing the most vulnerable members of society to the punitive effects of biased law enforcement.

The injustices that arise from criminalizing pedestrians may get worse as more cities look to outlaw the act of walking while looking at or listening to a mobile device. The latest domino to fall is Montclair, California, where the City Council late last year passed an ordinance that bans texting or wearing headphones in crosswalks. Honolulu passed a similar law last summer.

It’s a developing trend that echoes the historical origins of jaywalking laws nearly a century ago. As historian Peter Norton details in his book “Fighting Traffic,” the offense of jaywalking was concocted by automotive interests to deflect public outrage about the massive loss of life motorists were inflicting in American cities. Creating a social stigma around people who refused to cede the street to cars was a means for car companies to redirect blame back onto victims and strengthen motorists’ claim to the right-of-way.

Fast forward to the present day, and it’s clear that technologies like ubiquitous wireless connectivity are incompatible with the act of driving safely and the concentration it requires. We know distracted driving should be treated like a public health epidemic, and yet marketing efforts like the Ford Motor Company’s “petextrian” campaign shift the blame to people struck by motorists.

Image: Ford Motor Company

In the same way earlier laws regulating the act of walking abetted the automotive industry’s play for dominance on city streets, the new wave of laws about “distracted walking” deflects attention from the dangerous combination of driving and internet connectivity that’s embedded in the products sold by today’s car companies.

And it seems to be working, despite the absence of data to support the notion that “distracted walking” is a serious public safety issue. In Montclair, City Manager Ed Starr proposed the new law after reading an article about texting and driving in China without contacting any pedestrian safety experts, reports the Daily Bulletin.

Tellingly, cities that have recently had success reducing pedestrian fatalities — like New York — haven’t done it by blaming pedestrians. They’ve made streets safer for everyone by reducing the incidence of speeding through street design measures and automated enforcement.

With the new laws targeting people in crosswalks, the strategy of changing behavior that inflicts harm on other people goes out the window. Instead, police resources will be wasted on pointless tickets, and people on foot will be further marginalized, harassed, and exposed to the risk of racially discriminatory arrests.

Correction: Montclair, New Jersey, was originally identified as a city with new pedestrian rules. The correct city is Montclair, California. 

85 thoughts on American Cities and the Creeping Criminalization of Walking

  1. Alright, self-righteous, inconsiderate, ignorant pig. Pro-car prattling? Enough pro idiot If you actually READ what I wrote, you would notice that a large part of what I had to say was about riding a bicycle, shopping, or even walking down a friggin hallway. I’m sorry, but people need to pay attention to their surroundings, not their idiot-entertainment devices, when walking, bicycling, driving, or otherwise, moving around in public places. This isn’t some radical, innovative new idea, it’s COMMON SENSE (or at least it should be). Walking around, bumping into people, stepping out in front of bicycles or even cars is not only stupid, it’s extremely rude. For that matter, put your electronic pacifier back in your pocket when you’re checking out at the grocery store or ordering food at a restaurant, you insufferable wanker. It is a sad, sad commentary on the state of mankind’s complete lack of intelligence that we even NEED such laws.

    I drive, yes, if that’s what you mean about being pro-car. I’m not lucky enough to live in a small town where everything is within easy walking distance. I also work for a living. I’m a subcontractor and have to haul a lot of tools. Some of my job sites are a couple hundred miles away. Most are more than 40. I need my truck. Even if I didn’t, I’m not going to say people shouldn’t drive because I don’t. I’m not a prig like that. Get over yourself.

    Oh, and this is STREETblog, not sidewalk blog, trail blog, or dirt road blog. Without cars, we wouldn’t HAVE streets and people more interested in their idiot-phones than what was going on around them would be getting cited for stepping out in front of horse carts and carriages.

  2. What are you trying to say? Are you trying to insinuate that somehow jaywalking and distracted pedestrian laws CAUSE accidents? Why do other countries have different problems than we do? Why is our car accident rate higher despite laws that encourage both people who are driving and those who are walking to do so in a safe manner? Well, population size and density comes into mind. There are laws on the books in other countries with the same effect under different names. We have a large land mass and further to travel than most countries so our speed limits tend to be higher. Terrain in high accident areas here is different than many other countries. There are cultural differences here. Three out of every for people seem to have some sort of sense of reckless self-entitlement. Maybe people in these other countries aren’t so addicted to their cell phones that they can’t put them down long enough to walk down the road to the store. There are also differences in reporting.

    There are countless things that make America’s situation different than that of other countries. Any one or combination of these differences may contribute to a difference in accident rates, shootings, or even masturbation habits. It’s almost as if you are one of those people who think that problems all have single causes and one difference between the way things are done here and the way another culture does them can explain everything that is wrong with our society.

  3. Yes
    Because in the US, even more than other places, the car driver can do no wrong …
    The “jaywalking” laws were brought in by a sustained, corrupt lobbying campaign by the auto manufacturers.
    Your entire reply seems to be a pleas for “US exceptionalism” I’m afraid.
    It is noticeable that countries which don’t have your potty laws have LOWER pedestrian fatality & injury rates, which should tell you something ….

  4. First off, upon researching this issue further, I found that you are wrong. Pedestrian injuries and fatalities account for 12% of traffic fatalities and injuries which is quite low when compared to the rest of the world. That statistic has been steadily decreasing here while going up in other places. There are a few countries with lower percentages, but there are some countries where that percentage is close to 40% and more than half of countries are 20% or higher (according to the WHO). This is by no means a US-only problem. I also found out that slightly more than 75% of those accidents happen when the pedestrian is not crossing at an intersection. Maybe the isn’t the jaywalking law but the fact that it is rarely actualy enforced. In states’ and cities where these laws ARE actively enforced death and injury rates have dropped significantly. THAT is the only true way of telling the effect of something– a before and after comparison in an area where a policy is actually enforced. Comparing places that have a particular law to places that don’t tells you almost nothing.

    US exceptionalism? Did you even read my last response? I basically called 3/4 of our population reckless, entitled, and cell-phone addicted.

    “The driver can do no wrong”? As somebody who “lives in a more civilised country” where, if you are any decent representative of anything, people’s reading and comprehension skills are lacking, you are quick to point your finger and wag your tongue (or type on a keyboard) about issues which you apparently have little to no knowledge or experience with. Driving around any medium to large city in the US, you will see that traffic police have drivers pulled over and are issuing citations constantly. These officers spend a lot more time actually issuing citations than looking for somebody to pull over. In the majority of states, while there are jaywalking and distracted pedestrian laws, the pedestrian also has the right of way so if you strike a pedestrian, you are at fault by default and have to demonstrate that the pedestrian did, in fact, cause a situation in which you did not have time to react.

    As I also stated, there are many differences, cultural, environmental, and otherwise that can and do contribute to a number of statistical differences, this one included. Anybody who points to any one difference and assigns it any large burden of responsibility for a problem without doing SIGNIFICANT amounts of research to back up his or her stance is an ignorant fool.

  5. Oh dear
    So – you are defending the position of criminalising people walking across an empty street, even when there is no traffic coming?
    In the so-called “land of the Free” ??

  6. I love how you completely ignore the meat of an argument and pick at little, imagined crap. I wish I had that ability. Your right, this conversation is going nowhere because you ignore facts and figures being given to you while continuing to spout entitled and elitist propaganda.

    What empty Street? I haven’t seen one of those in a VERY long time… Not since a moved out of a tiny rural town (that didn’t have or need jaywalking laws) and into a small city. Furthermore, jaywalking is merely a ticketable offense and carries no criminal penalty. Again, your lack of knowledge is raring. In such a situation, this is where the concept of “officer discretion” would come into play. When it comes to constructing a legal system in order to prevent things from happening, YES, you make laws that at some times err on that side of things. Generalizations are made and it is up to the police officer to say to himself, “gee, I know that law is there for a reason but damn, there aren’t any cars on the road in this mystical place. I’m not going to ticket this individual.”

    As far as your petty “land of the free” snipe, this country carries with it a lot of freedoms, none of which are impinged upon by a law saying that in this congested region, walk the extra 20 feet to the intersection, you lazy bastard. When looking at our freedoms- freedom of speech, freedom of self expression, freedom of the press, the right to bear arms, the freedom to make your own living doing whatever you choose to do, the freedom to own property that is yours and nobody can take it from you, etc, your argument is that of a dullard.

  7. Slow cars down, fewer people will die. Proven true over and over and over again.

    Laws against pedestrians are for people from the “get out of my way” school of driving everywhere.

    Cars suck. More cars suck more. They make places for people louder, more polluted, more litter-strewn, more hostile, and less safe.

    The next time someone tells you they’re in favor of laws like this, or more roads, or similar such positions – ask them if they want more cars on THEIR street, where they live. Then you’ll see what they really think about cars.

  8. The biggest problem with your comes into play with a right on red situation. If I have come to a stop and am waiting to see if you are going to cross the street but you don’t enter the intersection for half of the light, all indications are that you are hanging out on the corner, playing with your cell phone and not intending on crossing. I’m probably going to make that turn. Maybe you are waiting for a ride. Maybe you are just hanging out waiting at a convenient, visible place for a friend to meet you. What is certain is that the light has changed and you aren’t crossing the street. Instead, you’re just standing there playing with your electronic pacifier.

    What also hasn’t been mentioned is the hazard people walking around with their eyes glued to that 5-6″ screen pose to other pedestrians, joggers, and bicyclists. Many times, I have called out “I’m on your right,” while preparing to jog or ride past somebody on the sidewalk only to have them lurch into my path as I’m coming past. It has pushed me out into the street on several occasions. I’m not a multiple thousand pound vehicle, nor am I made of metal. The invariable resulting fall hurts. The danger of being pushed into and potentially falling in traffic is even worse (it has happened to me). I’ve also been run into by shopping carts in the store while people had their eyes glued to their phones. I’ve been bowled over in hallways by people exhibiting the same behavior. A big part of me wishes cell phones while moving in public places could be banned altogether. We all know that the bumping into, pushing through, and stepping in front of people that results from distracted behavior is rude, obnoxious, and dangerous but WAY too many people don’t seem to care. Playing candy crush is more important than watching where they are going. Since people this problem continues to become more prevalent, maybe we should drop these laws, just calling it natural selection and the preservation of the intelligence of the human race through elimination from the gene pool of those who will undoubtedly pass down obvious flaws in the genetics that determine intelligence when such a person gets taken out.

  9. A boo boo or two? I’ve lost teeth and fallen/been pushed into the street while jogging as the result of distracted pedestrians. Distracted drivers should be taken off the road. Nobody is debating that. They are a big danger, even bigger than distracted pedestrians. Distracted pedestrians are also a danger to themselves and to others. They are a much bigger danger than you claim. Stop justifying people’s actions by saying the results were minor in comparison. By your logic, we should let people shoot targets with pellet and BB guns on the sidewalk. They aren’t lethal. As far as larger weapons are concerned, if a gunman aims for your leg or another non-lethal area with no permanent damage, should that not be a big deal because that’s just a “boo boo”, but if he or she kills you, then there will be trouble. OK, we’re talking about an intentional act. What if he were shooting at a squirrel or rabbit eating the begonias in his garden with a small caliber rifle like a .22 and a ricochet got you in the leg? Tripping me up into the path of a semi carries MUCH more of a potential for lethal results.

  10. Wow. Your last statement invalidated your argument. When two cars hit each other, one driver is invariably at fault. You are also wrong about your definition of performance “errors”. First off, that’s not the right term. You are referring to performance issues or performance problems. A performance problem is when your brakes fail, your tail lights aren’t working at night, or a wheel falls off while you’re diving down the highway. The driver is at fault in those incidents for failing to maintain their vehicle and/or diving it in an unsafe condition. Looking at studies with increased granularity, pedestrian involvement in accidents only accounts for 12% of reported traffic incidents in the nation. According to both the NHTSA and the WHO, 26-30% of these were directly and undeniably attributable to distracted pedestrians which means they admitted to playing Pokemon and trying to catch a Charmander when they didn’t notice stepping into the intersection when the signal said “don’t walk” or said they didn’t look both ways while crossing in between intersections because they were too involved with reading and commenting on a STREETSBLOG article. In addition, 76% of all incidents involving pedestrians happened when the pedestrian was not crossing at an intersection. This is both dangerous and presents a possibility for statistical skewing in states where the pedestrian always has the right of way placing the driver fault unless he or she can provide proof (like dash cam footage or an admission from the pedestrian struck) that the pedestrian stepped out in front of the car leaving the driver insufficient time to react. Contrary to what has been stated here, this accounts for 20 States plus the District of Columbia. This is one of many reasons I have a GoPro mounted on my dash. It’s saved me quite a few times in ticketing and charges related to traffic incidents.

  11. f I have come to a stop and am waiting to see if you are going to cross the street but you don’t enter the intersection for half of the light, all indications are that you are hanging out on the corner, playing with your cell phone and not intending on crossing. I’m probably going to make that turn.

    Remember, you can turn right on red only if it is safe for you to do so. If you’re not sure, you don’t make the turn or you take responsibility for whatever happens.

    But I assume you’re too important to wait.

    Many times, I have called out “I’m on your right,” while preparing to jog or ride past somebody on the sidewalk only to have them lurch into my path as I’m coming past.

    Perhaps you should consider giving them more room when you pass. And, if there isn’t room, you wait until there is.

    See, here’s the problem: You assume that you should be able to pass people if they are “in your way” whenever you feel like it. Call out “Get out of my way” (or a more polite “On your left”) and that’s the magic phrase that should clear the way for you.

  12. Now, you’re getting ridiculous. The coin to your “important” crack goes both ways. You seem to feel that you are so important that you don’t have to worry about what’s going on around you and it’s OK to stand there and wait until the last second to enter the intersection. You are certainly more important then the people you are holding up because you want to finish that last row on candy crush… As far as that right on red is concerned, as soon as it’s safe to do so… The law REALLY says the driver must yield right of way to pedestrians when the light is red, just as pedestrians must yield right of way to the driver when the driver has a green light. If, once that right of way has been yieldeded, you do not take it, and enter the intersection, right of way returns to the vehicle. Even by your paraphrase, if you continue to stand there well after the signal has indicated you are able to cross, you aren’t entering the intersection. It is safe to turn. If you decide to look up from your little handheld idiot box halfway through the light and jump in front of the car that is now making the right, YOU are unsafely entering the intersection because the indication you provided was that you were going to just stand there playing candy crush.

    As far as jogging on the sidewalk and getting past people, my expectation is that we need to share the sidewalk. That means that when I’m walking and a jogger approaches and indicates that they are coming past, I don’t step in front of them. This is just simple courtesy. It’s why, when passing somebody, I also pass on the traffic side. This is ALSO simple courtesy. Yes, I expect the same from others. It’s not because I’m more important than others. Like I said, I afford that same courtesy, myself. It so happens that the legal structure agrees with me there, too. The difference is that when cars crash, they tend to be immobilized or at least have easily recognizable body damage. When a douche canoe walking down the sidewalk causes an injury, they themselves are typically uninjured and just dart because they’re ass hats and don’t care that they just hurt somebody. Catching the last half of Avatar without having to hit pause is more than checking to see if the person they just tripped up and left bleeding on the curb is OK. Hell, DRIVERS have stopped to check on me more often than the person who actually caused the injury.

    You and your kind need to grow up and realize that the world doesn’t revolve around you and the electronic device that has absorbed your attention and your mind. We ALL need to be aware, attentive, and courteous. This means that when in the sidewalk, we don’t take ownership of the WHOLE sidewalk and allow others past. This isn’t just the people in running past, but myself when somebody is trying to get around me, too. Get off your high horse and stop being a !

  13. This site is vulnerable to SQL/code injection. You need to sanitize your inputs. I put ‘s into one of my comments and got blank query results when it posted. I was not intentionally trying to attack your site and I’m not malicious so I haven’t tried to do anything with it but there are those out our there who are not as self controlled as I am…

  14. Said the person who said his country is civilized, indicating that the US is not, yet doesn’t have the civility or even the ability to make rational counterpoints, so resorts to sniping. Let me guess, you’re one of those who thinks the American lifestyle is like an episode of Dallas… It’s not that the United States is so “wonderful”, it is what it is. We have our share of problems. I’m an under paid, technology worker making half the going rate for the work I do. I lost a good job to an H1-B worker, and I blew through my savings trying to pay for tuition at a university, ending up a few classes sort of the BS in mechanical engineering I was after when tuition, rent, and the cost of food went up…again. Oh, and did I mention that Donald Trump is our president and that’s only because the person he was running against was even worse than he is? You call that exceptional? We have a lot of freedoms but sometimes those freedoms get the way of our ability to make a nice living because everybody here has those freedoms, including the people and companies doing the hiring and firing.

    Do I enjoy living here despite all of the problems? Yes, it’s a pretty cool place to be, overall. At least, when I need to go blow of some steam, I can go out to the range and get in some target shooting or go out and bag myself some tasty venison. The shooting range is one of the most calming, cathartic things you can imagine, believe it or not. Anything else you read into my statements is your own fabrication.

    You seem to have a lot of misconceptions and flawed, incomplete knowledge. You are also quick to spread this disinformation. I’m not trying to say how “wonderful” the US is, I’m just clearing up and correcting your bullshit.

  15. The law REALLY says the driver must yield right of way to pedestrians when the light is red, just as pedestrians must yield right of way to the driver when the driver has a green light.

    Agreed. Since we were talking about right turns on red, I felt it was implied that the light was red. You’re right–a pedestrian that wanders out into the road when the light is green deserves what they get.

    If, once that right of way has been yieldeded, you do not take it, and enter the intersection, right of way returns to the vehicle.

    I’d want to see a reference for this one. I’m pretty sure Right of Way is not yielded just because I don’t take it at that moment. At the very least, I have to explicitly surrender it. For example, I’ve seen cars stop, even though there is no stop sign, and allow a cyclist to go. Unfortunately, they do this on two lane roads which is another story…

    Again, at least here in California, you are supposed to stop before the crosswalk. So I assume your concern is that you stop before the crosswalk–y’know, like you’re supposed to–and then you’re stuck waiting for this person who looks like they’re going to cross the street but isn’t because their nose is in their phone and they’re not paying attention.

    What to do, what to do. You obviously don’t want to injure or kill this person. But if you pull forward, they could pick that exact moment to step into the street.

    Well, personally, I’d consider giving them a polite honk of the horn (though I think an impolite one would be fine) and find out what they intend to do. I’m pretty sure your horn going off would snap them out of their reverie. But let’s say it didn’t. Well, again, you could wait for the green. Is waiting, oh, 30 seconds really going to make a difference in your life? But let’s say it does. You could–slowly–advance into the crosswalk. Now that you are stopped–remember, you stopped before the crosswalk like the law requires–you should be able to move into it at a relatively safe speed.

    The part that annoyed me was your complaint that you shout “On Your Left!” and can’t understand why people don’t get out of your way. I’ve heard this from plenty of other cyclists and it annoys me.

    Let’s start with the obvious one. When you hear over and over about you shouting “On your left” and then someone step in front of you, maybe that isn’t a great phrase to be shouting. Maybe “Excuse me?” Y’know, courtesy. Or maybe you should slow down and wait for them to notice you.

    My commute to work used to be similar to what you describe: I could ride in the road–terrifying with no bike lanes and high-speed traffic–or I could ride on the sidewalk, which might have been illegal (honestly, I don’t know if it was or wasn’t). I chose the sidewalk. But as I road along, when I encountered a pedestrian, the first thing I would do is slow down to their walking speed. Now I don’t have to worry about hitting them. Then I would sometimes call out, “Excuse me” (and be prepared to stop, because they’d sometimes do that). Sometimes I would just wait for them to notice me–I remember riding about a block behind this adorably in-love couple who only had eyes for each other. They were holding hands. It was precious. When they noticed me, they stepped out of my way.

    And in all cases, I would say, “Thank you.”

    Now why did I behave this way? Two reasons. First, I’m the one who can cause more damage–to myself and to others. So I have a responsibility to not do that. The other reason was a bit more self-centered–if I’m not allowed on the sidewalk and something bad happens, I’m in for even more trouble. I’ll go out of my way to make sure that doesn’t happen.

    But the first one is important here. Yes, as a motorist, I have a responsibility to make sure I don’t hit anybody. And if that means that there are certain, say, inefficiencies (like stopping before crosswalks and then stopping again in the crosswalk), I’ll do that. If I’m running down the sidewalk and there are people walking ahead of me, I have a responsibility to make sure that I don’t injure them or myself. That might mean I slow down to a fast walk to pass them, or make sure you provide a safe distance to pass them so they can’t just “step out in front of you.”

    Contrary to your belief, the sidewalk is not your personal gymnasium where everyone has to get out of your way.

  16. NO
    You are taking vast exception, because merely one of your “laws” is utterly stupid.
    Anyway, you have DT for “president” & a madman for VP, who would install Gilead if he got a chance.

    conversation over ….

  17. You keep saying “conversation over”, yet you keep responding. The law isn’t stupid, stupidity is the reason for the law. If drivers and pedestrians acted right, there wouldn’t be any reason for traffic laws of any sort. Unfortunately, humanity is to self-absorbed to act right and not intelligent enough to realize that acting right, in the end, serves their own safety and best interests. This law is a great one. You’re just to dense and opinionated to understands or even recognize the reasoning behind it.

    All that being said, why do you even care? You don’t live here. You don’t know what goes on in our streets other than the few news stories that make it out into the international community and the opinionated blogs. Have you even read the statues in various states that have jaywalking laws? Apparently not because you A) called them “criminalizing” and B) seem to think they’re national laws when they’re state and local ordinances. With that in mind, what gives you the credibility that you think you can even have an informed, valid opinion on the topic to begin with?

  18. The laws actually vary quite a bit from state to state. Here in Virginia, we have a statute that forbids unreasonable delay.

    As far as California law is concerned, I would suggest you read the statutes regarding pedestrian’s rights and duties (VEH Division 11 Chapter 5 Section 21950) and right turns on red (VEH Division 11 Chapter 2 Article 3 Section 21453) if you haven’t already (most people haven’t actually read the laws themselves, just the driver’s ed handbook) or reread them if you have read them in the past.

    The section on the right on red states that a driver must come to a complete stop, and then yield to “pedestrians lawfully WITHIN an adjacent crosswalk and to any vehicle that has approached or is approaching so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard to the driver.”. In other words, the driver has to stop. If nobody enters the intersection and no cars are coming, he/she can proceed with the turn. Note that the statute specifically mentions approaching vehicles and when mentioning pedestrians specifies those already within the crosswalk when the driver starts to move again, not pedestrians waiting to enter the crosswalk or approaching the crosswalk. Your law is stricter on pedestrians than ours is.

    The section on pedestrians’ rights and duties state in paragraph a, basically the same thing about right of way that the other statue says. The driver yields to any pedestrian WITHIN a marked or unmarked crosswalk. Paragraph b goes on to say “This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute a hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic within a marked or unmarked crosswalk.” , which means if you aren’t paying attention and this vehicle stopped a few seconds ago, saw you hadn’t entered the intersection, looked for incoming traffic, saw you still hadn’t entered the crosswalk, he/she is free to proceed with the turn and you as the distracted pedestrian are not allowed to jump out in front of her/him. The second statement in that paragraph about unreasonable delay means you can’t stop in the middle of the crosswalk and do push-ups or jumping jacks. Paragraph c basically states that drivers have to watch out for pedestrians in any crosswalk regardless of the color of the light or if the crosswalk is even in an intersection or not. Paragraph d days that paragraph b does not relieve drivers of responsibility to avoid hitting pedestrians who are already within a crosswalk.

    To make a long story short, in the state of California especially, check your email/text messages and play your cell phone games before you leave or when you get where you are going, not while you are waiting for the light to change. If somebody is wanting to make a right on red, you only have a few moments after the light has stopped to get into that crosswalk before the driver has the right to proceed so if you were allowing yourself to be distracted, you should probably just let the car go.

  19. I can have an extremely have an extremely well ” informed, valid opinion” on living, visiting or walking around in ( & using public transport in ) any supposedly civilised city or community.
    Like: London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Paris, Brussel, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Köln, München – OK?

  20. There went the last shed of your credibility. Without having lived in a place yourself, for at least a couple of year s, no you can’t. You may think you know what goes on. You may THINK everything that happens in Amsterdam is the same as what happens in London but you would be sorely mistaken. I have visited Amsterdam and lived in London for four years. Even just from the visit to Amsterdam, I know that try are very different places. Things that during my brief weeklong stay looked like they worked wonderfully in Amsterdam would probably cause chaos in London and definitely in the United States. Likewise, things like the pervasive CCTV in London and other places in England would not only be a technical nightmare to implement in the United States due to our sprawl but would also have constitutionalists waging so many law suits against the federal and state governments that defending against them would be all that would ever get accomplished. There are a large number of other reasons something like that wouldn’t fly here.

    There are a good number of other things I witnessed that would have similar diasterouly different results here in the States because of cultural or logistical differences. I’m not saying they are bad policies. They aren’t bad and they work great there. Without spending a significant amount of time in a place though, you haven’t experienced these differences enough to on any way understand the effects of any given policy change, not really have enough experience to have a week, let alone valid opinion. When I start trying to tell you how Russia (where I have never lived) should start doing things, then you can turn this around on me and your arguments about my country will be just as valid as mine about Russia. Until then, you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. Everything you have to offer to the conversation is worth less than the bandwidth it takes to post. I will also continue to call you out it because as sad as it is to say at the moment, I have nothing better to do.

  21. Pedestrians don’t have the right of way. Nobody “has” the right of way…or everybody has the right of way, depending on how you look at our think about it…unless they are forbidden to travel in that area, like pedestrians and bicycles on certain highways and feats. Drivers yield their right of way under certain circumstances to pedestrians and pedestrians yield their right of way to drivers others.

    As far as Montclair is concerned, telling pedestrians they can’t use their cell phones in the middle of an intersection is a lot LESS restrictive than the restrictions placed on motorists. For good reason, I am not allowed to surf the web, play video games, or text message while driving my 6500 pound truck. The only place pedestrians in Montclair are prohibited from doing so is an intersection. That’s NOT more restrictive than banning the practice on any sidewalk which I, as somebody who walks, jogs, and rides a bicycle while having to deal with the results of other pedestrians who can’t be bothered to pay attention to their surroundings, would be fully supportive of. That’s the rule for the driver’s the road, so it wouldn’t be any more restrictive for the walkers on the sidewalk. We’re not allowed to drive with headphones either, technically, because it interferes with our ability to hear sirens from emergency vehicles although as will probably happen with this law, it is rarely enforced unless it becomes clear that in any particular instance, the headphones caused the problem.

  22. I wouldn’t mind more cars on my street, personally. It is what it is. There are only so many jobs here and to get to the middle to upper-middle class salaried jobs here, you have to travel 40-50 miles. Towns like mine either have people living here who commute or the towns just die. This is a nice place to live and I like having a large enough population to have a few decent stores so yeah, bring on the cars.

    I also walk and job a lot around town. I don’t have a single problem with any of these laws, nor do I feel that these laws are hostile towards, “against”, or unfair to pedestrians. These are laws against stupidity. Legislators get tied of hearing complaints about stupid people dying so they make laws to try prevent the stupid people from dying by trying to prevent them from doing stupid things. These laws aren’t stricter on pedestrians than drivers as they only cover activities while in the street.

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind if cell phone use on public sidewalks was banned altogether, save with Bluetooth or other hands free devices that are single ear so as to not block the wearer’s ability to hear what’s going on around them like they are for drivers here in Virginia. Text messaging, surfing the web, watching video, playing games, and all the rest of the things that are prohibited by distracted driver laws should apply to all people traveling in public places, period. Why do I feel this way? Because as a pedestrian, I’ve had too many run ins with people not paying attention and lurching to the left and in front of me while I’m jogging or even just walking a little faster than they were meandering. When I’m the slower one and I hear “I’m on your right”, or, “excuse me”, I move to the left and let them pass. It’s common f@#$ing courtesy and sharing the sidewalk with others. It’s not too much to ask for the same in return. Granted, yes it’s funny when you warn somebody they are about to step into a sink hole after a heavy coastal rain and they still step into nothingness where they are expecting the sidewalk to be and face plant on the broken sidewalk at the other side of the hole, breaking their idiot device in the process because they were too enthralled with the latest episode of the Flash and had their headphones turned up to loud to hear the warning. That entertainment isn’t nearly worth getting bumped towards our into traffic when some jackass watching kittens riding on roombas in shark suits while they’re walking down the road doesn’t realize I’m stopped in front of them waiting for the light to change and then cussing me out for being there.

    People need to be much less self absorbed, kick their addiction to a barrage of constant media, and pay attention to their surroundings. It’s unsafe for them AND for others. It’s sad that we NEED laws like this. It’s even sadder that this many people think they are so horrible because it means this many people don’t see a problem with this sort of behavior and probably do these things themselves. Part of me wishes these laws would go away and be replaced with anti-idiot and Darwin laws instead.

  23. So pedestrians texting and drivers texting are approximately equivalent in your mind? You suggest the same rules should apply to each.

    How many people were killed by a texting pedestrian last year? How many were seriously injured? And now for texting drivers – how many deaths and serious injuries?

    Honestly, it’s not even remotely the same risk, and so not even remotely the same rules and regulations should apply. You want to not pay attention and get YOURSELF killed? That’s a terrible choice, but it’s yours. You want to not pay attention and kill OTHER PEOPLE? Nah. We’re going to need a law against that. This is not a hard distinction to grasp. I don’t understand why people argue as if distracted pedestrians are an equal risk to public safety. It’s laughable, but we let people get away with this kind of argument all the time.

    More cars in front of a home means the home is worth less. You can just run the stats on it in any major city in the US. The more traffic, the less your house is worth. Maybe the property could be turned into something else, but frankly, people in cities don’t want the noise and pollution and litter that comes with cars, and their houses are worth less. Also their health is worse. Also, no businesses that thrive on foot traffic (lotta those in cities) will want to be there.

    Cars at scale fail. For a lot of reasons. One being, cars suck. Loud, polluting, hostile to people outside cars, litter-spewing… they make places where people live worse.

  24. I’ve finally found ( via “Quora” statistics that show that both pedestrian & vehicular injuries & deaths are significantly LOWER in the UK & other European countries that do not have effing daft “jaywalking laws” …
    Could you now pleas explain why & how jaywalking laws are effective – or maybe not ….

  25. It took you 15 days to find a statistic that lined up with your viewpoint with the VAST amount of data available on the subject? Cherry-picking data much? While Quora is renowned for being a bastion of excellent statistics reporting and scientific discovery (sarcasm–anybody can post anything they want to Quora), they fly in the face of the statistics published by the World Health Organization that I referenced and quoted earlier (a simple Google search will find them for you). I do believe WHO statistics trumps a Quora forum. MInd you, these are also just raw statistics and don’t take any additional data into account such as average commute distance. The US still ranks rather low, worldwide, as far as pedestrian incidents world-wide when checking reputable sources.

    Additionally, your initial premise is flawed. Upon further research, most countries in Europe DO have equivalent pedestrian crossing laws, some involving fines and fees, others involving heavier penalties, while some simply determine who is at fault in an accident, and although the term “jaywalking” is one specifically used in America, England (not the entire United Kingdom) is one of two European countries that do not have similar crossing restrictions.

    Furthermore, a comparison between two or more countries does not show the effectiveness of any given policy. There are too many other factors that come into play, especially when using misleading “number of” statistics, such as differences in reporting, size of population, population density, driving age (we give 15 and 16 year olds licenses to drive whereas most of the rest of the world waits until they’re 18) average traffic density, traffic concentration, average distance traveled, speed limits, etc. The United States is almost 3000 miles across (4620.4 km, to be more precise and in your standard of measurement) and our land mass is close to that of ALL of Europe. We drive a lot farther, on average, than any European in our daily commutes. One of jobs I worked yesterday was the same distance from my home as a trip halfway across England one-way. Round-trip on both jobs traversed the center of your little island. This isn’t abnormal–it’s a typical say for me as an IT subcontractor and I didn’t even leave my state. More people drive than use public transit here versus smaller European countries. I also wouldn’t be surprised to find that people in the US are more self-absorbed, feel more entitled, and pay less attention to their surroundings when walking down the road than people in other places do, although that would be hard to quantify other than using the accident statistics to show that they are more careless when dealing with traffic and crossing the road. Freedoms are great but they can have their down-sides, too.

    The ONLY true measure of efficacy of a policy is a before and after comparison of accident statistics in an area where such a policy has been adopted and is enforced. Looking at THOSE statistics (not just where the laws EXIST but where they are ENFORCED) is the only way to answer your question. In the United States, the percentages of pedestrian fatalities and injuries in automobile related accidents has significantly decreased in cities in which jaywalking laws are enforced.

  26. Maybe you’re right. Maybe we should just allow these people who aren’t paying attention to just step out into traffic and attribute the fatalities to the works of Darwin and hold their estates responsible for any damages to the vehicle that they stepped put in front of. Maybe we SHOULDN’T try to prevent it. Then again, the driver who hits the moron who couldn’t put their cell phone down long enough to walk down the street to the store has to live with having seen that person die on their front bumper. Do you really think people are so calloused that this doesn’t have a severe emotional effect even though the person who stepped out in front of them was 100% at fault and for all intents and purposes did the world a favor by making sure they didn’t further pollute the gene pool with their genetic stupidity? Is this what you’re saying? Personally, I think every life is precious and if we can make laws that are designed to keep people from doing the most dangerous of the ridiculously stupid things, this is a plus.

    As far as homes in high traffic areas being worth less, have you ever tried to buy a flat in New York City? What about Washington, DC? The average one-bedroom home in DC costs slightly more than $390,000. Here in Hampton, right outside of VA Beach, my two-bedroom home cost me $60,000-$70,000. The cost of an equivalent home in Richmond, the closest big city, is $180,000. Across the board, housing in traffic-dense city areas costs at least two times per square foot what it costs in rural or even suburban areas. Traffic doesn’t, in and of itself, make homes worth more or less. Crime does, average per-capita income level does, lack of upkeep does, but traffic? No. Areas with high traffic that are close to amenities and are in good repair are worth MORE.

    Cars don’t suck. People suck, whether they’re driving or walking. They spew litter, are hostile to other people (whether walking or driving), think they own the space they are currently walking in, scream at each other walking down the sidewalk at 3AM, fight in the middle of the street, and generally make places worse to live. I am constantly having to pick up what results in bags full of litter that people walking by have thrown over my back-yard fence. I pick up chicken bones, fast-food wrappers, 7-11 cups, shoes, store fliers, beer bottles, tin cans, etc every day. I have to wear heavy pants and thick boots when mowing my lawn because of the litter I miss that the mower throws. My front yard, which is facing the street is always clean. Who spews more litter, the car driving by or the douche bag cutting down the walkway between houses throwing the remnants of his or her lunch over my fence for my dogs to choke on or get sick?

  27. NO
    I came across it by accident & thought it might be useful, actually.
    Anyway, it appears that US ped & vehicle injuries & deaths are per caspita higher than in Britain, France, Germany etc

    Never mind, you are obviously a US “exceptionalist” so facts will not convince you – you’re not a member of the NRA by any chance, are you?

  28. Yes, that’s what I proposed – totally ignoring the law. Try again.

    Enforcement and designed deterrence should follow risk. The risk of a person walking and texting is lower than the risk associated with people driving and texting. Cars kill, injure, and damage property more and worse than pedestrians and cyclists. Just facts. Therefore, deterrence should be way, way higher for motorists than for pedestrians and cyclists. The risk is higher, the deterrence should be proportionally higher.

    Cars represent more of the safety problems on roads and should get way, way more enforcement. When you get texting-while-driving deaths down to a reasonable level, we can talk about pedestrians who are texting like they’re a problem. Until then, we need to get some perspective on where the danger is.

    Design incentives should follow those uses that are most effective, and have the least number of side effects for other users. Drivers pose a higher risk than peds and cyclists. They cause more wrecks than professional drivers in slower moving vehicles. They also put wear and tear on infrastructure more, pollute more, produce more noise, etc.

    After decades upon decades of spending on car-first and car-only infrastructure, we need to put balance back in the system and design more for other types of users. Otherwise, we’re not offering people a fair choice. We’re just building something so ONLY ONE choice is better, and all the others suck.

  29. And you continue to compare unlike things, then drawing silly conclusions. Do you know why NYC apartments are more expensive than Hampton, VA? Because EVERYTHING IS MORE EXPENSIVE IN NYC. Take like apartments in NYC, one set of them on quiet streets and one set on a huge, noisy arterials, and look at the difference. Same DC. Or any other city. A house in Hampton on the busiest street is way more likely to be worth less than one on the quiet street. It’s true everywhere. More cars next to your house will make it worth less as a house. Places to live with lots of cars around them suck. Places to live on quiet streets don’t suck.

    The fact that you need to argue against this painfully obvious fact is kind of crazy.

    People don’t spew smog. Cars do. People don’t leak toxic coolant. Cars do. People don’t leak oil, drop heavy-metal-laden brake dust, or a hundred other toxic, pollutants. People don’t howl down the street so loud that you can hear them inside your house with all the doors and windows closed. People don’t grind the cement, run over and crumple curbs, or knock over street signs the way cars do all the time, every day. Most importantly, people don’t lose control on the sidewalk and murder unsuspecting people because they were texting. Heck a drunk pedestrian might run into me, but I’m not going to die. Drunk drivers kill every day.

    You’re making these hilarious comparisons that are just silly. Stop it.

  30. Why are you passing on the right? In America at least, generally speaking one should pass others on the left. Although there certainly can be exceptions especially if the passed road user is keeping to the left or the center of the road, sidewalk, multi-use path, etc.

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