opinion | California gives green light to jaywalking on January 1st. It’s a positive step. ~ California

(Video: Sergio Peçanha for the Washington Post)


Bruce Feirstein is a freelance writer for airmail and a screenwriter living in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES — California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) recently signed the Freedom to Walk Act, which for those of you who live on the East Coast doesn’t include the right of disgruntled Californians to go to Texas or the hapless Silicon Valley Tech- Leaving employees, Twitter or the Metaverse.

In fact, after almost 90 years with laws dating back to the 1930s, the state has finally decided to legalize jaywalking. No more tickets that could cost close to $200 with various surcharges.

This means that starting January 1st, we Californians will be able to jaywalk to a movie audition, buy pot, meet an angel investor for a startup, jaywalk for hot baby yoga classes, jaywalk for the good of paparazzi have previously warned about where and when jaywalking will take place, and jaywalk to one of the myriad of California pastimes that the rest of the country finds so amusing. Or we walk across the street just to get to the other side.

On the whole, this may all seem pretty boring. Especially when you consider how much of what passes for normal behavior in California should probably be banned, such as B. Spending tens of millions of dollars on house demolitions, hundreds of millions on reality TV productions, and billions on the LA to San Francisco high-speed rail slo-mo disaster.

And if the grand theft style of government doesn’t bother you, there’s also the fact that an enterprising person can steal up to $950 worth of merchandise without worrying about being flagged with a crime. Parking in LA is always a problem; If you venture out with an armful of stolen merchandise from a Macy’s or Target, your ability to jaywalk worry-free to your getaway car is a cultural asset right up there, as you can turn right at a red light.

More seriously, the Freedom to Walk Act is a victory for social justice. As the bill’s author, State Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), told CBS Bay Area News, jaywalking laws are “arbitrarily enforced and tickets are disproportionately distributed to people of color and in low-income communities.” Ryan Fonseca, writing for Southern California Public Radio’s LAist.com, reported that the Los Angeles Police Department, according to his analysis of LAPD data, leads black pedestrians at a rate that committed “more than three times their percentage of the city’s population.” have.

The bill has a loophole that’s probably reasonable but unfortunately vulnerable to law enforcement exploitation: You can cross at a stoplight or outside of crosswalks, but police still have discretion to act in the face of imminent danger or a subpoena issue for crossing .

Nevertheless, the new law is a big step in the right direction. And in this regard, California is not alone. Virginia decriminalized jaywalking in March 2021, followed shortly thereafter by Kansas City Mo. and Nevada.

Having lived in several cities, I bring my own strongly anecdotal perspective of a man on the street to the matter. In Boston, jaywalking never seemed to be a big problem, perhaps because pedestrians realized that the local transit covenant means cars are taller than you, a green light means go, amber means drive faster, and red means brake for a second and pray you don’t get caught.”

Jaywalking was similarly uncommon in Beijing and Shanghai, but for a different reason: All it took was one look at the literally dozens of surveillance cameras lined up like doves over the mast arm of a typical traffic light, and you thought, “No, I’m fine I’ll wait for the light to change.”

New York is, of course, the jaywalking capital of the world and the inspiration for the greatest jaywalking movie dialogue of all time: in “Midnight Cowboy” (1969), when Dustin Hoffman slams the hood of a cab in traffic and yells, “Hey! I’m leaving here!”

Rudy Giuliani was a crime-fighting marvel as mayor—homicides fell dramatically under his watch, but even he was defeated by New Yorkers’ insistence on their inalienable right to roam among heavy, fast-moving machinery.

With much fanfare, Giuliani declared in 1998 that the city would begin enforcing anti-jaywalking laws, and fines would increase from $2 (yes, two dollars) to $50. “Police resist raid on Giuliani’s Jaywalking,” reads a New York Times headline. Balk – it rhymes with walk. “We’re just taking hard-earned money from people who can’t afford it,” a police officer told the Times. “And I’m not going to prostitute myself for the mayor or anyone else.”

Giuliani, obviously furious at cops and pedestrians’ non-compliance, threatened to increase the automatic fine to $100 before quietly kicking the campaign to the curb.

New Yorkers new to LA are invariably first surprised by the scarcity of pedestrians in this car-centric city. And then they wonder about the few people on the streets who obediently wait for the traffic lights to change. Beginning January 1st, when Freedom to Walk kicks in, transplanted and eternally impatient New Yorkers may need to show them how.