Laws against crossing the street have been used to criminalize people nationally, with disproportionate rates of enforcement in Black and Brown communities. Authorities have weaponized jaywalking laws to make unfair pretextual stops.
Jaywalking laws were created by the auto-industry in the 1930s as vehicle ownership started to increase. The goal was to keep people off the streets and make room for vehicles as they started to become a normalized way of transportation. The prioritization of fast-moving vehicles over safety has made it difficult for pedestrians to cross streets. Twentieth-century city planning has left us with wider streets, increased distance between crosswalks (if they even exist), and a lack of adequate sidewalks (typically in Black and Brown urban neighborhoods). These design and policy decisions leave residents with no choice but to jaywalk.
It has been proven time and time again that jaywalking laws do not improve pedestrian safety or prevent pedestrian fatalities. Instead, data shows how jaywalking laws have an unjust impact on low-income communities, children, BIPOC people, and other vulnerable groups.
America Walks supports decriminalizing jaywalking as a step towards more equitable walkable communities. State and local groups from California, Virginia, Nevada, and Kansas City, MO have succeeded in changing and repealing outdated jaywalking laws.
Want to join the national movement and decriminalize jaywalking in your community? Reach out to Susan Le to get connected to local groups in your area who are taking on jaywalking laws. You can also identify existing jaywalking/pedestrian laws in your state here.