The state of California has enacted their Freedom to Walk Act. This is the latest in our national trend to legalize walking by removing dated “jaywalking” laws.
As silly as that sounds, 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.
This act will do the following:
- Decriminalize safe, commonsense street crossing, when traffic permits, whether or not a pedestrian is within a marked/unmarked crosswalk.
- Remove a pretext for over-policing that has disproportionately hurt Black and Latinx Californians.
- Recognize the rights of pedestrians to fair and equitable use of our public roadways.
- End a traffic enforcement practice that places an undue financial burden on low-income residents through fines, fees, and penalties without increasing safety.
This is a reminder that, until about 90 years ago, walking in the street was a completely normal and legal behavior. Even if car-dominated streets seem natural to someone born today, that status-quo mainly exists by government fiat. We are now seeing more and more communities working to change that.