Watch out, ‘jaywalking’ Sunfest patrons!

Earlier today, I alerted the community to the fact that police officers were issuing citations warnings to Sunfest patrons crossing at Quadrille and Clematis Street. For now, it appears that this enforcement activity has stopped.

[Clarification: Fines were not issued today. However, Bob Katzen, downtown neighbor and friend, was stopped by an officer and asked for ID. His information was taken by an officer. An officer stated they would issue warnings today and fines in the coming days. The officer was not approachable and did not wish to engage in conversation with Bob about the law, at one point threatening jail.]

The very term ‘jaywalking‘ deserves its own scorn, as I’ve written about in the past, as do pedestrian enforcement campaigns.  But in this post, I want to focus on the reasons why people cross against the signal and how conditions could easily be improved for pedestrians by implementing Jeff Speck’s recommendations from nearly two years ago.

Anyone standing at this intersection for a few minutes will see people crossing against the light. I do it. City officials do it. Everyone does it. But as it stands, this intersection is prioritized to move cars. Meanwhile, Clematis Street has been transformed into a superb people-centered environment by prioritizing people. Clematis was recently recognized as one of the best main streets in the United States. Taming cars along its length is one of the main factors that led to its resurgence.

Here’s the problem: A main street that invites people on foot to shop, stroll, and dine is combined with an intersection crossing that makes crossing the street a long, boring wait in the scorching sun. What would you do in this environment?

Here is what Jeff Speck had to say about the Quadrille and Clematis intersection in the Walkability Study.

 In terms of its crossings, the highest priority to improving Quadrille is to create more pedestrian-friendly crossings and signalization regimes at Clematis and Fern. At Fern, this improvement would include reshaped corners with a curb radius of perhaps 20 feet, rather than the current 50. Because it is a State Highway, removing the pushbutton requests will be difficult, but the City must fight for pushbuttons that actually activate the crossing signal, rather than merely lengthening the crossing time after a too-long wait.

As already discussed under A Safe Walk, the current signalization regime in place in much of the downtown is not a type that is found in any city that is known for welcoming pedestrians. From a national best practices perspective, it is truly substandard. Unfortunately, changing the current regime requires cooperation from Palm Beach County, which controls it. It is hoped that the evidence already provided will convince the County to recognize downtown West Palm Beach as the exceptional environment that it is, and allow it to implement the signal removal recommendations above, as well as the following comprehensive changes:
• Remove pushbuttons from all signals except those along Okeechobee and Flagler,
where longer crossing times are needed due to excess width. In those locations,
working with FDOT, allow the pushbutton request to preempt the signal cycle, so
that pedestrians are not led to believe that the buttons are broken.
• Implement simple concurrent crossing signals at all intersections, such that the
pedestrian is given the walk signal at the same time as vehicles heading in the
same direction. Use Lead Pedestrian Indicators (LPIs) at intersections with high
pedestrian volume, such as Rosemary & Okeechobee, Clematis & Quadrille,
Fern & Flagler, and Lakeview & Flagler.
• Working with FDOT as necessary, shorten signal cycles to a target length of 60
seconds for the entire cycle at all signalized intersections.

This is really simple stuff and it will make a major improvement. Fixing the signal timing, adding leading pedestrian indicators (LPIs), and ideally, getting rid of pushbuttons so we get an automatic walk signal at the light would be a long way toward prioritizing people at this crossing. It’s been two years since the Speck walkability study was published recommending these changes. The city and the DDA are fully behind it. The county is responsible for signal changes downtown, so the change needs to come from the county.

If you received a citation or are just frustrated by crossing at this unsafe intersection, let’s focus on a productive outcome by addressing the root of the problem: the intersection signalization, which is the responsibility of the county. Email the county commissioners and public officials involved at the links below and copy the city.







  1. Perhaps the jaywalking tickets have nothing to do with traffic flow.

    When I was a kid living in a shore town in southern New Jersey there would be recurring municipal budget gaps that needed to be plugged. The fire marshal and police chief would go up and down the streets fining shopkeepers and residents for minor violations. These fines were simultaneously about code enforcement for public health and safety, as well as revenue enhancement. Municipal employees knew exactly how their salaries and benefits were funded in a conservative anti-tax political environment. But if someone didn’t take their trash cans off the curb by 11 AM or if the wash water at a local establishment wasn’t hot enough for proper sanitation… who could protest?

  2. Nancy Pullum

    Jesse check out the crossing at Banyan and Dixie also. No button to trigger the light so lots of jay walking to courthouse and city hall!

    Nancy Pullum Sent from my iPhone


  3. William Cross

    We were downtown shopping yesterday and came across several officers pulling folks aside. At first I was so surprised/intrigued, I started taking pictures to see if they were profiling, to their credit they didn’t appear to be. While we didn’t cross on the red knowing what was going on (many were openly oblivious to the officers intentions), we did start walking when the vehicle signal turned green, and were also the recipients of a polite lecture for failing to wait for permission from the ped signal (we all know traffic engineers despise when their numbers are thwarted by stalled turning movements caused by peds, jamming up traffic flow). Being a planner and a downtown resident who has to cross the Okeechobee stroad at Cityplace, I of course launch into a response on how the pedestrian signals have been broken so many times over the years, one simply learns to ignore them, or you’d never be able to cross the street. The officer was polite, professional and after I elected not to produce id, didn’t make a big deal about it. Whether right or wrong, this task likely came from above, whether related to Sunfest or that whole jaywalking ticket debacle a few years back, these folks were just doing a job. Notwithstanding it pains me greatly to see peds cross without looking, you are absolutely correct in that big changes are still needed – and that has to come from the top down.

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