Walkable West Palm Beach

Jaywalking enforcement campaign misses the mark

4 Comments

Delray Beach Police department has issued over 1,000 warnings to jaywalkers, and is now ticketing them, under the guise of keeping us all safe.  WPTV has the story.

Atlantic Avenue, to set the stage for readers unfamiliar with this street, is one of the most successful main streets in the state. Two narrow lanes, parallel parking, and ample street trees canopy over the most successful section of the street and send the message ‘this is a place for people first.’ Cars move very slowly down “The Ave”, as it should be. I would guess the average speed of vehicles is about 10 – 15 mph. Pedestrians pack The Ave, strolling, shopping and dining. They come for the ambiance, the restaurants, and the people watching. It’s a great place, and its success is reflected in the commercial rents that top $60 – 70 per square foot.

As part of the silly “Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow” (ATAT) FDOT campaign, the police department has apparently secured a state grant to pay for officers’ overtime pay. The police department has chosen to focus on the ‘jaywalkers’ (don’t even get me started on the term jaywalking, a term invented by organized motordom) crossing to and fro across Atlantic Avenue, issuing over 1,000 warnings and now fines of $64.50. Here is the marketing material from the ATAT website. Notice the list of  “Bicyclist Tips” and “Pedestrian Tips”. The underlying message: The streets do not belong to people – they are for cars.

What I find offensive about this campaign is the disregard for the urban environment in which it is taking place. Atlantic Avenue is a very rare thing indeed – a main street that has managed to not be overengineered to serve cars – and as Andres Duany has put it, if you can put together two to three blocks of good urbanism, you have a destination. That’s what Atlantic Avenue is and it is possible because of slow moving cars caused by a somewhat chaotic environment with lots of people, not in spite of it.

As if we hadn’t ceded enough public spaces to automobiles, in one of the most successful, people-centered places in the state, the enforcement effort is squarely put on people walking. Obey, or get ticketed. This campaign misses the mark. What it should be focusing on is the folks who are guests on this successful main street – the people behind the wheel of a steel box capable of generating a massive amount of force, so much so that as speeds approach 30 mph, the likelihood of a pedestrian surviving falls to about 50%. The person driving a vehicle, outfitted with airbags, seatbelts, and all manner of safety measures, is at very low risk of injury or death. The pedestrian on the other hand… They have every incentive to watch out for their own hide because to not do so could cost them their life. How about placing primary responsibility where it belongs – with the driver?

More importantly, though, FDOT needs to stop paying lip-service to pedestrians and bicyclists and get serious about letting cities design their places contextually.

Here are the questions we should ask:

  • The police department issued over 1,000 warnings to ‘jaywalkers’ in the past two months. How many tickets were issued to motorists?
  • What are the crash statistics on Atlantic Avenue between cars and pedestrians? Compared with the pedestrian traffic in this place, is it dangerous or relatively safe? Where are the most dangerous intersections in Delray Beach? (just a guess: Anywhere two stroads meet)
  • If there is a ‘problem’ with jaywalking, why is that the case? Where are people crossing frequently and why? Why hasn’t the city accommodated pedestrian preferences in those locations?
  • Who has more to lose in a collision – a car or a person walking? If a driver blows through a light on the Ave and hits a pedestrian, who gets hurt?

Throwing more enforcement money at the horrific pedestrian and bicyclist fatality problem in Florida is not the answer, even if the intention is good. It will take a serious rethinking of how we design our streets, not a public shaming campaign of so-called ‘jaywalkers’.

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  1. Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns wrote a fantastic piece, “Just Another Pedestrian Killed“, that I encourage everyone to read
  2. “Fighting Traffic” is a must read book if you haven’t picked it up yet. This lecture at CNU 20 was a great recap of the book which tells the story of organized motordom overtaking our streets.
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4 thoughts on “Jaywalking enforcement campaign misses the mark

  1. Ben Hamilton Baillie, on the leaders in shared space, makes a compelling argument that a class action lawsuit would find a state that outlaws jaywalking to be found liable. Ben points to a number of studies where streets that allowed jay walking were safer.

    Here is a podcast where Ben explains this:
    http://shoutengine.com/StrongTownsPodcast/ben-hamilton-baillie-take-2-4984

    Listen at the 9 minute mark and the 51:20 minute mark.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great article. I’m also upset with the war on walking our tax dollars are funding. Lately I’ve just been driving instead of walking to the grocery store literally right across the street from my house. It’s not worth the risk of making it to the light slightly late and crossing as the light goes from green, yellow to red before I’m finished.

    Say I get to the light while its already green and then wait until the next cycle. Depending on the time of day it could be a 6 minute wait from that point. At an additional 12 minutes of waiting on top of the walk, I’d rather just let off some carbon dioxide and drive.
    Cause the truth of the matter is, even if I cross while I have a green light I’m still risking my life as there is ZERO enforcement of stopping before right turns on red here in Delray Beach (and maybe other Florida too… I only live here).

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a shame, Curt. And you put it well — the war on walking that our taxpayer dollars are funding. Whether or not you drive, you’re still paying for our streets through property taxes and at the federal level through general fund transfers.

      Like

  3. Pingback: Watch out, ‘jaywalking’ Sunfest patrons! | Walkable West Palm Beach

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