California Decriminalizes Jaywalking Because Of Systemic Racism

( If you like jaywalking, then California is going to be the state for you.

Starting in 2023, it will no longer be a crime to jaywalk. That means pedestrians will be able to cross the street wherever they want to without worrying about getting a ticket for doing so. Pedestrians just need to make sure “it’s safe to do so” when they want to walk across the street.

Last Friday, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom signed the new “The Freedom to Walk Act.” Under the bill, which was sponsored by Assemblyman Phil Ting, says that police are only allowed to give someone a ticket for jaywalking if there’s “an immediate danger of a collision.”

One of the main reasons that Ting gave for why the law was necessary was because he says that tickets for jaywalking are given out to lower-income people and people of color at disproportionate rates.

He backed up that claim using data provided from the California Racial and Identity Profiling Act. Ting said the data showed that between 2018 and 2020, Black residents of the state were 4.5 times more likely than their white counterparts to be approached by a police officer for jaywalking.

Two years ago, Californians were up in arms after a police officer shot a 42-year-old homeless man who was Black after he was stopped for jaywalking. The incident occurred in the Southern California community of San Clemente.

In a statement announcing the new law, Ting said:

“It should not be a criminal offense to safely cross the street. When expensive tickets and unnecessary confrontations with police impact only certain communities, it’s time to reconsider how we use our law enforcement resources and whether our jaywalking laws really do protect pedestrians. Plus, we should be encouraging people to get out of their cars and walk for health and environmental reasons.”

It’s a little odd that Ting would try to justify this new law the way that he did. Essentially, he’s claiming that jaywalking is discouraging people from walking, which then forces them to drive more, which then has negative impacts on their health and the overall environment.

That’s quite the stretch, to say the least.

Jaywalking laws, after all, aren’t in place to deter people from walking altogether. They’re in place to deter people from trying to cross the street in situations that could result in them getting injured — or causing someone else to get injured.

So, Ting was certainly grasping at straws for reasons why this law needed to be passed.

Laws for jaywalking are present in many states. That being said, most major cities in the country such as New York City don’t really enforce them all that much, if at all.

In California, Ting said jaywalking was “arbitrarily enforced” up until this point. He said that until 2018, the jaywalking law said that pedestrians could receive a ticket for crossing in a designated crosswalk if they were inside the crosswalk when the meter begins to count down.