How Do Pedestrians Walk in a Car-Centric City?

How Do Pedestrians Walk in a Car-Centric City?

In many cities throughout the United States, it is common to see people jaywalk across streets without facing any penalties. In one city, however, the authorities are now taking notice of this illegal act. The police are cracking down on jaywalking in Los Angeles. It seems that the police may be hindering the hopes of making L.A. a pedestrian-friendly city. The police are penalizing pedestrians by issuing expensive tickets to them when they jaywalk across streets. One individual cited by the New York Times article walked across a street seconds after the crossing signal flashed the “Don’t Walk” symbol and was given a $197 ticket, the common cost of ticket for jaywalking in L.A. People in New York and Chicago are known for jaywalking across streets when the “Don’t Walk” sign appears. People in these cities know no police officers are standing on the other side of the sidewalk waiting to give them tickets.  So why are police taking notice in L.A. then?

L.A. is a city designed around wide streets, and aggressive motorists zipping around corners, cutting in and out of lanes and sneaking past red lights.” L.A. was not built for walking originally. Though like many U.S. cities now, the urban design of L.A. is changing. Many more people are using bicycles to get around and L.A. is updating and expanding its subway and bus system, trying to encourage people to use alternative forms of transportation besides the car. The L.A. police have stated that the crackdown on pedestrians “is a matter of public safety and traffic flow” as drivers are just trying to drive through the city without having to fear for pedestrians crossing at intersections at all times. Adam Nagourney cited that there have been many accidents involving cars and pedestrians, which is a huge reason why the police are focused on this issue. Of course, it is important to maintain public safety in city so people feel comfortable visiting and exploring the city. But are there other ways to ensure public safety in our cities?

Pedestrian safety has been on our minds, as well, after a year with several incidents.  But, is penalizing pedestrians the right way to proceed?  In L.A. the police’s crackdown on pedestrians is definitely a way to discourage walking in the city. If L.A. is trying to become a more pedestrian-friendly city, then the police’s actions are clearly not evidence of the city’s declared changing attitudes toward walkability. The urban design planned for the White Flint area in the White Flint Sector Plan encourages walking, biking, and mass transit as means for transportation. When these behaviors are encouraged, people are more inclined to follow them.

Read the full New York Times article here.  And, stay tuned to our blog for information on how Montgomery County is moving forward to make our roads more pedestrian friendly.

Rebecca Hertz


Rebecca Hertz is the Assistant Executive Director of Friends of White Flint. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in International Development and Social Change from Clark University, Worcester Massachusetts in 2012. She completed her Master’s Degree from Clark University, as well, in Community Development and Planning in 2013. She is interested in how built environments impact the health and growth of communities. Prior to this role, she worked as a youth worker and mentor for several non-profit organizations in Maryland and Massachusetts. She grew up in Rockville, MD and has recently moved back to the region.

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