A trivial epiphany from this afternoon: the theoretical case for jaywalking is identical to the theoretical case for allowing right turns on red, namely, that it’s utterly silly to make people wait around for no reason. At least in New York City this translates into the same legal status (namely, neither is allowed), though presumably enforcement is not symmetrical. But everywhere else there seems no good reason to allow one and not the other.

I’ve also been struck by the fact that in Minneapolis, pretty much every street corner is substantially curved. This gives the strong impression that space belongs to cars (particularly, turning traffic), as the very structure of the street gives them priority. It also notably lengthens the distances pedestrians have to go from curb to curb.

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2 Responses to Jaywalking

  1. Toby says:

    I think that there are very good reasons to allow one and not the other! Jaywalking should be allowed because it makes life better for pedestrians. Right turns on red should not be allowed because it makes life worse for pedestrians.

    The summer I just spent driving in San Diego has really reinforced in me that right turns on red cause a lot of problems. To make a right turn on red, you drive into the crosswalk then check if a car is coming. Then, when you realize that there’s a long line of cars coming, you sit in the crosswalk blocking pedestrians. (This is a much bigger problem in Seattle than San Diego, actually, since San Diego has no pedestrians.)

    Another problem is that cars often drift forward into the crosswalk to make a right turn on red while at traffic to left, instead of at pedestrians directly in front of you. This isn’t usually that dangerous, since pedestrians are unlikely to walk in front of a moving car. (Our mutual friend Angela got hit by a car in a situation like that was something like that, though. She wasn’t seriously hurt.) Worse is that drivers making a right turn on red aren’t looking for pedestrians crossing to their right. Several times in San Diego, I had to shout at a car as it started to turn right at me. This is bad driving, but I can really understand it after my vehicular summer. It’s not easy to watch out for two things at the same time.

    I saw a near accident that went like this: There’s a T-shaped intersection, and a driver is in the right lane of the crossbar of the T stopped at the light and signalling right. The drivers going the other way across the T occasionally get a left turn signal, but it’s hard to know if they have it or not. The driver signalling right is being very cautious, presumably because he or she is worried that an opposing driver waiting in the left turn lane is about to get a signal. The car behind starts honking. The person waiting to make the right turn just decides to go, presumably because it’s uncomfortable to have the person behind you honking. But, the car in the opposing direction has just started turning left, and almost crashes into the car turning right!

  2. JBL says:

    Ha, touché! The (implicit) framing of my post is to convince people who live in a world in which right-on-red is commonplace that jaywalking should be acceptable. But you are absolutely correct that jaywalking is in fact much less problematic than right-on-red. (Actually I was very scared as a pedestrian in Boston initially because it was very hard to predict when cars would come around some corners. It was particularly bad when coupled with the NYer tendency (which I have now lost) to stand well off the corner while waiting to cross.)

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