Let’s Get Rid of Jaywalking Laws

Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal/ZUMAPRESS

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

In the Guardian today, Arwa Mahdawi takes on US jaywalking laws:

Why is jaywalking even against the law? There is no such offence in much of Europe, including in the UK — although Ken Livingstone apparently proposed making jaywalking illegal while he was mayor of London. In the US, however, you can get a hefty fine and even go to jail for it.

….Jaywalking laws are not evenly applied: enforcement disproportionally targets people of colour. In 2019, for example, 90% of illegal-walking tickets issued by New York police were to black and Hispanic people. The laws are one small part of widespread systemic racism, but they are also part of the ongoing privatisation of public spaces. The streets don’t belong to communities any more — they belong to individuals, driving around in expensive cars.

Aside from the usual tedious hit on people who drive cars, I’m on board with this. Not only do I agree that jaywalking laws are mostly dumb and useless, but I’m all in favor of anything that reduces police encounters with people of color—especially those that can be used routinely as a pretext for hassling someone just for the hell of it. One of the goals of police reform should be the elimination of low-level offenses like this that give police too much discretion to harass anyone they want with no good reason. Getting rid of jaywalking laws is a good place to start.

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you'll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate