Jaywalking bill knocked as “just not realistic”

Boston Statehouse
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BOSTON (State House News Service) – Warning against a punitive approach, transportation advocates on Thursday urged lawmakers not to advance legislation imposing stricter punishments on pedestrians who do not use crosswalks.

A bill before the Transportation Committee (H 3470) would increase fines for jaywalking and scale them up in situations where cellphones or headphones are involved. And in the opinion of WalkBoston Deputy Director Brendan Kearney, the legislation “does not increase safety” and is “just not realistic.”

The jaywalking legislation, filed by Dracut Rep. Colleen Garry, would impose fines of $25 for a first offense, $50 for a second offense and $100 for a third or subsequent offense in a year, and those penalties would be doubled if the violation happens while the individual is using a mobile device or wearing headphones. Under existing state law, jaywalking fines are only $1 for first, second and third offenses and $2 for fourth and subsequent offenses.

Under the bill, cities and towns could also adopt a local option to impose fines on pedestrians who cross intersections diagonally, rather than crossing one street and then turning to cross another, where there is no signal or marking allowing them to do so. Kearney described Central Street in Framingham, where he lives, as an example of road infrastructure where a broad ban on jaywalking would not fit. On his stretch of the road, only one side has a sidewalk and crosswalks are spaced out, Kearney said.

“It would be unsafe to try to walk the narrow, 30 miles per hour street with traffic to my back to get to the nearest crosswalk a quarter-mile down the street, an act which in itself would technically be against the law, because if there’s a sidewalk present along a street, I’m supposed to walk on it,” he said. “This isn’t an extreme example. It’s literally the view from my front door, and that’s the reality for many of our municipalities across Massachusetts.”

Under existing state law, pedestrians are free to cross outside a crosswalk if the nearest marked crosswalk or signaled intersection is at least 300 feet away, according to Kearney.

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