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FAQ: How do you cross a street in SoCal without getting a ticket?

Pedestrians take the diagonal crosswalk on Colorado Boulevard and Raymond Avenue in Old Town Pasadena.
Alana Rinicella
Pedestrians take the diagonal crosswalk on Colorado Boulevard and Raymond Avenue in Old Town Pasadena.

Crossing the street should be pretty straightforward, but a recent Los Angeles Times story highlighted a crackdown in downtown L.A. in which officers ticketed pedestrians for stepping off the curb while the "Don't Walk" signal was flashing.

Some didn't know this was against the law.

There are many rules in the California Vehicle Code that dictate what pedestrians can and can't do. But each community has different approaches to the law, too.

KPCC surveyed officers in Los Angeles, Inglewood, West Hollywood and Pasadena.

Here is what they say you should know about crossing the street in Southern California – and what could earn you a ticket.

When is it legal to cross a street?

When you are at an intersection where a light controls pedestrian traffic, only step off that curb when you have the white "Walk" light. Crossing with a "Don't Walk" signal – even if it's flashing with a countdown timer – could earn you a citation.

At all other crosswalks, marked or unmarked, drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.

Should you always stay within the crosswalk?

If it's marked, aim to stay there.

But if you are outside of it for a few steps – perhaps to turn or avoid a vehicle – police departments say they will err to let it slide in the spirit of the law.

When is it legal to cross in the middle of a block?

The CVC says you can actually cross any street as long as you aren't a hazard to vehicles. 

It is also legal to cross mid-block when you're not between two intersections with signals.

For example, if there is an intersection with traffic signals on one side and another with stop signs on the other, you can cross the street in between. Officers in West Hollywood, Pasadena and Inglewood tell KPCC that you won't get a ticket in their cities for doing that.

"That is technically not jaywalking," said Lt. David Smith from the L.A. Sheriff's Department in West Hollywood.

Are there exceptions?

Yes. A big exception is in Los Angeles.

LAPD officer Liliana Preciado says you may only cross at a marked or unmarked crosswalk. If you cross mid-block, that is considered jaywalking and can get you fined.

Why is that?

The CVC allows localities to restrict where pedestrians can cross.

Do you have other questions? Note them in the comments and we'll try to get you answers. Also, if you have received a ticket that appears to contradict the principles we've reported, let us know and we'll follow up.