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LA considers scaling back controversial pedestrian tickets

A crosswalk in Downtown Los Angeles.
Michael Kang via Flickr
A crosswalk in Downtown Los Angeles

The Los Angeles City Council is considering changing enforcement policies around jay walking after a recent crackdown in downtown Los Angeles spurred protests by activists.

Under California state law, pedestrians are not allowed to start crossing the street after the "walk" signal has changed to red. The law was written before countdown technology was added to lights - and many people assume if they can safely cross in the remaining time they are within the law.

Not so, says the LAPD, which has handed out more than 17,000 citations for this violation in downtown over the past four years. Tickets range from $190 to $250 each.

"The result of the LAPD enforcing the law this way is to discourage people from taking public transit and walking in downtown L.A.," said Luke Klipp, who organized a protest last weekend he called, "Jaydancing."

Demonstrators played music from portable speakers and held a dance party in downtown L.A. crosswalks - while the walk signs were illuminated - to protest what they see as a strategy that aggressively targets pedestrians while giving drivers a pass.

Video courtesy of Brigham Yen DTLA Rising
"If there’s a conflict at an intersection, the one that’s likely to do the most damage is the big heavy metal machine as opposed to the pedestrian," said L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin.
He introduced a motion with Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district includes downtown, to look into changing the priorities for pedestrian enforcement. The motion was heard in the Transportation Committee this week and is making its way through council.

City officials are examining the enforcement issue as they look to enhance pedestrian safety policies as part of Vision Zero, an initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities. It began in Sweden and was adopted by L.A. Department of Transportation last year.

Bonin said he hopes the state legislature will act soon to change the outdated state law and reduce the cost of jaywalking tickets. Currently, the city charges $25 - but the added county and state fees bump tickets up to almost $200.