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Jaywalking isn't what you think in West Hollywood

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Lt David Smith with the LA County Sheriff's Department – West Hollywood Division demonstrates how to properly cross the street.
Leo Duran/KPCC
Lt David Smith with the LA County Sheriff's Department – West Hollywood Division demonstrates how to properly cross the street.

Jaywalking: It's when you cross outside of the crosswalk, right? Wrong. At least in West Hollywood.

Jaywalking is when you cross a street outside of the crosswalk, right?

Wrong. At least in West Hollywood.

The city is in the middle of a million-dollar project to make the streets safer for pedestrians, from 3D chalk art to music videos to in-street paddle signs.

But a revelation came to me from Lt .David Smith of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department – West Hollywood division.

"You can cross the street in between intersections as long you're not making vehicle traffic stop for you," says Lt. Smith. "That is technically not jaywalking."

Mind. Blown.

It's because of how his department reads the California Vehicle Code.

In short, 21954(a) says that a pedestrian who crosses anywhere but a marked or unmarked crosswalk has to yield the right-of-way to vehicles, not that the crossing itself is illegal.

A BIG "however:" don't assume that's the rule in every city.

Several LAPD officers, for example, told me they will write up a ticket if you do it in Los Angeles.

"As for crossing outside the crosswalk, if it is between two controlled intersections, then that would be a violation of 21955 CVC," writes the LAPD's Sgt. Mike Flynn. (you can read the CVC for yourself HERE)

Despite the difference in how they define jaywalking, Smith says his department won't go out of their way to ticket pedestrians -- they'll only target those who act recklessly.

"We know that West Hollywood is a pedestrian-friendly city, so we're not going after pedestrians," he says. "We just want everyone to be safe."

Here's what is and isn't against the law in WeHo:

  • OK: crossing with the white "walk" signal
  • OK: crossing mid-block outside of a crosswalk – yes, the middle of the street – as long as your presence doesn't slow vehicle traffic
  • OK: starting in the crosswalk, but veering out as you approach the curb
  • NOT OK: stepping off the curb when there is a red signal to not walk. That includes when it's flashing with a countdown timer – it doesn't matter how long
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