Home>Articles>Jaywalking Decriminalization Bill Passes Assembly Transportation Committee 12-2

Assemblyman Philip Y. Ting. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Jaywalking Decriminalization Bill Passes Assembly Transportation Committee 12-2

AB 1238 gains steam following new amendments, more support from citizens groups

By Evan Symon, April 28, 2021 2:48 pm

The decriminalization of jaywalking statewide came one step closer following a 12-2 vote in favor of Assembly Bill 1238, also known as the Freedom to Walk Act, during the Assembly Transportation Committee on Tuesday.

AB 1238, authored by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), would make it legal to cross a street when not at a crosswalk or against the crosswalk light when it is not an immediate hazard to do so. All fines associated with jaywalking, which can reach into the hundreds of dollars in some cities and counties, would be eliminated should the bill be passed.

Recent amendments also clarified lingering questions over the language of the bill, with the largest question being what constitutes an “immediate hazard”. The most recent version of the bill answered that, stating that an immediate hazard exists if the approaching vehicle is so near or is approaching so fast that a reasonably careful person would realize that there is a danger of collision.

“Whether it’s someone’s life or the hundreds of dollars in fines, the cost is too much for a relatively minor infraction,” said Assemblyman Ting in a statement last month. “It’s time to reconsider how we use our law enforcement resources and whether our jaywalking laws really do protect pedestrians.”

The committee passage of jaywalking decriminalization bill, which Assemblyman Ting wrote to combat the high jaywalking fines that can financially harm poorer people and how minorities are almost ten times as likely to receive such a ticket as compared to white Californians, was celebrated by many supporter groups on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We applaud the Assembly Transportation Committee for advancing this important bill,” said California Bicycle Coalition (CalBike) Senior Policy Advocate Jared Sanchez. “Their strong support is a sign that California is ready to leave these regressive and oppressive laws in the dustbin of history, where they belong. Jaywalking laws do more than turn an ordinary and logical behavior into a crime; they also create opportunities for police to racially profile.”

However, despite the direct support of over 85 groups in favor of the bill,  many still oppose AB 1238, as shown by the Republican Assemblywomen voting against the bill on Tuesday.

“To many, the bill is still rather vague,” noted lawyer Mark Roth, who has consulted on jaywalking offenses before, to the Globe. “Plus, it is still a big safety issue for many. Pedestrians have the right of way, but slow jaywalkers, or jaywalkers who fall or other scenarios where a jaywalker spends a long time in the street increases risk. And with California having a lot of dedicated automobile and bicycle lanes, it’s an open question on what accident rates would look like without jaywalking laws.”

AB 1238 will next face a vote in the Assembly Appropriations Committee in the next few weeks.

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7 thoughts on “Jaywalking Decriminalization Bill Passes Assembly Transportation Committee 12-2

  1. If we cannot always divine what these no-goodniks are up to because time and energy is scarce for most people it doesn’t mean they aren’t up to something other than what they SAY they are up to. If Phil Ting and his entourage really wanted to make life better for “the poor” and “people of color” I can think of a thousand ways they could begin to make that happen but which they have NO INTEREST in pursuing. So spare us. Keep the jaywalking law intact. It’s much more useful than it appears. It is a deterrent to keep people in the street being mowed down on a regular basis if nothing else. Sigh.

  2. True Showandtell. These bills are reversed engineered for specific outcomes which is why they are dangerous even when they seem innocuous.

    1. Yes, CW. I suspect the legislature is bent on systematically eliminating all “innocuous-seeming” laws that take away legitimate reasons for a police officer to stop and have contact with a scofflaw whose criminal activity turns out to surpass “mere jaywalking” —- say, drug-dealing or high-tailing it from a mugging or burglary or car break-in nearby. In other words, this is one more way to help the criminal (Dems’ inexplicable idea of “justice reform”) and hurt the law-abiding public by further hamstringing police officers.

  3. So, California now makes it legal to mill about in the streets. And why not, since it’s already legal to sleep, excrete, and otherwise deplete the public assets there as well.
    Just another shortcut to a decivilized society, the “getting back to nature” we heard so much about in the 60’s.

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