A bill in the California Assembly would change state law to allow pedestrians to do something they may not know is illegal: begin crossing a street once the signal begins flashing the countdown.
Currently, doing so can get walkers a hefty jaywalking ticket, one costing up to $250. Pedestrians in downtown Los Angeles learned that lesson the hard way during a Los Angeles Police Department crackdown in the neighborhood in 2015.
Police wrote about 17,000 tickets for the offense over four years, prompting protest from pedestrian advocates and action by the Los Angeles City Council. It ordered the police department to study whether it could step down enforcement and urged the state Legislature to change the law.
Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) along with Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) introduced A.B. 390, which would allow pedestrians to cross once the light starts flashing if there is sufficient time to do so safely.
L.A. Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents downtown L.A., said the policy was working against efforts to encourage walking in the newly thriving neighborhood. In a press release, he applauded the state bill, saying it would "encourage more pedestrian activity, while ensuring public safety.”
Critics say the bill would encourage reckless behavior by pedestrians who may dash across crosswalks at the last moment, endangering themselves.
The authors of the bill point to places like New York City, which supporters say haven’t seen an increase in risky crossings.
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