State Could Eliminate Jaywalking Law; Right-Wing Group Attacks Seattle Council for Addiction Program They Had Nothing to Do With

1. If you’ve ever lived outside the Pacific Northwest, or spent time in virtually any big city elsewhere, you may wonder why the state of Washington still has, and enforces, laws against “jaywalking”—the practice of crossing the street midblock or while the light is green but the road is clear. (“Jay-walking” is an antique slur for a rube who doesn’t know enough to keep out of the road). Crossing the street in an area other than an intersection or against a signal can set you back $68, and you’re far more likely to be targeted if you’re Black; according to a 2017 analysis, more than a quarter of jaywalking tickets issued between 2010 and 2016 went to Black pedestrians, even though just 7 percent of Seattle residents are Black.

This year, legislators plan to propose a bill that would eliminate the specific law against jaywalking—or “crossing not at a crosswalk,” as the state’s 57-year-old jaywalking law describes it—which would make it legal to cross the street as long as it’s safe to do so. During a recent Transportation Choices Coalition-sponsored forum, state Sens. Javier Valdez (D-46) and Marko Liias (D-21), the head of the Senate Transportation Committee, noted that legislators laid the groundwork for getting rid of the jaywalking ban by specifying that pedestrians, like drivers, must exercise “due care” when using roads and sidewalks.

Now, Liias said,  “I don’t think we need a specific violation for jaywalking, because if law enforcement sees someone that’s violating that duty of care, just like if they see any other user [doing so], they already have tools to hold that person accountable. When you look at the history of how these laws were used, it’s clear that there’s been disproportionate enforcement against low-income and BIPOC communities.” Basically, Valdez added, the change would give people the ability to use common sense when crossing the street without risking an automatic penalty. In areas where stoplights are far apart, the rational choice is often to cross midblock rather than walking a quarter-mile or more each way just to get to the other side of the road.

TCC, along with Commute Seattle, the King County Department of Public Defense, and other groups have started a coalition called Free to Walk Washington to support the elimination of jaywalking laws, which would follow similar changes in California, Virginia, Nevada, and Kansas City, MO.

2. Change Washington, a “strategic communications organization” funded by the right-wing organization Project 42, often makes and promotes some pretty outrageous claims about the city of Seattle on its website, which includes cross-posts from Project 42-funded ventures like the podcast of a well-known former local FOX reporter. Last week, though, they got the attention of a Seattle City Council member with a post that not only mischaracterized a well-established addiction management technique called contingency management, but accused the whole city council of proposing a “giveaway to drug addicts”—a claim without even a passing connection to reality. (The post uses the sneering slur “addict” no fewer than seven times.)

Contingency management is a method of helping a person reduce their drug consumption by offering them small rewards, such as money, a gift card, or a small prize, for a negative drug test. In numerous studies, contingency management has been found to be one of the most effective methods for reducing or eliminating drug use, particularly among people whose main drug of choice is stimulants, for which there are no broadly effective medications. There is longstanding, research-backed scientific consensus that contingency management works. Even so, the city council has never proposed funding it.

“The budget that City Council passed last month does not include funding for a contingency management program,” Herbold wrote Change Washington in an email. “I am unaware of any City Councilmember that has a proposal for a contingency management program,” she added, since the city doesn’t fund public health care programs—the county does. King County’s DCHS Behavioral Health and Recovery Division got approval last year to fund a contingency management pilot project.

After mischaracterizing contingency management as a frivolous “giveaway to addicts” that will just give them money to buy drugs and mocking its proponents for supposedly thinking “gift cards cure mental illness,” the conservative group also trashed needle exchanges, which prevent the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis, and said a better solution would be to force addicted people into (presumably locked) mental health facilities where they could be “monitored” to make sure they changed their ways. The post ends with a warning to council members about next year’s elections. But it looks like the election disinformation has already started.

7 thoughts on “State Could Eliminate Jaywalking Law; Right-Wing Group Attacks Seattle Council for Addiction Program They Had Nothing to Do With”

  1. we need policing with better judgment. there are many laws that are unfairly enforced; we should not get rid of all of them. this follows the elimination of the helmet law.

  2. Jaywalking ticket rates being higher in Black pedestrians than their percentage of the population could be due to biased enforcement, and/or it could be due to higher rates of infractions from Black people. I’ve noted similar sloppy logic on this blog before, so I guess I should not be surprised. I used to donate over $20/month to Publicola, but this sort of poor biased and inflammatory reasoning made me cancel these donations.

    1. P.S. I’m actually for getting rid of the jaywalking laws–just not based on crappy reasoning like exhibited above alleging racial bias without good evidence.

  3. “Crossing the street in an area other than an intersection or against a signal can set you back $68…” This is contrary to the Pez Right of Way Signs posted all over and the pedestrians that routinely weight at constructed side-walk curb cuts that often seem to be relics of removed sanctioned side-walks. It’s easy to see why the jaywalking disparity is an issue of walking while black and brown. My 2-adult family certainly had no indication that routine crossing areas in our neighborhood could easily be explained away as jaywalking by a cop, even though there have been red-exing signs – but no painted cross walk – in the same area.

    When there are no public safety campaigns with official literature spelling out “intersection” and other attributes that’s threatening for all people. It’s even more threatening to populations where they are taught “speaking back to a cop” (or not saying anything actually) can cost them their life. We need laws that remove racial disparity and the people in charge do better.

  4. @Jim We cannot do away with laws themselves because they disproportionately impact certain groups, we need to improve enforcement so there is no disparity. Is jaywalking a necessary law? Probably not. But there can be consequences for crossing outside of a crosswalk and it should be clear who has the right of way in these situations, to avoid accidents.

  5. QEliminate jaywalking it’s a crime. OK with that but the bypass rationale please be cold easy to get rid of any law if it affects us by to buy Parker LLGBTQ

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