CALIFORNIA — On Thursday, March 25, Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) proposed legislation that would decriminalize jaywalking in the state of California.

In a March 25 tweet, Assemblymember Ting said he believes “jaywalking is arbitrarily enforced.  When tickets are issues, they’re disproportionately given to people of color & sometimes these encounters w/ police are life threatening.  I introduced #AB1238, The Freedom To Walk Act, repealing CA’s jaywalking laws.”

Cornell Law School said jaywalking is “the act of crossing a street illegally, for example by walking outside marked cross-walks.”  The word “jay” was once referred “to a foolish rural person who cannot navigate city streets,” according to its website.

Laws against jaywalking began in the 1930s “by the emerging auto industry, which saw the deadly number of deadly accidents skyrocket in the prior decade and wanted to shift the blame from drivers to pedestrians,” stated the press release.

The proposal, if passed, would do the following (according to Ting’s press release):

  1. Legalize “crossings, when safe, outside of a crosswalk or against a traffic light.”
  2. Stop “the undue financial burden on low-income violates, as fines can total hundreds of dollars, if not more, because of added fees tacked on by the court, county, city, and other jurisdictions.”
  3. Prevent “police from using jaywalking as a pretext to stop Black and Brown people, especially since under-resourced neighborhoods often lack adequate crossing infrastructure.”

Ting’s bill will be debated next month.