Tuesday, July 27, 2010

that'll teach me to exercise...

If you follow me on Twitter and I somehow stick out among the other 300 people you're following either because 1) my tweets go above and beyond in the entertainment department, 2) my tweets go above and beyond in the entertardment department, or 3) my tweets simply show up at the exact one second you devote to looking at that program each day, then you probably already know I got a ticket yesterday...for walking.


In case you don't have the superhuman vision to read cop-writing (
it took me 10 minutes to decipher the hieroglyphics passed off as handwriting here), this ticket shows a $20 fine for "Red violation/Walking against sign."

I contend, however, the officer should have added an ellipses and a "sorta" at the end of that clause because when I started crossing R Street NW on the southbound side of 14th Street, the crosswalk signal was still flashing orange high-fives at me. When it suddenly stopped while I was in the middle of the 15-foot-wide one-way street with no sign of any cars coming, instead of pausing like a stunned deer or returning to where I had come from, which would've been the same distance to get to where I was going, I continued to the other side. Sure, I found it strange that two cops were LOITERING around their police car, which was ILLEGALLY PARKED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SIDEWALK, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt. I thought maybe they were solving a crime. LOL!

As soon as I stepped on the curb, the female officer stopped me and asked to see my ID.

"What is this, Soviet Russia?" I thought. Then I saw the other cop stop a young Latino man. In my head, I traded Arizona for Soviet Russia. I looked at my arms. Having been at the beach this weekend, I got a little tan. I thought maybe I missed the law that passed that said it was OK for police to harass you in public just for being a little brown outside in DC.

Of course, I didn't voice this to the cop. Instead, I asked the officer why she needed my ID. She answered by shoving a brochure in my hand and said, "Pedestrian safety. You crossed the street illegally."

"Oh, really?" I asked. "Because I'm pretty sure the hand was flashing when I began crossing, so..."

"Ma'am. Give me your ID."

I gave her my ID. Then I gave myself a photo opportunity. I decided to snap a picture of this cop and post it to Twitter even after reading about the dangers of exercising one's rights to do so in the Washington Post that morning.


Clearly, as I've already demonstrated by venturing outside in this city whilst slightly beige, I'm not scared of the danger zone.

But seriously, this is all kinds of f*cked up. While jaywalking (which I don't think I technically even did) is on the books as a fineable offense, so are laws in some places that prohibit women from wearing high heels (California), ban people from catching fish with their bare hands (Kansas) and allow men to beat their wives, "as long as it is done in public on Sunday, on the courthouse steps" (West Virginia...duh).

I wonder what would happen if authorities started to enforce those laws? Would that be OK? I doubt it, because once the authorities stop enforcing a law, it becomes de facto legal (or illegal, in the cases of spousal assault). And while I understand jaywalking is a bit different than the above laws in that it's not completely laughable, I do not understand how something can be un-enforced to the point that people no longer see it as breaking the law, then one day suddenly enforced as if it never went away.

I've seen people (including myself) jaywalk a million times in front of cops in DC, eliciting nary even a warning. Truly, the law against jaywalking has gone the way of not being able to bathe on Sunday. After years of un-enforcement, people learned they can do it with impunity. Having to add "sometimes" to the end of any law is some bullsh*t.

Now, although I think jaywalking is OK in certain situations (in low-traffic areas at low-traffic times), I actually support easing this law back into common practice. (Both drivers and pedestrians in DC don't tend to watch the road too closely.) But the keyword to pay attention to here is "easing." Like any law that's been 100 percent neglected, one can't simply start strictly enforcing it out of nowhere via teaching a few unlucky citizens $20 lessons. That just pisses people off. Hell, I jaywalked across Logan Circle later that day simply out of spite.

Instead, the city should be using a more general campaign to make people aware of the law. The city should issue some public service announcements. Police officers should connect with community leaders or concerned bloggers, perhaps, who may be willing to help spread awareness. At the very least the police should warn people before randomly fining them. They should make it known that after a while -- after people are aware again of the law -- the law will start to be enforced, perhaps even with higher fines because people would now have to make the conscious decision to break the law in order to jaywalk.

But to just hand out semi-nominal fines because the city's hurting for funds or you have to meet your end-of-the-month ticket quota or whatever is ridiculous. More so, for the reasons I outlined above, it's just plain ill-planned and pointless. Then again, this is DC, where stupid is status quo, so I guess it'd be naive to think suddenly this city would go about anything with logic in its corner... Contrary to popular belief here, 2 + 2 does not equal crackpipe.

6 comments:

suicide_blond said...

omg..if they are gonna start writing jaywalking tix..im gonna have to start eating beans...
i loove the picture...perfect...
xoxo

sarabeck said...

Your post made me laugh out loud! It's been a while since someone's blog did that! Hehehehe...

Okay I knew when I studied in Germany that they took their pedestrian safety VERY seriosuly and that including writing tickets to the pedestrians for jaywalking and crossing without a little walk guy. Hmmm...

I didn't know that we still did that in this country because, you know, everyone does it!

When L.(CHILEANS!) was in the US recently he would try to jaywalk all the time and I would be all, "Uhm...I really don't want you to have any problems in case they decide to randomly enforce these rules and plus I can't see those cars that are coming but I can hear them barreling down on us so PLEASE let's cross at the cross walk with the light."

K.C. said...

"when I started crossing R Street NW on the southbound side of 14th Street, the crosswalk signal was still flashing orange high-fives at me."

Maybe you're just not aware of traffic regulations (which is fine, no one takes a licensing exam to walk), however the flashing orange "high five" signal is to warn you to not to enter the crosswalk. For those already in the crosswalk, it means hurry up and cross already. Consider it the "yellow light" for pedestrians, and just as motorists complain about getting tickets (yes, drivers, passing a yellow light is illegal too!), pedestrians need to be held to the same standard.

Pedestrians are a big problem when it comes to gridlock. Motorists are unable to clear intersections in time because pedestrians routinely cross when they aren't supposed to, forcing drivers to wait endlessly before attempting to clear, causing a backup-especially during rush hour.

Enforcement campaigns like this are actually a regular occurrence. Every few months or so, I stumble across complaints similar to yours on neighborhood listservs. It's not really new.

I say all this as a non-motorist and often blatant jaywalker (and a chronic red-light running cyclist). It sucks to get caught, but when you're wrong, you're wrong. Still, perhaps a warning rather than a fine could have gotten the same message across, and getting a traffic citation sucks, no matter the reason. Sorry.

P.S. I'm not a hundred percent sure, but you might want to double check the fine amount. If I recall, all pedestrian violations are $5.00. However, I know some fines were recently raised and that may be one of them (which also might explain the recent surge in enforcement)

One Blonde Girl said...

*bravo*

When I saw the pic of the traffic cop on Twitter yesterday, I thought, "That girl's got balls." And when you wrote that you jaywalked later on in Logan Circle, well, that just confirmed it.

I agree with your call for a campaign opposed to randomly ticketing people. I get dragged into jaywalking all the time (not that I'm afraid to do it because it's illegal, but because I'm afraid of getting hit by some crazy mother f*er flying around a corner). I'm one of those who just assumed this was a law that no one really took seriously any more. Thanks to your PSA, I now know better. (and seriously, $20? Is it really worth the time to write a ticket for $20?)

maryjanejeff said...

I've just gotten lucky with not getting ticketed because unless I ride my bike into work, I jaywalk several times a day. I can't help it, seeing as I was raised in a state where you learn to not pay any attention to crosswalks by the time you turn 6. Just go when and where it's safe to go is what we said.

Don't get busted for jaywalking in Portland, OR. I think the fine is $300something.

Marissa said...

suicide_blond--

I'm honestly surprised I didn't get arrested for that photo...

sara--

Glad to put a smile on your face. As far as jaywalking in Chile, I wouldn't dare... I was scared to even walk with the signal there!

K.C.--

I don't agree that pedestrians can be blamed for gridlock. Gridlock is because there are just far too many cars. The streets would be so much nicer without them...

As far as crossing with the flashing hand being illegal. Well, that's the first I heard of that. The brochure does not say that is illegal. In fact, the brochure doesn't say jaywalking is illegal. Instead, it's a list of "Safety Tips," which to be says they're optional. For instance, under bike safety, it says "ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET." Were they stopping people on bikes without helmets? Because in DC, if you're over 16, a helmet is optional.

The link on the brochure is BeStreetSmart.net.

One Blonde Girl--

Thanks. I think $20 is a ton for this. A parking ticket is usually $30 in the city. Plus, I wasn't even aware I was doing something illegal. In my mind, because I had a flashing hand still, I thought my crossing was perfectly legal. Oh, DC...

mjj--

I'll keep that in mind if I ever go to Portland...

As far as jaywalking, I think it's one of those things that requires intelligence and making it illegal protects children and people with really low IQs. Like I said, I probably won't stop jaywalking if the situation presents itself as a safe possibility.