Jaywalking - a new yorker's birthright or a menace to society?

verb (used without object)
to cross a street at a place other than a regular crossing or in a heedless manner, as diagonally or against a traffic light.

It's a well known mathematical theory that crossing the street diagonally will save you time and distance. And New Yorkers love to save their time.  Sometimes it's not even about saving time. It's just something we do, it's in our blood. We feel powerful when we cross mid-street, when the cars are waiting for their red ligt to change, and we weave our way patiently to get to to the other side of the avenue. 

But now our new mayor, Bill DeBlasio has a hard-on for pedestrian safety. In the first two months of this year, the NYPD issuing 452 jaywalking tickets through the end of February, compared with just 50 during the same period last year.

His mission is a good one. NYC is dotted with "death spots" -- locations where accidents, many of them fatal, between pedestrians and vehicles occur. Not because of jaywalking but because of lack of safety features at a crosswalk, if there even is a cross-walk at a much used intersection. 

In 2012,  thirteen-year-old Dashane Santana lost her life while crossing the intersection at Clinton and Delancey. The tragedy ultimately proved a watershed moment that spurred the DOT and local politicians to finally address safety issues along that particular thoroughfare. Since her death, necessary changes were implemented, including longer crossing times at most crosswalks, extended sidewalks, and traffic pattern updates (e.g. no left turn from southbound Delancey).

Factors that contribute to accidents and fatalities are the width of the road to be crossed by a pedestrian, often way too wide for even the most sprightly of walkers to complete safely before the red hand stops flashing and becomes a solid STOP!  The "walk" signs countdown on a New York second (which ticks by faster than other locations on earth).  

These are the real hazards that the mayor should focus on, and not ticketing New Yorkers who are just exercising our birthright to cross where and when we feel like it, as long as WE know we can do it safely.  So why focus on ticketing jaywalkers rather than altering dangerous locations that make crossing the road a dreaded necessity?

Money.  Traffic tickets generate revenue. Altering streets and avenues to shorten the distance one must cross cost money.  Hopefully, the mayor and his VISION ZERO plan, a set of proposals aimed at improving street safety (based on a Swedish street safety approach which treats all traffic deaths as inherently preventable) will focus on traffic not tickets, pavement not people and let us New Yorkers continue to cross on the diagonal without the fear of having to pay a fine.

By the way,  New York City's First fatal car accident on record occurred on May 30, 1896, when Henry Wells of Springfield, Massachusetts, struck cyclist Ebeling Thomas at the intersection of Broadway and 103rd street.  Amazingly, upper Broadway is still a death trap -- the intersection at Broadway and 96th Street has been the site of 52 injuries from 2008 to 2012, and THREE pedestrian deaths in a 10 day period earlier this year, according to DOT. So what are the most dangerous intersections in NYC? Check out Transportation Alternative's CrashStat site for who, where and when. The why we already know. Now it's time for the what...will be done about it.