SACRAMENTO – In a setback for the movement for more equitable streets, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed the Freedom to Walk Act (AB 1238, Ting). The law would have ended penalties for safe mid-block pedestrian crossings. CalBike and a coalition of more than 90 groups and individuals supported the repeal of ‘jaywalking’ laws.
“The governor’s veto rests on the belief that police enforcement or the threat of jaywalking tickets will somehow prevent pedestrian fatalities in the future when that has consistently failed in the past. Continuing to criminalize people’s rational, predictable responses to poor infrastructure is simply unjust,” said Jared Sanchez, CalBike Senior Policy Advocate.
Inequities in neighborhood design and street infrastructure leave many lower-income California neighborhoods less than pedestrian-friendly. Because of this, policing jaywalking often amounts to punishing people for the lack of government services in their community.
Legalizing mid-block crossings would have helped protect vulnerable pedestrians against racially biased, pretextual policing, inequitable fees and fines, and unnecessary and potentially lethal interactions with law enforcement.
John Yi, Executive Director of Los Angeles Walks, said, “The Governor’s recent veto represents continued condescension of pedestrians. To think we can penalize our parents, seniors, and students to bow to high-speed traffic at the cost of their own dignity, ease, and safety is draconian and deeply misunderstands the needs of those walking every day. We cannot begin to ask why it is we jaywalk if we are already criminals in the eyes of the state.”
“This is a tremendous loss not only for racial justice across California but also for active transportation as a whole as Governor Newsom failed to recognize the importance of non-automobile modes of travel,” said CalBike’s Sanchez. “But the Freedom to Walk Act has helped spark a national conversation about unjust jaywalking laws that can’t be stopped by one misguided veto.”