January 23, 2024
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New Research Report Shows Disparate Impacts Of Jaywalking Enforcement Across Washington; State Lawmakers Bring Back “Free To Walk” Bill To Protect Pedestrians From Harmful Stops
OLYMPIA, WA – A first-of-its-kind research report showing how jaywalking enforcement impacts people across Washington State was published today, Tuesday, January 23. The report comes just as lawmakers in the Washington State Senate Transportation Committee are scheduled to hear testimony on an updated Free to Walk bill (SB 5383 – see amended version here), which would limit police enforcement of jaywalking laws.
Commissioned by Transportation Choices Coalition and authored by researcher Ethan C. Campbell, Ticket to Walk: How Jaywalking Enforcement Impacts Washingtonians includes the following key findings:
- Black pedestrians are stopped by police for jaywalking 4.7 times more frequently than their share of the population.
- Unhoused residents represent at least 41% of those impacted by jaywalking stops.
- A majority of stops for jaywalking violations occur at least a 3.5-minute round-trip detour on foot from the nearest marked crosswalk or signalized intersection.
- Warrant checks are conducted in 77% of jaywalking stops.
- 3% of jaywalking stops lead to the use of physical force or the initiation of foot pursuits by police.
Taken together, this research suggests that police use jaywalking stops not primarily for safety education, but rather as a pretext to stop people and check for open warrants. An updated SB 5383, sponsored by WA State Senator Rebecca Saldaña, would limit police enforcement of jaywalking to situations where safety is an immediate concern. Instead of being able to selectively stop people for walking in a roadway, police would only be permitted to stop pedestrians if they suddenly move into the path of a vehicle.
New statewide polling found that a majority of Washington residents would support a repeal of jaywalking laws, with 53% supporting, 17% unsure, and only 30% opposed. Support was strongest among those living in Eastern Washington, where 63% would repeal jaywalking laws. While proposed legislation stops short of a full repeal, it’s clear that Washington residents are ready for change.
“This is an issue of mobility justice,” said Hester Serebrin, Policy Director at Transportation Choices Coalition. “By reforming jaywalking laws, Washington can help limit the harms of policing on marginalized communities. All Washingtonians deserve to be free to walk.”
Paula Sardinas, who lobbies for the Washington Build Back Black Alliance, told the Washington House Transportation Committee that jaywalking enforcement was “outdated” and not worth the risk. “Something as small and incremental as jaywalking could result in egregious loss of life because we are creating these unnecessary interactions with law enforcement,” Sardinas said. “We think that public safety should be focused on other more serious issues.”
Transportation Choices Coalition is a policy and advocacy nonprofit bringing people together to fight for safe, sustainable, and equitable transportation across Washington.