Jay Walking

Seattle can’t jay walk. It’s a real problem.

I don’t mean the people who wait at the corner and don’t go no matter what. They’re fine. If that’s what they want to do, God bless. Those people won’t jay walk.

No, I have a much bigger problem with people who seem oblivious to traffic. Maybe they’re out of towners who expect drivers are looking for them. If you’re from a city with more consistent jay walking, perhaps that’s reasonable. But here if you want to to cross in the middle or against the light, you’ve got to follow some rules:

First watch for traffic. I know that sounds like it should be obvious, but enough people just dart out obliviously, that it clearly isn’t. Pedestrians dart into traffic pretty regularly. Watch for it.

Somewhat related to that is emergency vehicles. Give them more room than you’d give other cars. A lot more room. The prompt for this post is that I saw people running to get across the road when a fire engine was coming. They had enough time, but not a lot. If the engine has to slow down it’s a couple more seconds before they can get to the emergency, and they’re going faster than you’re thinking they are. Just don’t do it.

Of course, even when road is clear on the side with the green light, there may be people who are going to make a right turn on the red. They’re looking for traffic, not looking for you. Figure out where the possible right turns are and make sure that nobody is going to make them. DON’T assume that a car without its blinkers on isn’t going to turn: Seattle drivers often forget how blinkers work.

Finally, Seattle police will still stop you for jay walking. It’s not as likely if you’re white as if you’re a person of color. It’s not as likely if you’re well dressed or in a nicer neighborhood. Being on the lookout for police will probably distract from the other stuff, but you probably don’t want to get the world’s dumbest ticket.


  1. 1

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Why not give pedestrians right of way to cross whenever and wherever they like? They already do anyway. The hell with green lights and “Don’t Walk” signs! This would be consistent with Seattle’s existing policy of making life as miserable as possible for car drivers. Ban cars from Seattle! Cars squash bunnies.

  2. 2

    Geov spews:

    Of course, even when road is clear on the side with the green light, there may be people who are going to make a right turn on the red.

    Idiots use every means of conveyance, just like the rest of us. There are plenty of people who jaywalk without paying attention (sometimes they’re darting, and sometimes they’re just too busy texting to look). An alarming number of drivers think a turn signal is something you turn on after you start turning (or not at all). And I turned right on a one-way street last week, with no traffic coming, and damn near ran head-on into a bicyclist careening down the street the wrong way.

    Shorter version: pedestrians, skaters, bikes, and motorized vehicles can come from any direction at any time. Pay attention, and whatever else you do, put down the fucking phone.