Tag Archives: rules

73. Jaywalking

In our cities of right corners and straight lines, we’ve been trained to fear the jaywalker. We’ve been taught that crossing a street outside of the dotted lines is a sin against order. Jaywalking is chaos. Jaywalking is the tiny crack that splits the boulder of society apart, and so we are trained to obey the RED HAND and we do not cross until told.

The strange thing is that we’re also taught to “look both ways before crossing the street.” I’m unclear why we’d be given such irresponsible advice when it’s the MAN and the HAND who decide when we cross. Why would we bother to look in either direction if these symbols are looking for us? If we look and we see that the road is clear, that doesn’t mean we can cross. We must wait for permission, lest we’re aiming to destroy the systems of men.

About 70,000 pedestrians are injured or killed in collisions with a motor-vehicle every year.

Sure not all of those people are jaywalkers, but plenty of them are, and if they’d only stuck to the rule, these grisly statistics would shrink. Roads are made for cars. Sidewalks are made for people. That place where roads and sidewalks meet, that’s where people are supposed to cross.

It’s simple.

For those who stray from the guidelines, expect to be struck dead, permanently wounded, or heavily fined. In some countries, such as Singapore, jaywalking is punishable by jail time, but usually you’ll find yourself paying a hefty fee for putting yourself (and others) at risk. And for what? To look cool in front of your friends? To rebel against the right angle? To stray from the rigidity of society?

Did you know that jaywalking was made illegal by efforts from the automobile industry? Makes sense. Once cars filled the roads, people were slow to acclimate, and pedestrian-caused accidents were rising quickly. The automobile folks wanted to make sure that people and cars remained segregated. So long as cars weren’t driving on sidewalks, people weren’t supposed to be walking on roads.

Then came the jaywalkers.

People who said, “I’ll cross wherever and whenever I want.”

I get it. I do. I understand.

You’re not one to blindly follow directions. You see jaywalking as an invasion of your rights. In some ways, perhaps it is. If your destination is across the street and you’ve looked both ways, then why not? I mean, why listen to any rules at all, so long as the coast is clear? I bet you run red lights if no one’s coming, too. I bet you don’t wash your hands if there’s no one else in the bathroom to judge you.

Jaywalking is a gateway crime. If you cross one street illegally, what other streets will you be willing to cross?

The truth is, I’m a jaywalker. It’s true. While I was living abroad, I jaywalked all the time (heck, in Istanbul, the stray dogs are professional jaywalkers, so you come to trust their judgement). There is something silly about being restricted to crosswalks and countdown timers, especially when there’s absolutely no car coming. Coming back to the States, I found that my jaywalking habits had worsened. I’m downright reckless.

The point is, if we’re going to fight the structures of society, we need to look both ways. See both sides of the structure before stepping foot in a direction we may not wish to go. Jaywalking might seem like a dumb law (and honestly it’s hardly enforced), but it has some undeniable footing in logic. Next time you feel like breaking the rules, consider the rules, consider where they came from, and if the coast is still clear, then by all means, cross away.

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