Change Jaywalking Laws in Seattle

While Seattle has lost out on $44 million of funding for sidewalks, transit improvements, bike lanes, and pothole repairs that Proposition 1 would have brought, there is still an opportunity to make a difference for pedestrians.

A petition on is directed towards the city and City Council to Make jaywalking legal unless it obstructs vehicular movement.

Currently, jaywalking in Seattle is a more severe offense than smoking marijuana or public nudity. Only 1 of 4 city council members who participated in our Q&A clearly denied ever jaywalking, however.

Loosening jaywalking laws is necessary, since SPD aggressively targets pedestrians. Last year, SPD issued 1570 tickets to pedestrians, yet less than 200 to drivers for failing to yield the right of way (the largest cause of pedestrian collisions in the city). Auditors have also found that jaywalking citations often escalate to confrontations or violence.

Changing jaywalking laws here would support the city’s goal to make walking one of the easiest ways to get around, similar to pedestrian-friendly nations Sweden and Norway that also have lenient jaywalking policies.

Car manufacturers helped to criminalize jaywalking in the 1920s, and before automobiles, the rule was that “[A]ll persons have an equal right in the highway, and that in exercising the right each shall take due care not to injure other users of the way.”

Changing the law is a low-cost way to improve pedestrian mobility in the city. Click here for the petition.


13 Responses to “Change Jaywalking Laws in Seattle”

  • Thanks for the links, that history is surprising. I like payton’s comment, “It’s gone to the extent where police, upon finding a dead body, no longer presume fault with, well, the guy wielding the deadly weapon (i.e., driving the car).”

  • Thank you for writing in support of the petition. I didn’t realize how much of an issue this was until recently, and thought if a woman in California can get tens of thousands of people across the country to switch from banks to credit unions, surely we can get 1,000 people in Seattle to set this petition in motion. There has been a lot of debate about it for years now for many good reasons. And, at $55 a ticket, the cost to individuals is over $85,000 a year.

  • To be fair, I have no problem with public nudity either!

  • I will go sign that now. For a heads up, this is timely since KPLU plans to air a story on Nov. 25 about “jaywalking” in Seattle.

  • can’t afford to lose that revenue….ISSUE more tickets i say!!!

  • I’m not sure I would support this. I do not own a car so I rely on cycling, transit, and walking to get around. I attend school at SCCC and each morning when I get off of the bus a bold pedestrians step out to jaywalk without causing problems on the roadway. The problem is that man other students follow the leaders, and then traffic comes to a halt, sometimes dangerously.

    I don’t have a problem following signals. How would we like motorists treating red lights as stop signs?

  • My favorite is when SPD targets convention goers and tourists who are pumping money into the city and filling the over-supply of hotel rooms. Welcome to Seattle!

  • Any city with energy has a great jaywalking attitude.
    Imagine Manhattan or San Francisco without purposeful jaywalkers darting hither and yon.
    They are always on the lookout for the right moment to hit the street, and they move fast.
    That’s kind of where it falls apart in Seattle.
    In the shopping mall that is Downtown, and with the general population of dawdling gawkers
    that occupy it, and the pedestrian’s attitude of “I’ll get there when I get there” and the generally unconscious drivers,
    well, I think we’d be in for a lot of serious splatters.
    I grew up on the East Coast, so coming here and trying to walk in the city was a real culture shock.
    Now, I’ve become numb – awaiting the “WALK” at a deserted intersection, in the rain.
    I’d love to shed that and be able to behave as I do in other “World Class” cities.

  • In Paris, there is no such thing as “jaywalking.” I didn’t know how to say it in French, and when I explained it to a Frenchwoman who lived in the US, she said, “why would it be a crime to endanger yourself?” There apparently is no legal term for it. When I lived there, I used to jaywalk everyday in front of the police station and the cops who milled there all the time. People don’t dart in front of traffic, but if it appears safe, people cross the street where they like. The city has set up fences in certain places to discourage road crossings at blind corners and other unsafe areas, but life functions quite well for both drivers and pedestrians under this arrangement. I can say that at times when I had to drive in Paris, it was other vehicles, not bikes and peds, that impeded my progress. I’m all for making it legal.

  • If you cross at an alley way, it’s not jay walking. Which means it’s pretty easy to walk around downtown without getting a ticket that sticks if you avoid the corners of the blocks.

    But yeah, jay walking laws are pretty stupid.

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