Key Art of "Summer of Rockets" featuring Keeley Hawes and Toby Stephens.

Summer of Rockets

Start watching
6HWbNHN-show-poster2x3-c7tgE2Y.png

Artbound

Start watching
FZG3mkG-show-poster2x3-nOossfs.png

SoCal Update

Start watching
Death in Paradise Series 10

Death in Paradise

Start watching
millionaire still

KCET Must See Movies

Start watching
MZihTLV-show-poster2x3-5CKaGu8.jpg

Independent Lens

Start watching
MJ250sC-show-poster2x3-Bflky7i.png

Tending Nature

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching
HvlSxHY-show-poster2x3-4ik43uV.png

Earth Focus

Start watching
City Rising

City Rising

Start watching
Lost LA

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

Confessions of a Jaywalker

Support Provided By

I'm a habitual jaywalker. Sort of. Almost every day I cross a four-lane boulevard between two signalized intersections to reach the end of my block on the other side. The crosswalks at either end of this stretch of highway are exactly a quarter-mile away in either direction. To cross at a light rather than across the boulevard, I would have to walk another half mile.

I don't cross at either of the lights.

Where I cross used to have crosswalk and a crossing guard in early mornings and afternoons to guide students from my neighborhood to the elementary school a few blocks away on the opposite side. School attendance boundaries changed years ago. The crossing guard was reassigned. And the crosswalk was abandoned and paved over.

Strictly speaking, I'm not a jaywalker when I cross (very carefully). There is a "T" intersection there that serves as an outlet from the service road that parallels the highway. California Vehicle Code section 21590 creates a "presumptive" pedestrian right to cross at an intersection, even if a crosswalk hasn't been painted on the asphalt and there are no lights.

I cross at the "T." I have an imaginary crosswalk. I have the assurance of the Motor Vehicle Code. But I take nothing for granted.

The code gives pedestrians in California a vastly ambiguous right-of-way in crossing streets. The code equitably says that drivers should take care in avoiding pedestrians wherever they might be and that pedestrians should watch out for themselves. However, there is catch in the code in section 21456 that has had walkers in Los Angeles fuming.

If there are pedestrian signals at the intersection, says section 21456, it's illegal for a walker to cross when the signal has a steady -- or flashing -- "Don't Walk" or "Wait" or the hand icon is showing. As too many pedestrians downtown have learned in recent weeks (and off and on since 2006), officers of the LAPD's Central Bureau will ticket walkers who step off the curb even if the "countdown clock" on newer signals shows they have plenty of time to cross.

One-step-off-the-curb jaywalking costs the scofflaw from $190 to $250 in fines. It might also earn him a bench warrant, if the ticket is left unpaid.

Advocates for pedestrian-oriented streets are skeptical of the LAPD's argument that each jaywalking ticket makes downtown streets that much safer for pedestrians, pointing out that the net effect of these recurring jaywalking crackdowns is to make traffic flow faster for drivers. They rightly point out the notion of jaywalking as a shameful -- and eventually illegal -- form of walking was invented by auto clubs and traffic planners in the early 1920s to ensure that drivers had precedence over pedestrians.

Despite the controversy, the LAPD will continue to issue tickets for not waiting for a fresh green light or walk signal, although waiting is what TV's Sheriff John and Engineer Bill taught me to do 60 years ago. I still wait, because the sheriff and the engineer were right. Although the streets, according to the Motor Vehicle Code, belong to both pedestrians and drivers, the effect of confusion over right-of-way is hardly symmetrical.

In 2013, there were 129 vehicle-on-pedestrian accidents downtown. The accidents resulted in four deaths. Just in January, according to the Los Angeles Downtown News, there were at least 18 collisions involving a car and a pedestrian.

None of the drivers was injured. It's not known how many of them were "jaydriving."

Support Provided By
Read More
Black Lives Matter supporters march through downtown Los Angeles on the first anniversary of George Floyd's death on Tuesday, May 25, 2021.

Los Angeles, Sacramento Announce Reparations Coalition on Juneteenth

Mayors, including Los Angeles and Sacramento, form reparations and equity coalition on new federal holiday to push for national reparations. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti also announces the formation of an advisory committee, paving the way for a local reparations pilot project.
An asphalt surface is covered in various encampments. A boy is walking across the frame.

'It's a Mission': Volunteers Treat Migrants Massing at Border

A growing number of Mexican and Central American migrants are trying to cross into the U.S. at the southern border. Volunteers at one free clinic in Tijuana tend to the health needs of migrants waiting for their immigration cases to come up — and simply trying to survive in packed and dangerous encampments.
An older Vietnamese American woman practices self-defense moves on a volunteer.

How the #ProtectOurElders Movement Helped Create a Wave of First-Time Asian American Activists

A rise in attacks on Asian Americans has led to a burst of new groups. But what is their staying power?