About a month ago I was walking around the city on a Saturday with my girlfriend Libby. We were walking east on P Street and approached the intersection with 22nd. Traffic was light, and the street is one way. We stopped, and looked to the right — no cars were coming. I looked to the left, only several seconds remained on the other timed crosswalk. We began to cross. A hitherto unnoticed police officer previously parked in the gas station reacted with impressive speed. He flipped on his siren and roared onto the street. We backed up several steps back to the curb. He rolled up, window down.
I can’t remember what followed verbatim, but the gist was this: the officer said we better “watch out” or we’ll “end up in jail.” I said, thank you and we continued on our way. Needless to say I regret not risking the ticket to point out jaywalking was a civil infraction, punishable usually by a ticket and fine. If it’s possible to end up in jail for jaywalking, that would be news to me. In fact, the offense is not even in the city code, only the city’s regulations, Title 18 of which specifies the following fines:
2603 PEDESTRIAN INFRACTIONS
2603.1 The following civil infractions and their respective fines set forth in this section refer to pedestrians:
INFRACTION (DCMR Citation) – FINE
“DON’T WALK” or “WAIT” Signal Walking against (§ 2302.3) Intersection – $ 20.00
Crossing diagonally (no signal) (§ 2303.3) – 20.00
Crossing between (§ 2304.1) – 20.00
Lawful order or direction of Police Officer [Repealed] D.C. Law 11-157, 43 DCR 3699, 3700
(July 19, 1996)
Parading without a permit (§ 2218) – 50.00
Path of a vehicle
Walk suddenly into (§ 2303.2) – 10.00
Red light, crossing against (§ 2301.4) – 20.00
Fail to yield to an emergency vehicle (§2305.6) – 10.00
Cross at other than right angle (§ 2304.3) – 10.00
Cross where prohibited (§ 2304) – 10.00
Obstructing traffic in – 20.00
Walking in (sidewalk provided) (§ 2305.2) – 10.00
Walking on wrong side (no sidewalk) (§ 2305.3) – 10.00
Soliciting rides while standing in roadway (§2305.4) – 10.00
The practice of ticketing pedestrians in Washington ruffled feathers during a previous crackdown in 2005, and in that same year the police issued a $5 ticket to a 73-year-old urban design expert who suffered serious injuries after being hit by a car. More recently, Nicholas Stephanopoulos argued his way out of a jaywalking ticket by arguing the infraction was by only seconds, and also by noting the D.C. ordinance speaks of a “WALK,” “DON’T WALK,” and “WAIT,” signs, instead of the icons displayed on the city’s new crosswalks.
As we walked home that day, we observed jaywalking at practically every intersection we crossed. Perhaps it’s time to amend city law, to provide pedestrians the right-of-way in marked intersections if no traffic is oncoming.