Jaywalking in the Big Apple

Look twice before crossing the street.

It’s a lesson we all learn very early on in our lives. A safety mechanism to protect us from the dangers of the street, this simple two second gesture can be the difference between life and death. So too can be remembering to cross at a designated crosswalk.

Jaywalking has long been a foundational part of New York City living. Whether you’re uptown, downtown, or rushing to get around Midtown, crossing the street whenever the opportunity presents itself is about as automatic as hailing a taxi. But, just because it’s common practice doesn’t mean it’s safe or even legal.

Less than one month into 2014 and New York City had already suffered 12 pedestrian accidents, including a 9-year-old boy who was out walking with his father. While jaywalking has hardly been a police priority here in the past, this recent rash of deaths has caused Mayor Bill De Blasio to stand up and take notice. After years of neglect, New York car rental travelers can now expect to pay the price when caught jaywalking.

An Urban Epidemic

Ending jaywalking in Manhattan is about as easy as a task as setting fire to an ice cube, however that’s exactly what Mayor De Blasio is hoping to do with his new Vision Zero plan. The initiative, which aims to eliminate all traffic fatalities within 10 years includes a heavy crackdown on jaywalking, not to mention and further enforcement for aggressive driving. Which is all well and good in theory, but in a city of more than 8 million people, where New York car rental travelers compete with cyclists, rollerbladers and pedestrians for asphalt, officials are certainly going to have their hands full.

Oddly enough, De Blasio’s Vision Zero plan does not involve a policy change in terms of jaywalking and ticketing. Instead, the Mayor plans to simply enforce many of the laws that are already in place. The city will also form a working group comprised of police, transportation, health and taxi officials. Their job will be to work together in order to find ways to more effectively combat dangerous driving, making it safer for both pedestrians and New York car rental travelers to utilize some of the city’s busiest intersections.

Additional initiatives including expanding a number of so-called “slow zones” in the city in an attempt to increase pedestrian awareness and curb reckless driving. New York car rental travelers can distinguish these areas by the posted 20 mph speed limit (most street are labeled with a standard 30 mph rating). Police will also stepping up their game, actively citing jaywalkers and dangerous New York car rental drivers.

An Ongoing Battle

Not surprisingly, jaywalking has always been a bit of an issue on the east coast. What’s more, Mayor De Blasio isn’t the first NYC official to take the issue to heart. Under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, pedestrian fatalities fell as the city focused its efforts on improving pedestrian and cycling conditions around town. This included turning many of the city’s most dangerous intersections into pedestrian malls, as well as creating miles of designated bike lanes. The efforts helped lower traffic fatalities by 30 percent between 2001 and 2011, but pedestrian deaths continue to plague many neighborhoods in the city. According to the Daily News, 156 pedestrians died last year, compared to 142 in 2011.

What New York Car Rental Drivers Need to Know

The Administrative Code of New York City includes a section that requires pedestrians to cross only at crosswalks. It’s Title 34, Section 4-04, Subsection (b) of the New York City Administrative Code:

(1) No pedestrian shall enter or cross a roadway at any point where signs, fences, barriers, or other devices are erected to prohibit or restrict such crossing or entry.

(2) No pedestrian shall cross any roadway at an intersection except within a cross- walk.

Crossing at a point along a street outside the crosswalk is an offense that can warrant a ticket. What’s more, it is also illegal in New York to step off a curb the moment the light starts blinking red. This offense can land you with a $50 citation.

A Part of Our Culture

Mayor De Blasio has been quoted as admitting that jaywalking is part of Manhattan’s culture, stating that, “We need to be sensitive to the fact that we do have a way of life, and any of us who’ve been here know that.” What’s more, he’s also been caught flouting the city’s jaywalking law, hot-footing it across a busy Park Slope Street last week.

Old habits certainly are tough to crack, but that’s not to say we should follow the Mayor’s example. Instead, remember to stay safe when driving your New York car rental and keep your eyes peeled for pedestrians and always remember to slow down when approaching intersections. When you’re out on foot, do your best to follow the law and abide by pedestrian roadway rules.