By Tim Fernholz, December 26, 2013
The city of Los Angeles is cracking down on pedestrians who sneak across streets when the traffic signal says “don’t walk.” But when you put a price on bad behavior, like being in a public street illegally, you see clearly what a city values.
The cheapest parking ticket in Los Angeles (pdf) is $58, and the one most commonly issued for parking in a prohibited zone is $73. Jaywalking—the term of art for a pedestrian crossing against the light—will cost you $197.
(Defenders of car travel may note that the penalty for moving violations like speeding or running a red light are generally much higher than the jaywalking fine, and also, incidentally, more dangerous.)
The push to punish illegal strollers is a reaction against LA’s downtown revitalization, which has put more people on the streets in a city designed for cars. It’s worth remembering that the auto industry invented the crime of jaywalking as way to keep pedestrians clear of roads they hoped to profitably fill with cars. That mentality clearly persists in city governance around the world, but crackdowns like this one could do more to reverse the situation than reinforce it if big penalties have city dwellers wondering why they’re not allowed in public streets.