This is about crossing the street illegally, not about Jay Leno’s Jaywalking.
As a lifelong New Yorker, if no cars are in sight, I cross the street no matter what the light says. It’s a little like “if a tree falls in the woods…”
Everybody does it, at least in New York. New Yorkers wait for no one.
Even if there are cars coming, if I think I can make it to the other side before the car reaches where I am standing there’s a good chance I’ll go for it.
I lived in Hell’s Kitchen for a couple of years in the early 2000’s, and I would go for runs along the West Side Highway most mornings. To get to the park they were in the process of building at the time and run down to 14th street from 45th Street I had to cross the West Side Highway, and I would always wait for the light on 43rd Street to change and for the cars to start up the road before racing them across the Highway. I always made it and got a kick out of all the cars that would lean on their horns as I ran like hell in front of them. I’m not so brave (or quick) anymore so that’s just a nice memory now. I never know if one of my knees might give out in the middle of a crosswalk, so now I wait.
People wait everywhere else. I first discovered this when I was in Hannover, Germany in 1980. I was by myself, having ditched my army buddies and was in search of adventure. I found myself on a street corner crowded with people looking at something, and I made my way to the front of the crowd. Another New York thing to do, push through crowds of people.
There were no cars coming, but everyone stood staring across the street at the light, which was red. I crossed, being a New Yorker, and halfway across I realized now everyone was staring at me. I stopped and went back to the curb; maybe they knew something I didn’t know. As soon as I reached the curb the light changed and the crowd moved as one, crossing the street and maneuvering around the ignorant American.
I experienced the same thing in Poland in our recent trip there, people wait for the light. That’s a smart thing to do in a place where most of the boulevards are six lanes wide, with a strip for the trams in the middle. You don’t want to get hit by one of those.
The light stays green long enough for you to reach the tram strip, then you have to wait for it to go green again to make it to the other side.
Of course on Sunday it’s dead and anything goes, I took this picture on a Sunday:
I’ve heard that in L.A. you can get a ticket for Jaywalking, I don’t know how true that is but knowing what I do of L.A. I believe it. You can get a ticket for it here too, or even get beat up for it like this elderly man did on 93rd Street last year, but chances are slim. The NYPD is usually busy doing other stuff to pay much attention to jaywalkers, but if you are the unlucky guy…
I got a ticket for putting a bag of household garbage in a city trashcan about 6 years ago. I was surprised that the city actually pays someone who makes 60K a year to stake out a garbage can, but they do.
Then more recently, I think it was 3 years ago I got a ticket for walking between cars on a J train in Brooklyn. They were both for $100 and I just mailed the checks in. But I did feel victimized, after all, I’ve been putting trash in trashcans all my life, ditto with walking between subway cars. I think I’ve been doing that since I was 10 years old.
But now it’s against the law.
Now I wait if there are cars coming, no sense in losing a race to 2 tons of steel and glass. And if I want to walk between subway cars, I look through the window first to see if there’s a cop on the car. I also look behind me, the cop that gave me the ticket was on the car I entered and followed me to the next car. Technically she broke the law too, but she’s a cop and it doesn’t matter.
Well, at least you won’t get a ticket for buying a Big Gulp anytime soon…