Most New Yorkers ponder the consequences of jaywalking about as often as they contemplate the advanced physics of movement ? in other words, they don't think about it, they just do it. But errant street-dashers may need to reconsider their technically illegal crossings. So far in January 2014, the number of jaywalking citations issued by the New York Police Department is already five times higher than the number issued in January of 2013.
The increase is likely due to the recent spate of pedestrian deaths in the city, four of which were on the Upper West Side in the past two weeks. Three of those fatal accidents occurred at the busy intersection of 96th Street and Broadway. Traffic police flooded this location last weekend, issuing 18 jaywalking citations and only 5 traffic tickets, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Among those ticketed was the 84-year-old Chinese immigrant Kang Wong, who recently made the cover of the New York Post after being aggressively restrained by the NYPD when he did not understand why he was being ticketed.
Mayor de Blasio has faced recent criticism over the jaywalking crackdown. The mayor has addressed the issue of pedestrian safety recently, stating, "There is no larger policy in terms of jaywalking and ticketing and jaywalking ? that's not part of our plan. But it is something a local prescient commander can act on if they perceive there to be a real danger."
The increase in citations has made city residents more aware of their jaywalking tendencies, although most admit that it will not change their habits of ignoring traffic lights. Upper West Side resident Caroline Durham said, "It is very easy to get into your own zone, you're not looking around, and become very unaware of what is around you. I've made that mistake, so that's why I know."
Although many New Yorker's admit to jaywalking, they don't believe that ticketing pedestrians so aggressively is the answer to increasing safety.
"It's not just a matter of jaywalking, it's also a matter of drivers who don't observe [the speed limit]," said car owner John Hutchinson. "Most people don't know that it is a 30 mph limit in New York. I see people going 50-60 mph on the streets, so it would be a real investment of resources to both change the behavior of pedestrians and drivers."
The sudden spike in jaywalking tickets has caught many New Yorkers off guard, and some are even unsure of what it means to jaywalk.
"I think people are unsure of what jaywalking actually is, if it's crossing the street with out the light, or walking in the middle of the street," said Upper East Side resident Eva Ramos.
Most New Yorkers, from residents to politicians to cops, seem to be unified in the goal of bolstering the safety of pedestrians. The debate lies in what will be most successful without disrupting people's daily routines.
An effective compromise might mean sharing the blame equally between drivers and pedestrians. It also means educating everyone on safety practices.
"I was surprised to learn that because of the rarity of jaywalking enforcement, some younger New Yorkers were mistaken in their belief of what actually constituted jaywalking," said attorney Gerard McCloskey. "An educational campaign could remedy that and alert pedestrians that police will be enforcing the jaywalking restriction."
Scott Gastel, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation, said that their department does not have control over what citations the NYPD gives out, but said that the DOT will be employing new safety measures.
"We are developing a proposal with pedestrian safety enhancements for the intersection of West 96th St. and Broadway, and will present it to Community Board 7 on Thursday [January 30th]," Gastel said.
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