As Mayor de Blasio continues to promise that ticketing pedestrians is not a priority under his Vision Zero philosophy to rein in traffic fatalities, the Times reports that jaywalking tickets have increased nearly 800% this year compared with the previous year, while the number of moving violations given to drivers has decreased slightly.
The Times piece, which calls de Blasio's Vision Zero plan "bold, if somewhat quixotic," notes that through February 9, the NYPD handed out 215 jaywalking summonses compared to 27 over the same period last year.
“If people did not jaywalk, the efficiency of New York City as a place to live and work would plummet,” transportation economist Charles Komanoff tells the paper, adding that “crossing midblock, sentiently, can be a very smart strategy."
Remember that the term "jaywalking" was invented around the turn of the century to browbeat pedestrians, who could previously use the streets as they pleased, into ceding their public spaces to automobiles.
Local auto clubs and dealers recognized that cars would be a lot harder to sell if there was a cap on their speed...The industry lobbied to change the law, promoting the adoption of traffic statutes to supplant common law. The statutes were designed to restrict pedestrian use of the street and give primacy to cars. The idea of "jaywalking”—a concept that had not really existed prior to 1920—was enshrined in law.
The Times also got an explanation for Commissioner Bratton's claim last month that "pedestrian error" contributed to 73% of collisions: apparently he was speaking about cases reviewed by the Collision Investigation Squad, not DOT data. We also learn that Bratton has "struggled to find enough officers interested in the task" of investigating crashes, making it harder to deliver on his promise to bolster the ranks of CIS and therefore conduct higher-quality investigations.
Unmentioned in the Times piece is that despite a decrease in the overall number of moving violations issued to drivers, the NYPD has increased enforcement of the two driver behaviors that are most dangerous to pedestrians: speeding and failure to yield.
Speeding summonses have increased by 20%—6,356 to 7,648—in the first month of this year compared to the same period in 2013, while summonses for failure to yield to pedestrians have increased by 66%, from 1198 to 1993.
The decrease in overall moving violations is explained in part by fewer tickets for driving in a bus lane, cell phone usage, and tinted windows.
George Kelling, one of the criminologists credited with coining the "Broken Windows" theory of policing (and who is an advisor to Bratton) also points out that cracking down on drivers' "disorderly behavior" could yield results in solving more serious crimes. In November a car pulled over for a broken taillight in East Williamsburg was found to be carrying 10 kilos of cocaine. A simple failure to yield summons last month led to a car chase and a gun battle, as police found a stash of oxycodone in the car.