J-walk, that is. Mayor de Blasio wants to crack down on jaywalkers. Too many accidents. Too many deaths.
But wait. In New York, j-walking is an olympic caliber sport. It’s a tradition. It’s often the only way you can get from here to there. And it stirs the passion of competition and bravery.
The law has been around for decades. It is not enforced. As a youngster, it was my ambition to get and frame and hang on the wall a ticket for j-walking. It was a two dollar fine, which I had planned not to pay so I could keep the original art, the ticket.
Never happened. Not even when I was brazen. On a Sunday morning walking to work, there were three cops standing in the doorway of the target building, Madison and 52nd. I j-walked perfectly… a figure J on crossing the avenue. Thought surely, they’d write it up. Instead, they parted the way and one of them opened and held the door for me.
Total failure. Abysmal. Another defeat.
J-walking does not require an actual “J.” It has come to mean any pedestrian violation: crossing anywhere but a crosswalk, crossing against a light, really anything that requires feet on the road instead of the sidewalk.
In Los Angeles, you so much as step off the curb against the light and if a cop spots you, you’ll get a ticket. In New York, the cops clear a path, hold doors, smile and wave.
If the reports are correct, 172 people were killed while j-walking in the five boroughs last year. One hundred and seventy two… out of how many million walkers? Killed? You have a better chance of being struck by lightning. You have a better chance of winning the lottery. You have a better chance of choking on a stale bagel. You have a better chance of dying of The Vapors.
Of course, no one’s ever been killed when they “Cross at the green, not in between” as the public service posters and announcements used to preach, right?
You might say “oh, but if a car runs a light, it’s the driver’s fault you’re hit.” Absolutely. But you’re dead in either case.
So now, a New Yorker’s natural right to j-walk has been usurped by a freshman mayor and his small crime fighter of a police commissioner.
They have cops with bullhorns at Broadway and 96th. And big signs demanding you USE THE CROSSWALK!
News accounts say a man in his mid 80s was roughed up by the cops for j-walking. Cops say he fell. Yeah. Right.
Dear Mayor de Blastoff: If you want to start enforcing idiotic laws, fine. But throw us a bone, Bill. Enforce the bike laws too. And while you’re at it, repeal some of the newer idiotic laws… like the big gulp cup ban. Or Stop and Frisk. And maybe you can even knock a buck or two off the cigarette tax which is high enough for half the smokers to take out payday loans.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2014