Assemblymember Santiago Stumps for AB390 to End Gotcha Pedestrian Tickets

Assemblymember Santiago, Councilmember Huizar and others calling to fix antiquated state crosswalk law. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Assemblymember Santiago, Councilmember Huizar and others calling to fix antiquated state crosswalk law. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

This afternoon in downtown Los Angeles, Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D – Los Angeles) joined L.A. City Councilmember José Huizar, the L.A. City Department of Transportation (LADOT), and Los Angeles walkability advocates in calling for the passage of A.B. 390.

Current state law makes it illegal for a pedestrian to enter a crosswalk during the countdown phase, no matter how many seconds are shown as remaining. A.B. 390 would amend the law to allow pedestrians to enter a crosswalk, during a countdown signal, as long as the pedestrian completed the crossing before the countdown ended.

According to press release from Huizar and Santiago, the L.A. Times reported that “more than 17,000 citations were issued during a four-year period to pedestrians who stepped off the curb when the red hand was flashing.” The Times also calls L.A.’s frequent transit stop pedestrian stings “a fish-in-a-barrel opportunity for cops.”

California’s “jaywalking” law was enacted back in 1981, when the only pedestrian signal was a flashing hand. The widespread installation of countdown signals began in L.A. in 2008. Huizar called on the state to update its “antiquated” laws to keep up with contemporary crosswalk technology. Santiago termed the $200 pedestrian tickets an unfair “gotcha law,” as most pedestrians seeing a countdown clock assume that it is telling them how much time they have to cross.

A.B. 390 will be heard next in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

  • Darren

    Well said, and I support this change. Also, some green signals for pedestrians last a very short time. As long as you are out of the intersection by the time the hand is solid it should not be a problem. Enforcement is also very lopsided against pedestrians. On several occasions I have seen police ticket people who clearly would have crossed in time, yet turn a blind eye to motorists who recklessly make turns through crosswalks.

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  • SDGreg

    Why don’t we treat signals for cars similarly to how we treat people that walk? If you want to cross another street, you need to get of your car and press a button. Then a few seconds after the light turns green, it turns yellow and once it turns yellow you’re not allowed to enter the intersection without being ticketed.

  • Sam Morrissey

    The time that the flashing don’t walk signal is lit is based on a walking speed of slower pedestrians. For many years it was 4.5 feet per second, and in recent years it’s been slowed to 3.5 feet per second. For me, at a leisurely pace I can walk a mile in 10 minutes. Do the math – that’s 8.8 feet per second. Way faster than what the signal is timed for. If I cross a street that doesn’t have a flashing countdown timer (like Van Ness in SF), and I see the hand go solid, I run – even faster than 8.8 feet per second. So why not let people cross how they want, as long as they can cross in time?

  • Sam Morrissey

    Thanks for reading D Man! (don’t take this as an acknowledgment or agreement with the rest of your post)

  • Melanie Curry

    OH come on people. These comments miss the point. At several intersections near where I live, some of the crossings are wide and take a long time to cross and some are narrower. The countdowns vary with the width of the crossing, and give pedestrians an exact idea how much time they have to cross. They can figure out for themselves whether they can walk fast enough. In some cases, the countdown starts almost immediately. Those countdowns give useful information to pedestrians, and police who ticket them because of a strict reading of an outdated law are just wasting enforcement effort (while maybe making money for the city?). (Most) people are not morons.

  • Liz Parker

    People aren’t this SMART D really. These laws that people feel the NEED to make because they Can’t GRASP a simple daily task is unbelievable. This society is so USED to people telling them how they should live their lives, nest thing you know people are going to be told, when to take a piss, how to sit on the toilet, and how long, geezuz they can’t grasp a SIMPLE sign anymore, wow. It’s amazing how moronic people are these days.

  • Liz Parker

    LOL dumbing down society any chance you get, that’s your answer?

  • Liz Parker

    People Don’t want to THINK any more, They are to busy crossing while on their Cell phones and then they act like they are the victims haha, oh please you can’t cite people any more they act like they are PERFECT. Educate your children NOW that’s a thought…that would be waaaay to much work for parents these days. They are to busy being offended by everything around them…

  • Liz Parker

    STOP THESE Idiot people from being in office Are you kidding me? where are all these morons coming from. How hard it is for people to STOP or NOT WALK when the sign tells you?? there is a picture for goshsakes in COLOR even. People don’t even LOOK both ways anymore the DO NOT OBEY walking signs AT ALL. STOP means STOP flashing or not Green means GO how HARD IS THAT? really?? If these morons did NOT stop when that red had came up. They were NOT following the rule, they SHOULD be cited. All of a sudden people are forgetting how to OBEY laws. Are you telling me that people that crossed in a red hand DIDn’t KNOW what they were doing. They shouldn’t be on the streets if they don’t know the laws. First thing your parents teach you as a kid people look both ways and always obey pedestrian signs it could save your life.

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  • KJ

    The countdown is similar to “yellow” lights wherein cars are allowed to enter the intersection so long as they are completely in before the light changes to red. As it is, pedestrians are not given much time to cross and they often need to cross twice to get to the opposite corner. Pedestrians should be better served.

  • D Man

    You broke the law and admit that you didn’t act diligently (the last thing I did was look at the pedestrian sign). And your opposition to CHP citing the fact that pedestrians were at fault in most of the accidents is laughable. You cherry-picked Vehicle Code section 21950 for your benefit and failed to mention this part (I’m sure Joe Linton thinks this law is pedestrian shaming):

    “(b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.”

  • Derek Hofmann

    In California law, the yellow light means nothing more than the light is about to change to red. In other states, you’re required to stop if it is safe to do so.

  • D Man

    There is no need to change the law. Once the hand starts counting down you are not allowed to enter the crosswalk. This is not a difficult law to understand and there is no such thing as a “gotcha” law. Just follow the law. I’m not sure why pedestrians and cyclists have such a problem with following the law at the same time that they are outraged that drivers don’t follow the law. Almost all of these traffic accidents can be reduced or eliminated if we just enforce the laws on cars, cyclists and pedestrians rather than not enforcing them and creating exceptions to them.

  • D Man

    You should brush up on the law my friend. Cars are not allowed to enter on a yellow as long as they clear before it goes red, and clearing the intersection has nothing to do with it turning red. You may proceed through on a yellow only if it is unsafe for you to stop. You are not allowed to enter the intersection on a red. By comparison to this law, once the hand starts counting down for a pedestrian, the light is effectively red and you are not allowed to enter the intersection. The law is very simple and does not need to be changed.

  • Derek Hofmann

    This is a stupid change to a stupid law. Cars are allowed to enter the intersection on a yellow and don’t have to exit before the light changes red, as long as there’s room on the other side for the vehicle. But as a pedestrian, you are expected to exit the intersection before the signal changes from “don’t walk” flashing to “don’t walk” solid. This change does not fix that inequality.

  • Sam Morrissey

    I fully support this, and wrote why in this post: https://medium.com/@samgmorrissey/hey-im-walkin-here-aedb1d703685

  • Sam Morrissey
  • joe student

    Your bullet number 3 is already in place in Washington DC.
    And yes, it would be much easier to just change the law.

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  • James Fujita

    It would be a lot easier to change the law.

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    The law doesn’t need to be changed, the ambiguity needs to go away. I was taught in elementary school the rules and I abide by them. (Maybe there is less ambiguity when the sign reads “DON’T WALK” instead of a flashing hand).

    This is what should be done:
    1) Educate our children properly;
    2) Have all intersection with an advanced walk period for pedestrians (or scramble crossing);
    3) Have the countdown timer start as a solid green during the initial walk phase;
    4) At busy intersections, traffic control should be ambassadors, advising pedestrians of the rules;
    5) First time offenders should be issued an official written warning (no fine), but the warning needs to be recorded.
    6) Repeat offenders get fined.

    Clearing pedestrians out of the intersection during the flashing don’t walk stage allows for turning motorists to safely maneuver through the intersection.