Montclair, California Declares War on Pedestrians

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The photo above is of a crash that happened recently in Santa Ana. The building in the photo was not very well lit. It also had no guardrail on it, and wasn’t painted in bright reflective colors. It certainly wasn’t paying attention to the car flying towards it, and made no move to get out of the way.

So was it at fault in this crash? If a recent law passed in the Inland Empire city of Montclair were drawn out to its illogical extreme, then, heck, why not? The city council there seems to think that, because so many pedestrians are being run over by cars, it must be their fault.

So they passed a law that outlaws the use of a phone or wearing earbuds while walking in a crosswalk.

Let that sink in. Pedestrians who are crossing a street could potentially be held responsible for their own injuries if they are hit by a driver, whether they have the legal right of way or not.

What’s next? Should Montclair outlaw being blind while walking? Being old and slow? Using a wheelchair? Being short? Being young? Wearing hats with ear flaps?

Pedestrians on phones do not pose a potential danger to people in cars. It’s the other way around.

Oh, wait, that’s right. There is already a law discouraging distracted driving, so why not even things up, right? Well, at least there’s a law against holding a phone while you’re talking into it and driving at the same time. You can put it on your dashboard and use the speaker phone, though–despite evidence showing there is little difference between hands-on and “hands-free” distractions while driving.

Despite the difference between driving a two-ton machine and walking.

Oh! The difference is this: a driver, if caught (big if), would pay a base fine for a first-time offense of $20. A person walking, if caught (easier to see so not as big an if), would pay a base fine for a first-time offense of $100.

Sounds even to me!

The Montclair city council ought to be embarrassed for passing this ordinance, and its city manager should spend a little more time doing research before suggesting new laws. He could start here, with this chart showing that drivers can be more likely to hit inanimate objects—like buildings!–than annoying jaywalkers.

Things that drivers in Edmonton, Canada hit. From Streetsblog USA

This is true in Playa Del Rey, too—see the end of the fifth paragraph in this story.

Or maybe he can start by looking at some of the National Safety Institute’s research on distracted driving.

Another resource: the many Streetsblog articles outlining some of the problems with blaming pedestrians, including this one about jaywalking, enforcement, and racism.

Honolulu passed a similar law last summer; San Mateo has discussed an effort to get a similar state law in place. But just because some of the kids are doing it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

A law like this is more likely to cause real harm to people—via profiling, uneven enforcement, and costly fines—than any good it could bring in terms of injury prevention. In fact, it’s more likely it could create a much deeper harm to all of us if drivers, and their insurance companies, are handed a new way to escape responsibility when they hit a pedestrian who happens to be breaking this stupid law.

For more, see Angie Schmitt’s piece at Streetsblog USA.

18 thoughts on Montclair, California Declares War on Pedestrians

  1. Be careful or certain ludicrous Autosexuals on CityLab will wander over here and suggest Montclair ban all pedestrians.

  2. You’d probably be less likely to be hit if you were naked. People tend to notice that. Why do you think I’ve never been hit by a car?

  3. What is there to be moderate about when tens of thousands are being maimed and killed and get little or no protection from the government?

  4. The law in Montclair punishes pedestrians for choosing to listen to music or a podcast (with two ear buds or headphones on both ears) while walking. This law criminalizes safe behavior. (Pedestrians certainly can safely cross streets and simultaneously listen to music, as can motorists.) I’m not a journalist or reporter but it seems to be common journalism practice to lead with captivating headlines and it’s commonplace to see articles that utilize photographs of relevant events which may have occurred elsewhere.

  5. Just to put it out there: I stand by my headline. It is no more hyperbolic than the narrative that says pedestrians wearing earbuds are endangering people around them to the point that they need to be punished.

  6. First, Montclair did not literally or figuratively “Declare War on Pedestrians.” The title is nothing but sensationalism. Second, the two opening paragraphs (and accompanying photograph) are irrelevant. Not only do they not have anything to do with Montclair’s law, but are from a city 30 miles away.

    Joe Linton published a well-written piece about his experience with his daughter about LADOT’s recently installed leading pedestrian walk interval. Other Streetsblog writers need to take notes:

  7. Unfortunately I do. Her headlines and narrative would make William Randolph Hearst blush.

    Articles such as these may get hallelujahs and hazzahs from the loyal followers, but will only repulse the moderate-viewed reader. This will lead to Streetsblog being relegated as an extreme organisation and not taken seriously.

  8. The State (California) should make them rescind this. Just like they did when El Cerrito, CA applied a compulsory helmet law for all ages. There is no California law that determines how you should be dressed to use a crosswalk- other than that you should be dressed. How many times have you crossed the street with friends chatting? Should you appoint a look out first? Silly.

  9. Sensational comment. You realize that Angie Schmitt also writes for Streetsblog too, right?

  10. I never thought I would see this day. The day when a Streetsblog author has a more sensational headline and story than Angie Schmitt.

    Streetsblog then: A creditable source of all things transit. A respected advocate for active transportation.
    Streetsblog now: A source for sensational headlines and straw man arguments. Credibility less than a President Trump tweet.

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