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Is it a good idea for our City Council to pass a jaywalking ordinance? Should our city reconsider its prohibition of midblock pedestrian crossings?

The term "jaywalking" has no technical meaning. People frequently characterize pedestrian behavior as jaywalking without truly understanding the rights and responsibilities of pedestrians.

State laws sufficiently regulate crossing activity by pedestrians. Pedestrians have the right-of-way in legal marked and unmarked crosswalks. At midblock locations without crosswalks, pedestrians may cross but must yield the right-of-way to motorists. There are exceptions in some states' laws, such as the Arizona Revised Statutes, which make it unlawful to cross midblock where there are "adjacent signals." An example would be in a downtown area where there aren't any intervening intersections between signalized intersections.

Long suburban blocks with big-box superstores and few minor street intersections present the highest potential demand for pedestrian crossing, while offering fewer legal pedestrian crossing opportunities if the community does prohibit midblock pedestrian crossings.

Cities may have ordinances that prohibit midblock crossing within the downtown area, requiring pedestrians to walk to adjacent signals. For example, Tucson, Arizona, defines downtown to extend considerably beyond the area that actually offers adjacent signals. Tucson's ordinance also prohibits crossing at midblock locations in business districts, defined by city code as any area that has 300 feet of commercial development (measured linearly along the roadway). This may be a dated definition of a business district. Today, a single suburban commercial development can easily exceed 300 feet in length.

In light of these considerations, local officials should reconsider ordinances that prohibit pedestrians from crossing midblock in business districts.

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