Colorado Springs: Jaywalking Central
Welcome to Colorado Springs, the jaywalking capital of America. It’s a community where pedestrians seem to take great pride in committing multiple jaywalking violations by crossing major intersections, streets, and even highly trafficked roadways like Academy Boulevard, which is essentially a highway disrupted by evenly spaced traffic lights. Downtown Colorado Springs is a jaywalker’s dream, too. At the intersection of Tejon Street and Pikes Peak Avenue, for instance, law-breaking pedestrians stroll into traffic directly in front of flashing “DON’T WALK” signs, completely disregarding the vehicles approaching or crossing the intersection, as if to intentionally provoke road rage.
Many jaywalkers fail to understand that a vehicle traveling at ten or fifteen miles per hour can severely injure a pedestrian, which is why the speed limit in Colorado Springs is a comparatively high 25 M.P.H. unless otherwise posted. Moreover, some jaywalkers don’t even seem to realize that they’re breaking the law. I’ve spoken to a number of Downtown pedestrians about jaywalking, and their responses tend to be similar. They say, “In the state of Colorado, pedestrians have the right of way, and vehicles have to yield to them.”
While it’s true that “the vehicle must yield for the pedestrians at all times,” this doesn’t give people the right to break the law in other regards and create dangerous situations. What happens if the pedestrian crosses the road illegally and the operator doesn’t see him? Every vehicle has blind spots that interfere with the driver’s awareness and surroundings of his vehicle. This is why there are laws that require pedestrians to use marked or designated crossways. Jaywalking laws also require pedestrians to obey traffic control signals unless otherwise instructed by law enforcement. For example, beginning to cross the street at an intersection with a “DONT WALK” sign flashing violates jaywalking laws.
In addition to traffic signal regulation, jaywalking laws dictate how pedestrians may legally cross the street when no signals are present. Many states require that pedestrians cross only at crosswalks, which can be designated by white lines, or they can be unmarked. An unmarked crosswalk is simply an area around 10 to 15 feet wide between two adjacent street corners. Some state and local laws allow pedestrians to cross certain streets outside of a crosswalk, but at the same time, these laws require pedestrians to yield to any vehicles when doing so. Generally, pedestrian traffic rules require that pedestrians yield to motorists any time they are outside of a crosswalk. Jaywalking laws forbid crossing an intersection diagonally, unless traffic signals specifically allow diagonal crossing. Also, jaywalking laws forbid a person from walking in the street when a sidewalk is available. Disregarding signs or barricades placed to guide pedestrians also constitutes jaywalking.
Colorado Springs needs stiffer fines and stronger enforcement to decrease jaywalking and, therefore, pedestrian and vehicle collisions. The current fine for a jaywalking violation in Colorado Springs is about the same as for a parking violation. In New York City, if a person commits a jaywalking violation, the fines start at fifty dollars for the first offense, and the dollar amount of the fines increases if the person has multiple jaywalking offenses. Jaywalking fines also increase if there was an accident involved, and if the person crossed the street illegally, she will be considered at fault and ticketed accordingly. Perhaps of greatest significance, in the New York City downtown area, you’ll find police officers at the corners of multiple intersections, ensuring the safety of the pedestrians crossing the streets.
The proposed City of Champions project in Colorado Springs will result in population growth. People visiting and attending events like the Olympic trials, qualifiers, playoffs, and world championships will stimulate new jobs and a larger downtown population. This will obviously increase Downtown pedestrian traffic. A possible way to control this increased volume of people will be to incorporate a system similar to the one found in New York City. Critics are already arguing for greater community safety measures, as well as faster medical and police response times in emergency situations. No doubt, one can expect that these impending safety and security concerns in Colorado Springs will result in stricter enforcement of laws and regulations in Colorado, especially jaywalking in the Downtown area of Colorado Springs. People need to realize that if you disrupt traffic, you may also face disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace charges.
Jaywalking needs to become more visible in our public discourse. TV and radio commercials trumpet the dangers of texting or drinking while driving. However, I have never seen or heard a commercial discussing the danger jaywalking creates for both the motorist and the pedestrian, as a distracted motorist may not see the immediate accident about to unfold. Pedestrians and motorists alike need to be responsible and set an example for the young generation literally following in their footsteps. We all need to be responsible and make the roads a safer place in our community.