"It seems to me that if we are repeating the struggle of the 1920s between motoring interests and city interests, then we should take heed of the lessons of the twentieth century. Grade separation does not work for city streets. The promotion of vehicle speed, over the safety and access of pedestrians, only leads to desolation and abandonment of the city. The police cannot be trusted to judiciously apply “pedestrian law” and it doesn’t make sense anyway: nobody was ever killed by a speeding pedestrian. The more appropriate path is the one that was unwisely abandoned in the 1920s: the recognition that on city streets, speed is anathema to safety. Socially, many people are coming to realize that the old way is the best way forward: the proliferation of safe street, complete street, livable street movements is testament to that. However, the law still enshrines the dangerous twentieth century dalliance with speed at the expense of safety, and the slur “jaywalker” is still considered valid jargon for use by public figures. It may be the only such slur. Changes in concrete take time, but changes in terminology need not. Police resources should not be used as a weapon against walking. For one thing, it strikes at the heart of the city, which is the vitality of its walking population. For another, pedestrians have enough danger to contend with already: protecting themselves from heedless motor vehicle drivers who cannot be bothered to respect even the little scraps of street space the law grants to people on foot. Deploying police action against pedestrians is radically unjust, and an all too tempting case for abuse, as the NYPD demonstrated yesterday. After all, catching pedestrians is a lot easier than catching speeding motorists, because pedestrians pose no threat to anyone’s safety. The penalty for misjudging the speed of a vehicle is already quite steep—-injury or death—-and a citation is simply heaping insult on top of that. On the other hand, everyone knows that the vast majority of reckless driving goes unpunished, and the penalty relatively toothless in comparison with the potential devastation wreaked. Boston, in particular, has a major difference from many other counterpart cities: the extensive usage of “beg buttons” and the very poor programming of pedestrian signals and infrastructure. The status of Boston as a “walking city” is despite the infrastructure: because people have learned to routinely dismiss the signals as untrustworthy. Even BTD Commissioner Jim Gillooly has admitted that he does not really expect pedestrians to wait for the signal, and he personally does not either. So, Boston’s status as a good walking city is largely dependent upon the choice of the powers-that-be not to enforce the anti-pedestrian regulations on the books. New Mayor Marty Walsh has had a mixed record in his former job, the state legislature. While he has promoted bills which would reduce speed limits in urban areas, he has also pushed for doubling of penalties upon pedestrians, quite a regressive measure. Going forward, I hope that he chooses to distinguish himself from Mayor Bill de Blasio, by choosing methods of bringing safety to our streets that do not include pedestrian discrimination: walking should not be a crime, and making it so will only lead to conflict and disaster."
— The Walking Bostonian: The term “jaywalker” is a slur