Just The Ticket

By David Volk

Tired of those darn jaywalkers? David Volk proposes a solution—a new three strikes law

I had only been in Seattle a few weeks when the cop stopped me. I had just crossed the street and was minding my own business when a patrolman walked up to me and said, “Excuse me, but have you heard of….”

“Oh, great, here we go again,”I thought as I tuned him out for a second. For good or ill, I have this everyman look about me. People I’ve never met stop me to chat because they think I’m someone they went to school with, grew up with or met through a friend. Once, while waiting in line for a Little River Band concert, I even had a couple tell me I looked like the bastard love child of Tony Ventrella and former local broadcaster Aaron Brown.

Regardless of who I look like, they all want to ask about people they think should be our mutual acquaintances and I was frustrated that I was going to have to find a way to let the officer down gently.

That is, until I heard the final word of the question.


Say what?

At that moment I was introduced to the city’s obsession with the most unforgivable of all crimes. Meth labs could be popping up all over, drug deals may be going down on Second Avenue and rioters could be running amok, but God forbid the police should miss writing someone a ticket for jaywalking, because civil disorder and mayhem would surely follow. At least, that’s the only conclusion I can draw given the local constabulary’s dogged pursuit of scofflaw walkers.

For those of you who never color outside the lines, jaywalking is the walking equivalent of slowing for, but not completely stopping at a stop sign while driving your car. Both are illegal, yes, but crossing the street when the traffic light says “DON’T WALK” and no cars are coming is far less dangerous than simply plowing into traffic with a ton of driveable metal.

After all, who gets hurt when an impatient pedestrian decides it’s time to move on and there’s no traffic? The people left behind? The car five blocks away that might have hit him? The man who moved the cheese? Or the wacky walker whose wallet is suddenly $40 lighter?

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy Seattle’s quirkiness. I think the Seafair Pirates are stupid, but fun. I view changing my travel plans on the opening day of boating season as a challenge, not an inconvenience. I even willingly buy into the belief that most of the food booths at The Bite of Seattle offer tastes of food from local restaurants -- even though many of the booth owners don’t operate local eateries, but I think issuing jaywalking tickets is a little too quaint, even for Seattle.

In fact, Washington, DC is the only other city I know that still issues such citations. But there the practice still makes sense. I mean, somebody has to watch over stupid politicians and lobbyists who think overhauling Social Security is a good idea, right? Then again, maybe not.

If Seattle decides to stay with this whole jaywalking thing, though, I have a few modest suggestions on how to get serious about enforcement.

For starters, every able-bodied citizen should have to earn a pedestrian permit by going to walking school and taking a perambulation test.

Second and most importantly, the cops should crack down and the courts should adopt a “three strikes you’re out” system. Under the policy I propose, first time offenders would be fined. Second timers would have their shoes confiscated. I’m still not sure how to handle third time penalties, though. Is it too draconian to remove their legs or would it be enough to just impound their feet?