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Jaywalking remains illegal in Washington, but a legislator is pushing to repeal it

A new bill aims to repeal Washington’s jaywalking law so that people can move more freely around their city streets and instead use common sense.

SEATTLE — An effort is underway in the legislature to repeal the law against jaywalking in the state of Washington.

California, Nevada and Virginia recently did the same, and a Senate Bill 5383 was introduced to Washington lawmakers on Monday.

"Jaywalking laws started about 100 years ago and since then have been used to enforce the ways that people move around in their cities and towns," said Alex Hudson, executive director of Transportation Choices Coalition.

Hudson leads the coalition that spearheaded the campaign that led to the newly-introduced legislation. She calls the current law "outdated, unhelpful and oppressive."

"In the city of Seattle, you can be ticketed almost $70 for jaywalking. If you can't pay those fines, now you're in the criminal justice system, and historically what that has meant, is that people weren't able to vote," said Hudson.

Introduced by Senator Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, the bill aims to repeal Washington’s jaywalking law so that Washingtonians can move more freely around their city streets, and instead rely on their common sense.

"The people that do know about jaywalking laws are the people who've been affected by them, right? Disproportionately we know who that is: that's black people, that's low-income folks and unhoused neighbors," said Hudson.

KING 5 took to Twitter to ask Washingtonians whether they think Washington's law against crossing mid-block is keeping people safe. Nearly 400 votes later, about two out of three people said no.

Seattleite Marco Ballesteros wrote, "No! Just go to Lake City Way and see for yourself!"

On the other hand, another local man, Andy Stevens, responded, "After braking hard to a complete stop to avoid hitting a pregnant jaywalker on 4th, I am inclined to support this particular law."

Still, the bill's proponent said she hopes people consider this about the legislation: "What this bill does is it removes the criminal citation, it doesn't make our streets a free-for-all," said Hudson.

To keep people safe, she hopes lawmakers put more of a focus on infrastructure and street design.

"My experience has been that people use their common sense to find the safe time to cross the street, but the infrastructure itself forces people to make unsafe decisions about that. And we shouldn't come around and penalize them for that."

Senate bill 5383 will have its first hearing in the legislature in the coming weeks.


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