“Jaywalking” and the rules for pedestrians

“Jaywalking” and the rules for pedestrians


A Personal Story

In the United States, all motorist and cyclist traffic are required to travel on the right side of the road. One time when I was in my home state of South Carolina, I was crossing a street (at a crosswalk!) that I knew was one-way, and I looked left to make sure a car was not coming. I did not look to the right because I knew there would be no cars coming that way; as soon as I stepped off the sidewalk, however, I collided with a bicycle going the wrong way on a one-way street!  I was very shocked but thankfully I did not suffer anything more than a few bruises.

For more information about safety precautions and road rules as a pedestrian… 

Bicyclists are supposed to follow the same road rules as cars, such as riding on the right side of the road and stopping for stop signs and stoplights; however, cyclists can more easily disregard these road rules than cars, although police can issue tickets for offenses. I hate to say it, but you should always assume that the other person could potentially break a rule or law, so that you can stay safe! Drivers and cyclists in Boston and the North in general are more assertive than other regions of the U.S. (such as the South, where people often honk their horns just to say hello!)

As mentioned, all motorist and cyclist traffic in the U.S. are required to travel on the right side of the road. Likewise, if there is a sidewalk, pedestrians should walk on the right side of the road as well. If there is no sidewalk, however, and you find yourself walking on the road itself, it is advised to walk against traffic. This means that you should walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic, “as this presents opportunities to establish eye-contact with approaching motorists and make quick judgments to protect oneself.”

Pedestrians can get in trouble for “jaywalking,” or crossing “illegally.” For example, you are jaywalking if you are crossing the street that is not at a crosswalk, or if you cross the street when the walk signal is not on. You will see a lot of people in Boston jaywalking because most police do not give out tickets for this offense. However, to be extra safe, you should not cross except in a designated crosswalk. Pedestrians in the U.S. have the “right of way,” but only when the crossing of the street is legal. If you have illegally crossed the street, the motorist or cyclist may not be at fault if there is an accident.

There are some general safety rules that applies to anyone walking, driving, or riding on the street:

  1. Think of yourself as “invisible.” Never assume that anyone can see you. Always try to make eye contact with the motorist, cyclist, or pedestrian that you are approaching before you proceed.
  2. Always look both ways before crossing the street, even if it’s a one-way street!