DENVER (KDVR) — Denver has seen a surge of crashes involving vehicles and pedestrians but one lawmaker is pushing to decriminalize jaywalking.
Denver is a city where many opt to walk to get to where they’re going, but if a person is walking in the street or not crossing in a crosswalk, it’s technically illegal. If cited, the penalty holds a $65 to $95 fine, but that could soon change. One city councilmember is looking to decriminalize jaywalking in Denver and it’s garnering support from some residents and other councilmembers.
In the hustle and bustle of city life, most have witnessed someone run to beat oncoming traffic and not cross in a crosswalk, otherwise known as jaywalking. It was a topic of discussion Tuesday morning during the city’s Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure committee meeting.
Councilmember Candi CdeBaca is spearheading the Freedom to Walk and Roll proposal, which would decriminalize jaywalking in Denver.
“We are not making it legal to just cross anywhere in the middle of the street or on a highway,” CdeBaca said.
She goes on to say that Denver’s current jaywalking ordinance is too strict and is pushing for it to align more with state law. The councilmember said right now in Denver, it’s mandatory for pedestrians to cross in crosswalks, while state law strongly suggests using them. CdeBaca is pushing to make enforcement a lower priority and it’s gaining support among some residents, like Allen Cowgill.
“I parked on the opposite side of 32nd Ave and it felt safer to cross midblock when there were no cars coming rather than an intersection where I had to worry about cars coming from four different sides,” Cowgill said during public comment.
Data provided by Denver County Court showed that from 2017 to 2022, 135 jaywalking citations have been issued and upon further breakdown, CdeBaca says certain people are being targeted.
City research shows that while only 10% of Denver’s population is Black, 41% of jaywalking citations issued were to Black residents and a quarter of citations were issued to those who identify as homeless. Research also showed that most citations were issued along the inverted L. Those areas include East Colfax, West Colfax, South Federal Boulevard and North Peoria; all areas CdeBaca says are majority communities of color and low-income neighborhoods.
“I think it speaks to disproportionate policing in communities of color and impoverished communities,” CdeBaca told FOX31. “Intersections are often some of the most dangerous places to cross. A lot of our incidents and fatalities are happening in intersections and so people go to the middle of a block to cross safely.”
The FOX31 Digital Data Desk found that 2022 was a record-breaking year for pedestrian fatalities in Denver. For this reason, opposition to the decriminalization of jaywalking is concerning to some. On Wednesday, FOX31 brought this concern to CdeBaca for a response.
“There’s not a single piece of data that suggests this current ordinance keeps anyone safe, but we do have data that shows disproportionality in enforcement,” CdeBaca said.
She also adds another reason forcing people to walk in the streets is poor infrastructure– meaning a lack of sidewalks, crosswalks and signals, sidewalks covered in snow and ice, and sidewalks that aren’t the proper width for wheelchairs.
CdeBaca pointed out that similar legislation has been approved in other states like Kansas and Virginia, proving to be effective. Another goal in decriminalizing jaywalking is limiting unnecessary police interactions, which is part of the city’s Reimagining Policing and Public Safety Task Force recommendations.
The proposal passed in committee on Tuesday and will be presented to the city council on Monday.