Removing portion of SB2630 SD1 would strengthen ‘right to walk’

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the House Committee on Transportation on March 11, 2024.

March 11, 2024, 10:30 a.m.
Hawaii State Capitol
Conference Room 312 and Videoconference

To: House Committee on Transportation
      Rep. Chris Todd, Chair
      Rep. Darius K. Kila, Vice-Chair

From: Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
           Ted Kefalas, Director of Strategic Campaigns


Aloha Chair Todd, Vice Chair Kila and other Committee members,

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer its comments in support of the portion of  SB2630 SD1 that would allow pedestrians to act contrary to the traffic code after exercising reasonable care that there is no danger of collision with a moving vehicle.

In other words, this bill trusts people to cross the street after checking carefully that there are no cars coming.

We do have two concerns regarding the language of the current bill.

First, the addition of a minimum fine for speeding distracts from the bill’s broader intent. We suggest that this element be removed so that it can be properly debated on its own merits, rather than being treated as a subsidiary element of jaywalking reform.

Second — and more important —the addition of language regarding a pedestrian’s proximity to a crosswalk unnecessarily complicates the bill. As a practical matter, it is unreasonable to expect a pedestrian or a police officer to accurately estimate whether one is 200 feet from a crosswalk, as the measure proposes.

Moreover, the previous language and overall intent of the bill should make such a clause unnecessary. If it is reasonably safe to cross, it doesn’t matter how far away the crosswalk is. If it is not safe, then the crosswalk being more than 200 feet away doesn’t transform the action into a reasonable one.

Thus, we suggest that the committee strike the following language from the bill: “provided that the pedestrian is more than two hundred feet from a marked crosswalk.”

These changes would strengthen the bill and better protect the “right to walk.”

Though some might question the necessity of jaywalking reform, an examination of the growing movement for such “right to walk” bills demonstrates that they have little to do with public safety. Rather, the enforcement of statutes relating to pedestrians is rigid, and the statutes themselves are — as noted in the language of this bill — “needlessly restrictive.”

Any Hawaii resident can regale you with a story of the absurdity of Hawaii’s pedestrian laws, including the expensive citation they or a friend received for being in the crosswalk a few seconds too soon or too late. Such stories are evidence that the current system contributes to an adversarial relationship between law enforcement and the public.

In fact, research from the Hawai’i Appleseed Center for Law and Justice reveals that annual per capita jaywalking citations in Hawaii outstrip locations like New York City or the entirety of Washington State by more than 5,800%.[1] Moreover, jaywalking citations issued in Hawaii are highly concentrated at certain locations.[2] Together, these two facts suggest that something other than public safety is motivating the state’s excessive enforcement of jaywalking laws.

Another reason to reexamine jaywalking laws can be found in the evidence that such laws have been disproportionately enforced against disadvantaged groups and minorities.[3]  As the bill notes, “fines for pedestrians can have a disproportionate impact on people who do not drive and who primarily rely upon walking as a means of transportation.”

As for the legitimate worries about safety, data from Virginia’s 2020 decriminalization of jaywalking demonstrates that right-to-walk laws do not lead to an increase in pedestrian injuries or deaths.[4] After all, people crossing the street are more concerned about not getting hit by a car than avoiding a fine.

Finally, as the bill points out, decriminalizing jaywalking would encourage more people to walk while making the streets friendlier to pedestrians.

Again, this bill trusts Hawaii residents to cross the street safely. We commend the committee for considering this bill.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Ted Kefalas
Director of Strategic Campaigns
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

[1] Abbey Seitz, “Freedom to Walk: Decriminalizing Jaywalking and Shifting Investment Towards Safe, Accessible Pedestrian Infrastructure,” Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law & Economic Justice, March 2024, p. 7.
[2] Ibid, pp. 8-9.
[3] Angie Schmitt, “The Progress of Jaywalking Reform,” America Walks. June 19, 2022.
[4] Ibid.

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