The United States spans an enormous swath of land, and an equally broad set of cultures. Each region has its own flavor. Accents, cuisine, terrain, celebrations. But one of the least reported-on regional distinctions is the variance in American jaywalking.
Across the country, locals have widely divergent stances on crossing against the lights. Some cultures relish the challenge. Others shun it as too risky. Here is a sampling of jaywalking traditions I have observed on my travels.
My hometown, and what I like to consider the jaywalking capital of the United States. Just as centuries ago, colonists rejected British taxation by dumping tea into Boston Harbor, today’s Bostonians subtly resist the rule of government by crossing the road whenever they deem it safe.
Pedestrians have an aggressive attitude in Boston. They take what they think they deserve, leaving motorists to react accordingly. The Boston Jaywalker is at heart an anarchist, or at least a libertarian.
New York City
The New York Jaywalker moves in packs. Though the city can seem an anonymous and uncaring place, jaywalkers band together to claim public spaces. Though one or two people may individually decide to wait for the light cycle to favor them, a crowd, when assembled, will almost always force its way into the street through the principle of strength and numbers; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. There is a beautiful community and humanity to the New York Jaywalker.
Atlanta, though a major city, is an avatar for the Southern Jaywalker. Jaywalking is practiced with far less frequency in the south. Perhaps it is an extension of a more laid-back mentality. The idea of “hold your horses, we’ll get there,” seems to be in play. Pedestrians wait patiently for an amenable light. There is very little turmoil or foot tapping. It is a different mindset than I am used to, but I respect it.
Vegas, baby. The jaywalkers here are brazen and fueled by alcohol. The police in Sin City are known for ticketing those who stray across the street at the wrong time. So I’ve heard. Probably the only major American city I have visited without jaywalking. The weather (stifling) and the law enforcement (oppressive) make it inadvisable.
LA is a funny town. People just wait politely on street corners for lights to change. There are rumors of people being ticketed, but I haven’t heard many substantial stories to back the claims up. Other LA residents say they are concerned with “safety.” Son, jaywalking ain’t about safety. It’s about living life to the fullest. East coast, fool. Ride or die! What? Oh, sorry about that. Nevermind.