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This Story Shows Everything That's Wrong With Jaywalking Tickets

(Photo by sirimiri via Shutterstock)
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Jaywalking tickets are a weird quirk of life in Los Angeles, a city that has worked hard to become more walkable but hasn't completely escaped its notorious car culture.

Los Angeles Times Steve Lopez examined the human cost of jaywalking tickets that can run up to $250. He profiled Eduardo Lopez, 22, who was ticketed when a cop caught him running across the street to catch a bus after the countdown clock started.

The all-star soccer player wants to finish college, he wants to be a firefighter, and he wants to help get his family out of the hole it's been in from the day he was born. That means he's always on the go, and on a recent morning, Lopez was really in a hurry. He had worked a minimum-wage graveyard shift loading pallets for an export company near LAX, then jumped a Green Line train and transferred to the Blue Line.

At the Metro station downtown, he hustled up to street level and saw his bus approaching 7th and Hope streets. If he caught it, he'd make it to his first class at Glendale Community College on time. He hadn't slept in 24 hours, but he had to get to school.

The cop who ticketed him shouted at him not to go, but Lopez hadn't heard the warning. And he, like many of us, didn't realize that crossing after the countdown clock has started—even if it has 20 seconds and you were a track team star—is illegal. The fine? $197, or about a third of the rent Lopez's family pays. Lopez told the Times, "I didn't know how I was going to pay for it or what I was going to do."

This story has a happy ending: some readers who read Lopez's story reached out to help him pay the fine. But Steve Lopez points out that it shouldn't have to be this way. $197 is way too much money —especially considering crossing during the crosswalk countdown is a victimless crime—and it's a serious hardship for many Angelenos, particularly those who can't afford a car in the first place. It's bad for Angelenos and it's bad for a city that's trying to shrug off the last vestiges of a car-centric culture.

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