30 September 2009

Jaywalking is necessary in Newark

Next crosswalk: go to the traffic light in the distance, cross Delaware Avenue, and you'll find it. Then cross back over Delaware Ave and walk all the way back. The jaywalking pedestrian here is acting rationally and responsibly (crossing in the gaps between cars). (Click on photo to expand)

The recent crackdown on jaywalking in Newark (articles News-Journal, UD Review) seems to be the latest example of using the police to enhance revenue for the city. Ticketing 44 students in a 3-hour period (at $50 per person) equals $2200, quite a tidy sum for the city. The jaywalking crackdown is a particularly galling example of selective enforcement, however. To live in Newark, you have to jaywalk. Newark is severely lacking in crosswalks throughout the city, even on the most heavily traveled pedestrian corridors.

In New York City, there are two crosswalks every city block (one crosswalk every 44 yards). On Main Street in Newark, there is one crosswalk every two NYC city blocks (about one crosswalk every 160 yards). A given avenue in NYC has four times the frequency of crosswalks as on Main Street. Are drivers on Main Street who cheer on the pedestrian ticketing ready for four times as many crosswalks?

But Main Street, though not pedestrian heaven, is easily the best street in Newark for crosswalks. Consider the following:

• North College Ave: no crosswalks between Main St and Cleveland (325 yards, with two major parking lots and the gym lining the N College).
• Delaware Avenue: no crosswalks between the Green and Academy (240 yards); 190 yards to next crosswalk (Haines), 185 yards to the subsequent crosswalk (S Chapel)
• South Chapel (photo above): no crosswalks between the north side of Delaware Ave and Lovett (350 yards, including the entirety of University Courtyards Apartments, with no crosswalks even on the south side of Delaware Ave, nor at Continental). There is no crosswalk throughout the entire length of a very major apartment complex! And south of Lovett, there are no more crosswalks on South Chapel, including at the busy intersection with Wyoming Avenue (with parking lots all around) (photo at end) and at Park Ave.
• North Chapel: no crosswalks between the north side of Cleveland and Main Street
• Academy Street: no crosswalks between Delaware and Lovett; no crosswalks between Lovett and Perkins (despite two major parking lots in the interim space); no crosswalks between Perkins and Park, despite a major parking garage
• Lovett: no crosswalks between Chapel and Academy
• Cleveland Avenue: one crosswalk between North College and Chapel (1/2 mile); no crosswalk on south side at North Chapel
• Elkton Road: too lacking in crosswalks to fully enumerate (I avoid eating on Elkton Rd, despite its relative proximity and several good choices, because of the challenges crossing Elkton, and a well-founded fear of death). When running on Elkton (which I do often) jaywalking is the only reasonable way to cross the road. Indeed, the photo in the Review article shows jaywalking on Elkton Road in a location completely lacking in crosswalks.

Even on Main Street, you have the following distances:
• 200 yards to Academy from the next westernmost crosswalk; no crosswalk on Main at the west side of the intersection (at Grassroots)
• 80 yards from Academy to Center (the shortest measured distance on Main Street, which is still only semi-reasonable)
• 160 yards from Center to Choate (skipping Haines, where there are popular pedestrian stops including Starbucks)
• No crosswalk to the eastern entrance to the Newark Shopping Center (!), with 216 yards between crosswalks at the western entrance to Newark Shoping Center and at Tyre.
(and many others in 100-160 yard distances, again compared to 44 yards on average in NYC)

The situation is exacerbated by the number of intersections where crosswalks are not present on both sides of the street (e.g. Main Street at Chapel; Chapel at Delaware; Main St at Academy). The absence of a crosswalk means that to go from Santa Fe Cafe to Sinclair Cafe across the street, you need to cross Chapel, cross Main, and then cross Chapel again (three light cycles), or walk a block to Choate, cross Main, and then walk a block back. See below for more examples. Newark is a town designed for drivers, not pedestrians, yet the pedestrians are bearing the wrath of police?

Scenario 1: you want to go from the student corridor on Cleveland (south side) to the Newark Shopping Center to see a movie. To avoid jaywalking, you must either (a) cross Cleveland, cross Papermill, cross Margaret, and then cross Cleveland again to get on the east side of Chapel; or (b) walk to Main, cross North Chapel, and then walk all the way back. Clearly, neither of these is reasonable, and the only rational approach is to jaywalk at a gap in traffic, south of the railroad tracks.

Scenario 2: you want to go from the entrance of lot 19 (on N College by the tracks) to the gym. You can walk to Cleveland, cross, and then walk back; or you can walk to Main, wait for the light, and then walk all the way back. Clearly neither scenario is reasonable, and the only rational approach is to jaywalk.

Scenario 3: you want to walk from the general services building (Wyoming at S Chapel) to Perkins (or to the parking lot across the street). Your only option is to walk all the way up to Lovett (crosswalk in top photo), cross the street, and then walk all the way back.

South Chapel at Wyoming. Parking lots are on two of the corners of this intersection, sidewalks are on all sides - and there is no crosswalk over South Chapel!

All pedestrians have a fear of death driving their decisions to cross the street. Fear of death is a sufficient incentive to keep pedestrians from stepping out in front of traffic. Drivers have no such fear. A near-collision with drivers when walking in a crosswalk is a constant fact of life for Newark pedestrians. Cars kill pedestrians; pedestrians do not kill the driver of a car. So where should resources be directed?

The key for all is courtesy and respect. Responsible jaywalking is clearly required for daily life in Newark, given the relative paucity of crosswalks (even on Main Street). Crossing between gaps in traffic is not a crime, it's the most reasonable decision, and it's in the best interests of pedestrians and of traffic flow. Neither drivers nor pedestrians want additional light-controlled crosswalks. The only alternative approach permitting responsible jaywalking is to add many, many, many more crosswalks to Newark streets.

Ticketing jaywalkers, when jaywalking is necessary to life in Newark, is pure hypocrisy.