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Bemoaning the decriminalization of jaywalking making streets less safe? Try slowing down & paying attention
Jaywalking in San Francisco.

Want to see a hotbed of criminal activity?

Position yourself outside the FESM Hall in the 200 block during a wedding reception, a community  event or even their annual Holy Ghost celebration.

Or you can drive down Yosemite Avenue between Cottage/Spreckels avenues and Northwoods/Commerce avenues.

Brace yourself for what you will see.

No, it isn’t gangbangers brandishing weapons nor is it the open selling of illegal drugs.

And, contrary to what some think, it’s not the fact homeless individuals dare breathe and walk down the sidewalks.

Although the homeless are no different than you and I when it comes to committing the crime that happens numerous times daily in Manteca.

The crime is jaywalking.

The social media world beyond the Golden State has been a flutter for the past few days against California’s supposedly latest transgression against civilized society as well as social mores.

And it is all because Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assemblyman Phil Ting’s legislation that essentially decriminalizes jaywalking.

First, one needs to understand the definition of jaywalking under California Vehicle Code Section 21955 adopted in 1959.

It reads, “Between adjacent intersections controlled by traffic control signal devices or by police officers, pedestrians shall not cross the roadway at any place except in a crosswalk.”

There are no less than 18 such intersections in Manteca. There are primarily near freeway interchanges and downtown although they are several along Union Road by East Union High.

Keep in mind private driveways whether they are residential or commercial do not count as intersections.

That means the stretch on “Chicken Row” along East Yosemite Avenue between KFC and Chick-fil-A constitutes an area that falls under the law.

Yes, the homeless — either in an alert or seemingly catatonic state — cross often “mid-block” in this area. But so do others.

The worst, by far, is in the 200 block of North Main Street. And it will get worse in the coming months when the brewery opens and people park on the west side of the street and opt to walk across Main Street instead of taking a circuitous route via signals at either North Street or Center Street.

With each ticket issued running as high as $250 and the state getting roughly $215 of that, Sacramento could be rolling in even more dough if there were zero-tolerance and targeted enforcement in Manteca for the current jay walking law.

The odds of a ticket for jaywalking having been issued in Manteca in the past year is close to nil.

After the so-called “Freedom to Walk Act” goes into effect on Jan.1, 2023, you can still get a ticket jaywalking.

A ticket, however, can be issued only if a person crossing the street is aware that there is an immediate danger of an accident, or that they would get hit by a car.

Those that don’t immediately pounce on anything coming out of California as crazy, decadent, or woke the law authorized by Ting makes sense on a number of levels.

First and foremost, state-gleaned data under the California Racial and Identity Profiling Act data shows Black residents are stopped 4.5 times more for jaywalking than their White counterparts.

It is clearly falls into the broken taillight category of laws as just cause to stop someone due to public safety concerns. But unlike with the broken taillight law, the act of crossing a street when traffic flow allows it to be done safely threatens no one.

Whereas, a broken taillight can lead to situations where other drivers are put in danger because another driver’s intent can’t be signaled adequately — whether it is turning or braking — or be visible at night, in fog, or in heavy rain.

Given the human nature of people to take the shortest route between two points and — in most cases — not to walk in front of 4,000 pounds of metal and composites hurling down the street likely 10 miles or so above the posted speed limit, laser focusing the law on clear danger makes sense.

Realizing the current parameters of the jaywalking law is employed significantly more in big cities in areas that are older with intersections on every block controlled by traffic signals, Ting’s new law is arguably a non-issue for most Manteca residents.

That’s because there is a systemic failure across California to do much about speeding and situations where there are unsafe movements of vehicles and pedestrians.

Yes, both drivers and pedestrians are at fault whether it is texting while driving or being oblivious with headphones or nose buried in a smartphone while walking.

The burden, however, is placed disproportionately on the pedestrian.

A 2018 law sought to level the playing field. It made it legal in California for pedestrians to enter a controlled crosswalk at an intersection after the “don’t walk” sign has started flashing.

Before anyone starts talking about transgressions committed by pedestrians by daring to do so even now that it is legal, spend a little time at most intersections in Manteca.

Every minute of daylight seems to be someone somewhere in Manteca not just oblivious that they are able to stop safely on an amber light but red lights as well.

Starting to cross the street when the “don’t walk” sign is a solid red is akin to doing the same as running a red light when behind the wheel.

The flashing red “don’t walk” sign is the equivalent of an amber light for drivers.

While it means you need to prepare to stop it isn’t absolute one do so — and clearly is not interpreted as — you have to stop. Other safety issues enter into the equation such as if you have time to stop safely and whether someone is glued to your bumper.

We keep talking as if Manteca is rampant with felonious crime but based on annual body counts, injuries, and the leading cause of financial losses to residents, the best way to make the Family City significantly safer is to double down on police officers dedicated to enforcing traffic laws.

Manteca is not Mayberry.

Manteca has 88,000 residents and easily 40,000 vehicles based on a per capita proportionate to registered vehicles in California. It is likely higher given we are at the epicenter of the longest super-commute region in the country.

California — and by extension Manteca — will not be any less safe by reducing jaywalking law enforcement on those rare occasions when it happens down to clear and present danger situations.

If we bemoan streets somehow being made less safe by Sacramento decriminalizing jaywalking, then we all need to drive — and walk — like we are part of a civilized society.

Given the extraordinary greater number of cars compared to pedestrians  and the disproportionate amount of  damage and suffering driving 4,000 pounds down the street can cause, we need to start with the way we drive.

And to do so, Manteca needs to retrofit streets with traffic calming measures while also stepping up manpower dedicated to enforcing traffic safety laws.


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at