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Denver city council members propose decriminalizing jaywalking

Cross walk button on East Colfax
Posted at 6:02 PM, Jan 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-10 20:16:45-05

DENVER — Jaywalking in Denver could soon become legal if three city council members have their way.

“People are jaywalking all day, every day all over the city, but the citations are only happening in a particular part of the city and they're only targeting a particular type of individual,” councilwoman Candi CdeBaca said Tuesday morning.

It’s one of the reasons she and fellow councilmembers Jamie Torres and Jolon Clark want to decriminalize it. They shared their proposal at Tuesday's Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Denver city council members propose decriminalizing jaywalking

Right now, jaywalking is considered a Class B traffic citation, which can carry a fine up to $95.

“We are aligning ourselves with the state, as we currently have much more strict laws around jaywalking here in Denver, and we're making it less of a priority,” CdeBaca said.

Their research found that of the 135 citations Denver Police have issued since 2017, 40 percent were issued to Black people, who make up only 10 percent of the city’s population.

“This just eliminates an extra thing for a certain type of person to be worried about as a target, making them a target for unnecessary interactions,” CdeBaca said.

Jill Locantore, executive director of Denver Streets Partnership, says the current ordinances "[exacerbate] current social injustices."

"The data clearly shows that people of color and people experiencing homelessness are vastly more likely to receive a ticket for jaywalking," she said. "Right now, we are basically punishing people for just trying to make do with a lack of sidewalks, lack of frequent, safe pedestrian crossings."

But the proposal faces opposition, including from councilwoman Kendra Black. She argues it sends mixed messages about the council’s priorities and their work to make streets safer.

“We try and get money for crossing guards. We want crosswalks and bike lanes, and it's a top priority for every single council member. But then the messaging problem is that we're going to tell people 'Oh, and by the way, if you see a safe place to cross mid-walk, go for it'?” she said. “I just want to ensure that people aren't putting themselves in more danger.”

Pedestrians Denver7 spoke with along East Colfax, one of the four most common citation locations, say it likely won’t make a difference.

“They don't even enforce it anyway, so I don't see what the big deal is. There's other things they could probably be focusing on,” Alea, who did not want to use her last name, said.

Denver Police, which is in charge of enforcing the current jaywalking ordinances, issued the following statement:

“It’s the Denver Police Department’s standard practice to not comment on proposed or pending changes to ordinance, but respects City Council’s thoughtful consideration of this issue. The Department will be engaged in these conversations, and if a change in ordinance occurs, the Department will implement the necessary changes, while continuing to focus on pedestrian and traffic safety.”

The bill is expected to head to the full council next week, according to CdeBaca. Black has already indicated she will be a no-vote.

You can read a copy of the full proposed ordinance changes here.