New bill proposes increased fines, crackdown on Massachusetts jaywalkers

BOSTON — Should crossing the street outside of a crosswalk be illegal? A new bill that appeared before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Transportation on Thursday says yes and is proposing increased fines.

Under existing law, jaywalking fines are $1 for the first, second and third offenses. Offenses after that are $2. The jaywalking legislation now being considered proposes a $25 fine for a first offense, $50 for a second and $100 for a third. Those fines would be doubled for those caught wearing headphones or using a cell phone.

“That’s outrageous! That’s just not right. I wouldn’t pay it,” said Paul Snow.

Currently, you’re technically allowed to cross as long as you’re at least 300 feet from a crosswalk in Massachusetts. Under the new bill, filed by Rep. Colleen Garry, crossing anywhere outside a crosswalk would be subject to fines.

“I support it. If you’re walking out there in the middle of the street, you’re asking for trouble,” said Doreen Smith.

Transportation advocates are criticizing the new bill and asking lawmakers to take it off the table.

“This is just not realistic in Massachusetts. I don’t think it’s a good bill,” said Brendan Kearney, Deputy Director of WalkBoston. “You’re making it so there could be selective enforcement.”

The Massachusetts Joint Committee on Transportation has yet to determine if this bill will move on to another hearing.

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Warning against a punitive approach, transportation advocates on Thursday urged lawmakers not to advance the legislation.

Under the bill, cities and towns could also adopt a local option to impose fines on pedestrians who cross intersections diagonally, rather than crossing one street and then turning to cross another, where there is no signal or marking allowing them to do so.

Kearney described Central Street in Framingham, where he lives, as an example of road infrastructure where a broad ban on jaywalking would not fit. On his stretch of the road, only one side has a sidewalk and crosswalks are spaced out, Kearney said.

“It would be unsafe to try to walk the narrow, 30 miles per hour street with traffic to my back to get to the nearest crosswalk a quarter-mile down the street, an act which in itself would technically be against the law, because if there’s a sidewalk present along a street, I’m supposed to walk on it,” he said. “This isn’t an extreme example. It’s literally the view from my front door, and that’s the reality for many of our municipalities across Massachusetts.”

Chris Lisinski of State House News Service contributed to this report.