Freedom to Walk: Decriminalizing Jaywalking

An Ordinance to Repeal City of Ithaca Municipal Code Section 346-17, “Pedestrian Crossings”

WHEREAS Plan Ithaca, the City of Ithaca’s comprehensive plan, prioritizes pedestrian travel above all other modes of transportation; and

WHEREAS on March 6, 2019 Common Council adopted the goals of “Vision Zero” to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries on roadways, and that strategy requires prioritization of pedestrian travel; and

WHEREAS the automobile industry lobbied “jaywalking” into existence in the 1920s to shift the blame for crashes onto pedestrians and encourage automobile usage and sales; and

WHEREAS “jaywalking” laws put the onus of pedestrian safety on walkers instead of lethal, increasingly large motor vehicles; and

WHEREAS criminalizing crossing the street raises the potential for selective enforcement; now, therefore be it

ORDAINED AND ENACTED by the Common Council of the City of Ithaca as follows:


Section 1. Legislative findings, intent, and purpose

The Common Council makes the following findings:

  1. Prioritizing pedestrian travel is a component of achieving the city’s climate and safety goals
  2. Automobiles and other vehicles with greater potential for causing injury should bear greater responsibility for pedestrian safety

Section 2. Repeal of Section 17 of Chapter 346 of the City Code

Section 17 of Chapter 346 of the City Code, “Pedestrian Crossings,” is hereby repealed in its entirety:

§ 346-17 Pedestrian crossings.

A.  Traffic control signals. No pedestrian shall cross between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation except in a crosswalk.

B.  Business districts. No pedestrian shall cross a street or roadway except in a crosswalk in the central business district or in any other business district.

Section 3. Severability clause

Severability is intended throughout and within the provisions of this ordinance. If any section, subsection, sentence, clause, phrase, or portion of this ordinance is held to be invalid or unconstitutional by a court of competent jurisdiction, then that decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this ordinance.

Section 4. Effective date

This ordinance shall take effect immediately and in accordance with law upon publication of notices as provided in the Ithaca City Charter.