Jaywalking in Arizona

peds not welcome

Tom Vanderbuilt’s latest Slate column discusses jaywalking and why its enforcement is really just pro-car bias, and not the danger to pedestrians that is claimed. Tom is the author of Traffic:Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), and blogs at howwedrive.com.

The State Statute

[see ped-excerpts.html for a handy index of all the ped laws in ARS] What would normally be referred to as “jaywalking” (the term does not appear anywhere in the law) is actually section C “Crossing at other than crosswalk”, and rarely occurs outside of dense downtown core areas…

28-793. Crossing at other than crosswalk
A. A pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway.
B. A pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing has been provided shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway.
C. Between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation, pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.

In Arizona, cities are authorized to enact their own pedestrian regulations; so you need to look at each and every jurisdiction; skip below to see some local examples, Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa.

The History of “Jaywalking” (#motordom)

Motordom magazine published circa late 1920s by the NY Automobile Association

The definitive history of “jaywalking” is Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City, by Peter Norton. In it he documents what can only be described as dirty tricks orchestrated and performed by those with vested interests in the automobile industry (collectively referred to as “motordom”). To my modern ears, the term motordom sounds derogatory; it is not, as the motoring groups coined that term themselves — there’s even a magazine published under that name in the late 1920s-30s by the NY Automobile Association).

For a humorized look at the history of “jaywalking” based heavily on Peter Norton’s book be sure to check out Adam Ruins Everything – Why Jaywalking Is a Crime


Jaywalking in Phoenix

Phoenix city code relating to traffic is chapter 36. Pedstrians is Article X.  (here is the whole chapter compled as a .pdf)

36-128A. Except in a crosswalk, no pedestrian shall cross a roadway at any place other than by a route at right angles to the curb or by the shortest route to the opposite curb. A pedestrian shall not cross a roadway where prohibited by appropriate signs, markings, devices or by law.

So unless I’m missing something, except for the admonishment to cross using the shortest path, there are no new rules here; in other words, all that is already covered in state statute. It also means “jaywalking” — crossing outside of a marked or unmarked crosswalk —  is allowed anywhere in Phoenix, subject only to the state rule about adjacent signalized intersections.

This seems surprising, as many cities have additional “crosswalk-only” requirements in a prescribed area, usually downtown.

Jaywalking in Tempe

This is all kindof interesting due to the Ersula Ore incident near ASU (which occured not in the Tempe’s CBD). So here are Tempe’s codes, see Chapter 19:

Sec. 19-1(2) Central business district means all streets and portions of streets within the area described as follows. All that area bounded by the salt river on the north, to 10th Street on the south and from Myrtle Avenue on the east to Maple Avenue on the west. [note: the ASU campus is, mostly, not in the central business district. Rather it is east of the CBD.]

Sec. 19-151. Crossing a roadway.
(a) No pedestrian shall cross the roadway within the central business district other than within a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
(b) Every pedestrian crossing a roadway outside of the central business district at any point other than within a marked or unmarked crosswalk shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
(c) No pedestrian shall cross a roadway where signs or traffic control signals prohibit such crossing.

Jaywalking in Mesa

Consider these statements of two officials from the Mesa Police Department:

Jaywalking, when a person walks anywhere other than a designated crosswalk, is a crime, Mesa police spokeswoman Diana Tapia said.

“…It is a concern and it’s illegal,” [Mesa Police Crime Prevention Officer Patty] Gallagher said

— Mesa reminder: Jaywalking not only illegal, it’s unsafe. The Arizona Republic January 9, 2008

First off, jaywalking is not in any way-shape-or-form a crime, it is a civil matter — but we can write that off to sloppy wording. More substantively, Ms. Tapia is apparently unaware (as are many drivers!) of the concept of an “unmarked” crosswalk! (*all* intersections have crosswalks; regardless of striping or no… unless crossing is expressly prohibited). Also, jaywalking (though not defined legally in Arizona) means “crossing between intersections”, which is typically not prohibited.

Sadly, both officials show either ignorance of the law, or disregard for what the law actually says.  (The Mesa, AZ ordinance is reproduced below). In order for it to actually be illegal, it must be either between two adjacent intersections with signals, or in the “business district” (What most people would call the Mesa business district is a tiny area clustered around Main St. / however as pointed out in the comment below, the defn in Mesa City Code is rather expansive).

I see parallels here in what is an apparent pro-car/anti-ped bias of police departments spilling over to pro-car/anti-cyclist bias. For example, the Tucson Police Department routinely run stings at stop signs to ticket cyclists who roll through; which is illegal but rarely fatal (I’m not aware of any fatalities in Tucson caused by the cyclist running a stop sign). At the same time, police rarely (a total of 3 over an 18month period by Tuscon PD) ticket motorists for passing cyclists too closely — behavior that regularly kills people.  And this is all done under the aegis of enhancing cyclist safety — so be careful what you wish for when lobbying for additional money for enforcement, it is likely to get (mis)used for things that have no demonstrable link to our safety.

Mionske’s slant on the same topic.

Mesa City Code, see Title 10 Section 3 part 19:

When Pedestrian Shall Yield. (Reso. 990,1771)

1. Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway. (Reso. 990,1771)

(F) Prohibited Crossing. Between adjacent intersections at which traffic-control signals are in operation, pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a crosswalk, and no pedestrian shall cross a roadway other than in a crosswalk in any business district.

Arizona state law is even more plain. see ARS §28-0793, Crossing at other than a crosswalk. See also azbikelaw.org/pedlaw/excerpts for a roundup of pedestrian laws.

Unmarked crosswalks at ‘T’ Intersections

(I’m warehousing this info here because I don’t know where else to put it, and I expect I’ll be able to find it if I keep it with the ped topic of jaywalking)

‘T’ intersections have THREE crosswalks, be they marked or unmarked (unless crossing is specifically prohibited by sign).

I was under the mis-impression it has always been that way — it turns out that it’s not always been that way… as it turns out, it has only been since a 1981 legislation that added the words “prolongation or” to the definition of crosswalk. Details:

In 1977, Kauffman v Schroeder (116 Ariz 104) a lower court declined to give jury instruction regarding §28-0793: “pedestrian must yield when crossing at other than crosswalk”. The driver appealed to the supreme court, who reversed the opinion, writing that the definition of crosswalk (at the time) required a sidewalk on both sides of an intersection.

In 1981, SB1201 passed, adding the words “prolongation or” to what is now ARS §28-0601(3).

In 1983, Boulware v Carbajal (138 Ariz 118) was a case very similar to Kauffman, both regarding pedestrians killed when crossing parallel to the terminating leg of a T intersection, and both regarding jury instruction of 793). I forget the details, but the court ruled that the change made in SB1201 was not merely “procedural” and thus not be applied retroactively. So I guess it was a party for the deceased pedestrian appealing, who apparently failed to get the new wording effective for their case, but perhaps the collision was from early 1981?? If that’s true it’s unfortunately, but I guess doesn’t matter now..

So T-intersections have crosswalks, whether or not marked.

Nice Page and Diagrams from Florida

bikewalkcentralflorida.org has a great resource page with great illustrations and explanations of FL pedestrian laws (and bicyclists, unlike AZ in FL, bicyclists on sidewalks and crosswalks are explicitly declared).

drivers MUST stop whenever there's a stopped vehicle at a crosswalk (marked or UNMARKED!)
drivers MUST stop whenever there’s a stopped vehicle at a crosswalk (marked or UNMARKED!)


Why “jaywalking” isn’t a large factor in traffic safety

I don’t like that they use “jay” but I like their approach…

When people talk about pedestrian violations, they immediately think of “jaywalking”. This popular term usually describes a person dashing across a street in the “wrong” place. Though “jaywalking” is disorderly in appearance, in most locations crossing outside a crosswalk is legal. . . . Jaywalking is not a big factor in pedestrian death and injury either. The Seattle Police Department vigorously enforced the anti-jaywalking laws in that city for 50 years, issuing more than 500,000 citations. Seattle’s pedestrian crash experience was little different from the rest of the USA where little or no attention was paid to this problem. Jaywalking enforcement may have a place in eliminating disorder in a city. New York City is working on jaywalking as a public order issue. It is not an effective safety strategy. Jaywalking enforcement is often episodic and inconsistent but is always widely seen as a waste of police manpower. Many police administrators start jaywalk enforcement programs to their later regret! — Guide to Conduct Education &
Enforcement Outreach in Local Areas


17 thoughts on “Jaywalking in Arizona”

  1. This is a bunch of crap. This government doesn’t have nothing better to do then sit on thier behinds and make stupid laws.

  2. This is indeed a bunch of crap. There is another neighborhood literally right across the street from my house and there isn’t the crosslights anywhere nearby. I’d have to walk all the way down by the intersection to cross.

  3. Yeah, it’s just a bunch of crap until someone seriously get hurt or even killed. But there are laws for a reason. You might disagree but because you do doesn’t give you the right to disregard it as either right or wrong.

  4. “jaywalking” in and of itself is a pro-car, anti-ped term. It has no legal definition and is used as a catch-all for any “illegal” ped action. Never mind that many of those offenses aren’t actually illegal (or unsafe). We would never consider using a term like “jaydriving” which would be the equivalent. It should be banished from our vocabulary.

    Originally it referred to country bumpkins that walked the sidewalks, creating an obstacle to other pedestrians as the offending rube gawked a the big city sights. Later it came to be used in its current vernacular upon the ascendancy of the automobile as king of the public space.

  5. I appreciate the distinctions being made in laws regarding pedestrians and cyclists. It should be made even clearer that T-intersections have THREE crosswalks, because the street that ends and its sidewalks EXTEND as intersection and crosswalks, all the way to the other side of the cross street. I actually got a ticket for crossing one, where the officer carefully explained to me that it was NOT a crosswalk because the dashed lines went all the way thru the intersection (even tho it WAS a crosswalk).

    I found that the definition of Business District in Mesa is far broader than stated in the blog. My interpretation is that just about every street with signals is predominantly in a business district, and it would be difficult to ascertain which places are not in one.

    “BUSINESS DISTRICT: The territory contiguous to and including a roadway when within any six hundred feet (600′) along such roadway there are buildings in use for business or industrial purposes, including but not limited to, hotels, banks or office buildings, railroad stations, and public buildings which occupy at least three hundred feet (300′) of frontage on one (1) side or three hundred feet (300′) collectively on both sides of the roadway. (Reso. 990)”


  6. Note that ARS 28-791 (and UVC 15-107 from which it’s derived) allows prohibition of crossing except in an (UNQUALIFIED) crosswalk. It
    *doesn’t* allow prohibition of crossing “except in a MARKED crosswalk”. So a local authority should not be allowed to prohibit crossing at an unmarked crosswalk, including at a T-intersection.

    However, also note UVC 15-108, which existed from 1968 to present(2001) which allows jurisdictions to prohibit crossing at specific unmarked crosswalks by signs. That does not exist in Arizona. Note that ARS 28-626,627 are more lenient towards the powers of “local authorities” than the corresponding sections in recent UVC (but I don’t have access to changes to that sections since 1975).

  7. Do any of you actually drive? A car, I mean. If you do, obviously you don’t pay attention. First, let me tell you that if you think pedestrian jaywalking isn’t dangerous, just look at the number of people in this city (Tucson) who die every year, verses the rest of the nation. Without looking (and I did look) I knew after driving here, this is the WORST city for jaywalking, and by far and away the worst jaywalking dangerously. Pedestrians and bikers very often times give no care to drivers. I’ve had people intentionally jump in front of my car, not to kill themselves, but to sue. And, they have. This city is the most bassackward place I’ve EVER lived. And, as a person who is a self proclaimed gypsy, not because I rob, but because I’ve lived in 10 states, and over 100 cities in my life. Now, to be fair to you all, I will give you this, drivers here are DANGEROUS. Yes, it’s true, these people have NO idea how to drive. It’s insane. But, the law is in no way in favor of the drivers either. It might look like that from where you’re pedaling, but believe me, it’s not. Instead of blaming anyone, how about we all vote to be more responsible, not cross streets illegally, and in the middle of the damn road, and that way we can ALL get home safely. Shall we?

  8. https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/phoenix-jaywalking-ticket-first-offense-pedestrian-deaths-11438647

    someone (the writer? the city staff? others?) seem to be misunderstanding the phoenix code. It ONLY applies where crossing is prohibited by sign or “by law” (which would refer to the state law, that only prohibits crossing between two adjacent signalized intersection — something rare outside of a tiny downtown core; which by the way is rarely where the ped fatalities are happening). This is probably why there are so few citations of the PCC (8 per year in the entire city!):

    The large bulk of the ped traffic safety problem isn’t that peds are crossing where crossing is prohibited; the “jaywalking problem” is they are getting killed/hurt where crossing is allowed but for whatever reason fail to yield to a motorist

    36-128 Crossing or stopping in a roadway.
    A. Except in a crosswalk, no pedestrian shall cross a roadway at any place other than by a route at right angles to the curb or by the shortest route to the opposite curb. A pedestrian shall not cross a roadway where prohibited by appropriate signs, markings, devices or by law.

    See page 33 for the “jaywalking” report from Phoenix City Staff to the Public Safety and Justice Subcommittee for Feb 12, 2020 meeting.


  9. My son was walking on a dirt road. They gave him a jaywalking citation saying he was walking on the wrong side of the street. So I was just looking up to see if there is such a thing about right side or wrong side of the dirt road.
    I can’t find anything on it.

  10. No, that’s correct, 28-796B. Though certainly like not something that police would normally cite for !?

    28-796. Pedestrian on roadways
    A. If sidewalks are provided, a pedestrian shall not walk along and on an adjacent roadway.
    B. If sidewalks are not provided, a pedestrian walking along and on a highway shall walk when practicable only on the left side of the roadway or its shoulder facing traffic that may approach from the opposite direction.

  11. It occurs to me that jaywalking is to pedestrians as AFRAP is to bicyclists… which is to say it’s rarely illegal to “jaywalk” (cross at other than a crosswalk) for pedestrians, and it’s rarely illegal for bicyclists to ride away from the right-edge.

    Anyway, this story (which was online a couple of weeks ago but didn’t make it into print until yesterday):
    Journalists seems to not understand, or perhaps are being misled by presumed professionals (the professor quoted). Crossing Mid-block (“jaywalking”) is typically NOT illegal; also missing from the article is the concept of an unmarked crosswalk…

    https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix-traffic/2022/05/12/heres-what-phoenix-doing-make-its-deadly-roadways-safer/9655075002/ https://twitter.com/PerryVandell perry.vandell@gannett.com
    Towards the end, it’s got a number of comments from “Alyssa Ryan, an assistant professor of transportation engineering at the University of Arizona with a doctorate in civil engineering” https://twitter.com/AlyssaRyanPhD
    that say or imply that crossing mid-block is illegal, e.g.

    “However, Ryan said she understands why some could decide to cross midblock — no matter the danger — if the legal way to reach their destination is extremely arduous… Even if a pedestrian crossing midblock is illegal, Ryan said the onus is on the driver to be aware of their surroundings and do their best to avoid a potentially fatal collision”

    By the way, did you see this one? It was probably supposed to be a “got-cha” piece of TV journalism, but police do (correctly) know, when they’re the ones being accused at least, that crossing mid-block isn’t in-and-of itself illegal

    … the ABC15 Investigators posted our cameras outside police headquarters for two days to see the size of the problem. ABC15 cameras captured Chief Jeri Williams using the crosswalks near headquarters, but dozens of her officers crossed mid-block on both Washington Street and 6th Avenue. Many crossed to save steps on the way to their cars parked on the opposite curb. We counted 23 jaywalking officers in just one hour.
    Phoenix police responded to ABC15’s questions about the officers not heeding the social media video’s advice. A department spokesman wrote crossing mid-block is legal in Phoenix as long as pedestrians yield to cars and there are not adjacent intersections with signaled crosswalks.

  12. Oh boy, here we go again:
    “Troopers also recommended charges of failure to show ID for four women who were stopped by troopers for allegedly jaywalking while leaving protests Sunday. One woman was also accused of resisting arrest”

    Regarding “failure to show ID”… that’s not a thing https://azbikelaw.org/are-cyclists-required-to-carry-id-are-pedestrians-updated-2014/#comment-144070

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