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  • Writer's pictureIHS Alumni

What to Expect and What Not to Expect in Jaywalking

Experiencing walking on the street with 'chaotic' traffic situations, car drivers seem to drive like they are on a car racing, crowded intersections, and last but not least, pedestrians who are likely to do a jaywalking. Jaywalking is a very interesting phenomenon in the traffic behaviour studies. Before going into deep why jaywalking is very interesting to look at, it is better to explain first what jay walking is. Someone is doing a jay walking if he or she doesn't cross the street on the crossing walks or the desired space to cross that is mentioned in the traffic regulation, also when someone crosses the street without having any regards to other road users (car drivers, cyclists, motorists, etc.) and even the traffic situations. Jay walking seems to be a common practice among pedestrians in developing countries instead of developed countries.

Why do pedestrians prefer to do a jaywalking instead of using zebra cross or any other types of crossings? What do pedestrians think while doing a jaywalking? Those are questions that are raised when look at someone is doing a jay walking on the street. Among the stakeholders who create the traffic regulation, road safety strategy, and also police officers, who are in charge in enforcing traffic regulation. Jay walking is an undesired traffic behaviour from the pedestrians. It obviously violated the traffic regulation, because the traffic accident might happen due to this behaviour. However, let's try to ask the pedestrians who practice jay walking in everyday basis. There are prevalent answers from pedestrians why they prefer to do jay walking rather than to cross in the dedicated space: 'easier' and 'closer'. It's 'easier' because pedestrians do not have to wait couple minutes for the traffic light goes green for them to cross and it is 'closer' because of their destination is just right across where they stand.

Look at this illustration. In a bus stop, that is located on a commercial street where there are a lot of stores along the way on the right and on the left side of the road. When a bus comes and stops at this bus stop, there are a lot of passengers get off the bus. At this moment, there is a change in role: passengers turn into pedestrians. Right after the bus goes away, pedestrians walk in many directions, some of them cross the road to reach their destinations across the street. In this situation, they do a jay walking. Pedestrians do a jay walking because they have a need to cross the street in regards their destinations are just right across the street. People do not obey what the regulation mentions in where and how pedestrians should cross. What pedestrians care about are only their destinations and they want to cross in a short distance. Pedestrians who do a jay walking, they do not even think the consequences of their actions or behaviour. They could easily get hit by cars that are passing by and they are the main cause of the possible traffic accident because the car driver should stop immediately. This action could ruin the traffic situation on the street. In this case, jay walking as an action that is taken by the pedestrians independently without any consideration about what other people do and what other people think they should do. This is an independent behaviour (Bicchieri, 2017).

Looking back to the illustration above, it is a brave decision from pedestrians since they are the most vulnerable road users in the traffic (Vissers,, 2016). In certain cases, there is also a certain prevalent belief and perception that the shorter distance is the safer way to cross and the fastest they cross by running or walking quickly is also the safer way to cross. The pedestrians also expect that the car drivers will always stop no matter where they cross, on the crossing walks or other places, because they are the most vulnerable road users in the traffic. On the other hand, the car drivers have an expectation that the pedestrians will cross only on the zebra cross or the dedicated space for them to cross. So, in this situation, jay walking becomes an interdependent behaviour. Interdependent because of several expectations from various road users. Pedestrians need an understanding from other road users (especially the car drivers) to stop whenever and where ever they need to cross. This practice keeps repeating and this repetition generates a custom in traffic behaviour.


About the author:

Yulia was born twenty five years ago in Jakarta, Indonesia. She is an architect and urbanist, who has been in the field of urban development for three years. She also recently graduated from Urban Management and Development at IHS Erasmus University Rotterdam. She wrote this article as part of her observation during her thesis in Prishtina, Republic of Kosovo, in mid 2017. She currently lives in Jakarta, Indonesia.


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