Updated Jan 11, 2023 - News

Denver moves to decriminalize jaywalking

Illustration of a road being kicked and rolled out like a red carpet.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Jaywalking citations could soon disappear in Denver.

Driving the news: The Denver City Council is considering a measure to decriminalize the practice.

Why it matters: Proponents say the proposal would make Denver streets more pedestrian friendly as fatal traffic accidents plague city streets, and jaywalking citations disproportionately impact Black people and vulnerable populations.

Details: Advocates say the bill supports the city's Vision Zero program to reduce traffic deaths.

  • The measure would allow pedestrians to cross streets at any point instead of waiting for a crosswalk, and encourage police not to cite people for the offense unless there's an immediate hazard.
  • Pedestrians would still need to yield when vehicles have the right of way.

Zoom in: There were 135 jaywalking cases recorded by the Denver County Court between 2017 and 2022.

  • The most common locations for the citations follow Denver's inverted L — meaning people living roughly north of Interstate 70 and west of Interstate 25. These areas are home to many Black and Latino residents.
  • Areas around East Colfax, South Federal Boulevard, North Peoria and West Colfax were most cited.

Of note: While Black residents make up 10% of Denver's population, 41% of jaywalking tickets were given to Black residents since 2017.

  • People identified as homeless, transient or vagrant comprised 25% of those cited.

What they're saying: "There's no evidence that criminalizing jaywalking makes anyone safer," Council President Jamie Torres, the bill's co-sponsor, said during a committee meeting on Tuesday.

The intrigue: Councilmember Kendra Black said encouraging residents to jaywalk could send a "dangerous" message, especially to young people.

Between the lines: Data reviewed by bill co-sponsors including Councilmember Candi CdeBaca showed jaywalking citations were initiated by police officers who used the infraction to charge suspects with additional citations, like trespassing or possession of drug paraphernalia.

These are charges better suited for a STAR program response, CdeBaca said.

Context: CdeBaca said jaywalking can currently result in a ticket with fines ranging from $65 to $95, depending on whether it's a municipal, criminal or traffic citation.


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