In uptown this week, there have been mass e-mails at work and grumblings on street corners about a law thats almost never enforced.
People are talking about how to avoid getting slapped with a $213 jaywalking ticket, which Charlotte-Mecklenburg police started handing out this week in response to pedestrian-related crashes in uptown streets. Drivers who dont give pedestrians the right of way, but should, are also getting ticketed, as well as drivers violating other laws.
Many people who walk in uptown said theyre worried about getting a citation.
I dont want to pay $200, so Im going to be in the crosswalks, said Andre Taylor, who was walking along Tryon Street near Seventh Street to get lunch Thursday.
Jeff Everett, a financial consultant who works on Tryon Street, said he first heard about the campaign from a mass e-mail. And Duke Energy posted a notice about the campaign on its internal website, said employee Jon Ramsey.
Officer Michael Tinsley, who is in charge of the safety campaign, said he reduced patrols Wednesday after Mondays kickoff. He said far fewer people are jaywalking after the first two days of ticketing and that officers are now focusing on vehicle violations.
Its not a ticket-writing campaign. Its an awareness campaign, Tinsley said. I would rather (pedestrians) feel that the police are always there and just do the right thing.
He said police are also looking at streets that need safety improvements. There are plans for a crosswalk on Third Street between Davidson and McDowell streets, he said.
Still, 31 citations were issued to drivers and jaywalkers Wednesday, and 16 on Thursday, Tinsley said. He said patrols will be heavier on some days.
He likened the jaywalking situation to speeding: Most people drive about five miles per hour over the speed limit, and police typically pull over those who are driving faster.
Police wont cite pedestrians who cross at marked crosswalks when no cars are in sight but the signal says not to walk, Tinsley said.
Were looking for the aggressive person whos stepping in front of cars and causing traffic hazards, he said.
One problem area is on Tryon Street between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Third Street, he said.
Instead of taking 10 more steps, they cross right there in the middle of the road, Tinsley said.
He said Tryon Street between Fifth and Seventh streets would be a target for tickets Thursday, but at lunchtime, there wasnt a strong police presence in that area if at all. Some people still darted back and forth between crosswalks without consequence.
Over on Church Street, others could be seen jaywalking on their way to the Rainbow Cafe.
One such person, Debbie Johnson, said shes not worried about jaywalking in uptown if its safe.
Its because its at a street corner, she said. Its to avoid waiting for the signal. I did wait until there were no cars around.
The fine for jaywalking is $25, and court fees are $188. Citations for driving infractions, such as failing to yield to pedestrians, cost $223, $35 of which is the fine.
Several people said they think the cost of the fine is too high.
The price, its kind of ridiculous, Taylor, who was walking to lunch on Tryon, said. Why do court costs? I think its just Charlotte trying to make some money.
Pedestrian Bill Aniton agreed.
To try to balance their budget on jaywalkers thats pretty excessive, Aniton said as he walked to lunch in The Square. Aniton said he thought it would be fairer if tickets started at $50 and escalated for repeat offenders.
The campaign was a response to pedestrian crashes like the back-to-back ones at Stonewall and College streets in January. Bank executive Brett Morgan, 47, was struck and killed while walking to work. The next day, pedestrian David Smuda, 42, was hit and injured at the same spot. Both were in a crosswalk.
I commend the chief (Rodney Monroe) and the police department for what I think is being proactive, said George Erwin Jr., executive director of the N.C. Association of Chiefs of Police. Theyve had these fatalities with pedestrians and felt like they needed to get ahead of the game because theyve got thousands of people coming here in the next month with the Democratic National Convention.
Because laws against jaywalking are so seldom enforced, some have questioned whether theyre even valid charges.
Historically, you dont see a lot of enforcement in jaywalking, Erwin said.
North Carolina statutes show at least three laws addressing the legality surrounding jaywalking and yielding to pedestrians.
Heres what they include:
• Pedestrians have the right of way in a crosswalk, but not when the Dont Walk signal is flashing.
• Pedestrians should follow stoplights if there arent such signals.
• Pedestrians have the right of way at a crosswalk without a stoplight.
• Vehicles have the right of way when pedestrians are crossing without a crosswalk.
• Even if vehicles have the right of way, they should try not to hit people and honk if necessary.
Even though it may not be enforced that much, Erwin said, these are our laws.
Staff writer Hayley Paytes contributed.