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For Find Out Fridays! Week 2- Jay Walking- What are the facts?

As a religious follower of “Mysteries at the Museum”, last Friday I naturally tuned in to see what it was all about.

Don Wildman was the one who suggested I visit Greenwood Cemetery (

I never have any regrets following his lead.

It was during that episode where I found the latest topic inspiration for this new blog series of ours. Today we learned the origin of the term/concept of jaywalking.
Like the previous “Find Out Friday” post this topic also did not occur to me until I saw this show. It is pieces of our daily life, like these, which I never seem to examine until it is brought to my attention.

The official definition of jaywalking is: “to cross a street carelessly or in an illegal manner so as to be endangered by traffic”. Sounds simple enough.

For comparison, I also looked up this term on Urban Dictionary. This is what they had to say: “When you cross the street through the middle and not at the intersections were you are supposed to.”

Essentially it describes a person who is an inexperienced walker. The reason a term like this was created was that with the dawn of the new automobile age, people were getting killed in accidents. Having no prior experience with having to share the road, people would walk into the street and into trouble. There were no formal rules deciding who had the right of way. If it had kept up there would have been a lot less of us.

There is some disagreement as to the date and site of the first usage of this phrase but on average that would be somewhere between 1915 and 1924. The New York Times was one of the few places it was first seen.

Jaywalking is very much illegal with penalties ranging from tickets and/or fines. It is a misdemeanor therefore if anyone would be jailed for this crime the sentence would be under one year by definition, although I have not yet found any such cases.

Of course I am only looking at jaywalking as an American. Personally I do this a lot mostly as a means to cut out some distance, time, and let’s face it- sweat on very hot days in New York City. Every time I do it though I am aware I am breaking the law and even look around to see if there are cops around. Thankfully I have yet to seen one that wants to slow down my commute. I hope this post is not a jinx.

As for other parts of the world here is a short sample of the penalties of jaywalkers:

·     France- “pedestrians used to be banned from crossing a street outside zebra crossings if there was one within 50 metres; the fine was 4 euros. Since November 2010, drivers are required to give way to a pedestrian crossing or showing the intention to cross where it is permitted.”

·     Serbia- “it is illegal to cross roads other than at pedestrian crossings if there is a zebra crossing within 100 metres.”

·     Canada- “Toronto and Montréal, jaywalking is an offense and in some cases, the practice had been fined frequently.  Rob Ford- the former mayor of Toronto- had been previously fined $109 for jaywalking in Coquitlam (part of Vancouver) while visiting the funeral of a friend's mother.”

·     Mexico- “jaywalking is not illegal in Mexico. However, on the Paseo de la Reforma, one of Mexico City‘s longest and most important avenues, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, then the city‘s mayor, commissioned the installation of concrete prisms along the avenue‘s central curb, to discourage pedestrians from crossing the road.”

I wonder if Mexico has been successful. I know that if there is concrete barrier low enough to cross over I would continue on jaywalking it to work.

It appears “Mysteries at the Museum” has done it again. I learn just as much if not more from watching television as I do from reading books. Actually I believe I get a lot of the topics I want to read about from the stories I hear on TV. Maybe not enough people are watching as much Travel Channel or ID Discovery as I do. I highly recommend them both.

From this point on I hope my readers will post questions they want answers to every Friday.

If I get more than one suggestion per week I will go with whatever topic has the most requests.

I will always try to keep some ideas on the back burner as a backup plan but I will be thrilled when I no longer have to use them.

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