I’m Walkin’ Here!

midnight-cowboyAs a decade long New York transplant, there’s nothing more galvanizing than witnessing downtown Los Angeles come to life– explode, might be a better adjective– with nationally recognized restaurants, brand new museums, indy boutiques and art galleries.

odeon_imageIt feels a little like Tribeca did in the 1980’s, when daring entrepreneurs ventured south from the Village and Soho in an effort to expand the city’s options for dining and imbibing and discovery. Remember when the Odeon was the only place down there to eat? Within a few years , there were fifty other spots to hit. All you needed was the will to adventure and a good pair of walking shoes and your options were unlimited.

jaywalking-ticketSo when the New York Times writes a piece on the spike in jaywalking tickets being slapped on pedestrians in downtown L.A., one can’t help but cringe at all the remaining dissimilarities between the two great cities. In short, how can you take a place seriously when it doesn’t trust its residents to cross the street on their own?

“We’re heavily enforcing pedestrian violations because they’re impeding traffic and causing too many accidents and deaths,” proclaims Lt. Lydia Leos.

Midnight Cowboy Still

I can just hear Ratso Rizzo complaining to Joe Buck: “Yeah, yeah, I’m s-s-sure, uh,  traffic accidents will clear r-r-right up with more jaywalkin’ tickets!”

I can report first hand and without exaggeration that the traffic downtown is rarely impeded by anything. The streets are w-i-d-e and relatively abandoned most of the time. Maybe after a Lakers game, or an event at the Disney Concert Hall, you get a back-up at the entrance to the 110 freeway, but there aren ‘t any pedestrians crossing there.

downtown-la-downtown-v37680-720As for accidents, what can be said? Drivers are as careless as pedestrians. The LAPD claims that 172 pedestrian were hit by cars last year, but they fail to mention how many drivers were fingering google maps on their phones when they ran over something that felt like a human body, which was probably also texting as the car plowed over it. 172 is an unfortunate number, but not terrible  for a county of 13 million plus people.

52d9bcefb451c.preview-300The truth about jaywalking tickets is far more pathetic. The city can taste a new source of revenue now that downtown’s starting to hop. Too bad the folks in charge are so short sighted. Why  punish the people responsible for the boom? They’re the ones populating the concert halls, helping new restaurants thrive after a show, bringing more and more of their friends downtown, and raising property values across the board. Not to mention the cultural capital of having people gather in what was a former dead-zone to exchange ideas over drinks or a game or a concert.

imagesThe most embarrassing aspect of all is the Draconian enthusiasm the police have in writing you up. You think they’d just nailed Scarface.  For real now, if you’re on a curb when the countdown starts and you take a step into the crosswalk, you’ve broken the law and can face up to a $250 fine. One kid got a ticket for $197.  It’s outrageous.

52d9bd77d28c0.preview-300The bigger question this begs is that if it’s illegal to step into the walkway why has they city has installed countdown timers at every light, telling us there’s 30 or 19 or 9 seconds left to cross?  What are we counting down to, if not our remaining time to cross? It’s like a shot clock in basketball– The rule is not, “the shot doesn’t count once the clock starts,” is it?  And why did God put shiny apples on the Tree if he didn’t want Eve to pull it off and take a bite?  A smart lawyer should argue entrapment. Because that’s what it is.

Maybe we can suggest that the LAPD google LOS ANGELES GANG VIOLENCE and read up on some issues to clamp down on other than fining people for crossing an empty street, like the shooting that left two people dead at the end of August, or the stabbings on Hollywood boulevard.

valley-girl-gunny-saxSo many people still tease LA for cliches that are no longer relevant, and we let it slide cause we know the truth. No one is, like, totally talking like a Valley Girl, like, anymore. Our food scene now rivals any city in the world.  And for as much as the movie industry still dominates, myriad other businesses are thriving, from clothing, to photography, to architecture.

Missing_Persons_-_Spring_Session_MThe most dated criticism of all is that “Nobody walks in LA.” Apologies to Missing Persons, but your song is as dated as violation itself. People are walkin’ in LA.  It’s the new orange.

los-angeles-mapWe have an extensive subway, in case you missed it. You walk to it. The red line at Hollywood and Vine gets you downtown in 22 minutes. Enough time to read a section of something called a newspaper. You get off and walk a few blocks to a bar like Caña, sip a handcrafted cocktail at around 6:30, then hoof it a few more blocks to the Staples center to see the LA King’s dominate another opponent.

636px-Don't_jay_walk_1937-615After the game, mosey to one of the multiple eateries proudly still serving at 10:30 pm, (Ledlow, Red Bird, Baco Mercat, Terroni, Faith & Flower, Factory Kitchen, Alma, Bestia). Then catch the train back to Hollywood all without worrying about parking or gridlock on the 101 or a DUI checkpoint.

imagesBut now it’s WALKER BEWARE. And this at a time when Manhattan is giving its residents 6000 Citi-Bikes to ride at will. But we can’t cross the street on our own.  Can LA ever be a  great city treating its residents like children, or worse fining them like criminals? It’s highly unlikely… Even Ratso Rizzo knows that.




  1. Just to prove the LAPD right, I try and run over every pedestrian I see.

  2. It’s a strange city for sure. You can bring all the booze you want to a concert at the Bowl. You can get a license to buy pot from professional businesses. But crossing against the light is where they crack down? Haven’t quite figured it out.

  3. So why DO they have count down clocks if stepping into the crosswalk is already a ticket? BTW, the O.C. is about ten times worse. Got a ticket $600 for putting a cigarette out on the street outside a restaurant. Maybe it’s time to quit?

  4. Wiki claims that Dustin Hoffman improvised that whole scene. They were crossing the street and actually nearly got hit by the cab and Dustin just went off… Check out Joe Buck’s face during it. Classic.

  5. Ratso Rizzo would be proud of this. And for the record, he wasn’t jaywalking. If you watch that scene in Midnight Cowboy, you can see in the background, a don’t walk light starting to blinking on the block before, meaning his light was probably white!!

  6. Have you seen them staking out at the corner, waiting for someone to break the “law”. It’s pretty sad….

  7. I got a jaywalking ticket in Santa Monica a month ago and was so shocked by the whole thing. As a recent transplant from NYC I nearly got myself in more trouble mouthing off to the cop. I was like, are you fucking serious? He was… I honestly don’t think it’s going to stop me from doing it again. But next time, I’ll just RUN!

  8. Loved this. BTW, I think the OC is stricter than Santa Monica and DTLA. The police there are comically conservative. They’re in better shape than the LAPD too, which is saying a lot. Otherwise, I’d try out running them when they’re waiting at the other end of the crosswalk.

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