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Drivers, Walkers And the Battle For the Streets

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By Robert Thomson
Sunday, June 8, 2008; Page C02

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

What is the definition of jaywalking?

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As a lifelong reader of The Post, I get the impression that many of Dr. Gridlock's readers and many writers think that jaywalking is crossing wherever there is no designated crosswalk.

I can recall many articles saying that "the pedestrian was not in a crosswalk when hit," as if they were doing something illegal. I've talked to two Montgomery County policemen who say that a pedestrian may legally cross at any intersection, marked or unmarked.

Like fellow Olney walker David Bancroft [Dr. Gridlock, May 29], I've had some bad experiences, and never while jaywalking. Twice in the past two years in our shopping centers, while crossing from one sidewalk to another, I have been missed by a vehicle by less than six inches.

Emily Grunwell Olney

Jaywalking means crossing recklessly or without the right of way. The word has an underlying power: It defines who controls our streets.

The Maryland Driver's Manual says this: "Pedestrians in a crosswalk, whether marked or unmarked, have the right-of-way except when they enter the crosswalk on a red light or against the direction of a traffic officer."

The Federal Highway Administration offers this definition of a crosswalk: "the extension of the sidewalk or the shoulder across the intersection, regardless of whether it is marked or not."

Those commonly used definitions are the terms of the peace treaty between drivers and walkers. On the street, drivers rule, except on the reservations set aside for pedestrians.


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