Jaywalking rules vary, but common sense needed

Mel does it right on Victoria Street crosswalk. (CBC photo)

Mel does it right on Victoria Street crosswalk. (CBC photo)

ARMCHAIR MAYOR SAYS — Talking about jaywalking seemed like a fairly simple gig for the weekly Josh and the Armchair Mayor spot on CBC Radio Kamloops. Is it legal, is it not? Should you, or shouldn’t you?

And, it turned out to be a fun show, but the lead-up to it wasn’t at all simple.

Two jurisdictions have authority over jaywalking. One is the province via the Motor Vehicle Act. The other is municipalities through bylaws. Clarifying what either has to say about jaywalking took most of a day preparing for JAM last Thursday.

Working backwards, I tried to check on the status of jaywalking from City Hall’s point of view because, frankly, I thought the City had taken jaywalking off the books. I’m not alone. After several messages to various people at City Hall, a senior administrator who got back to me said he was “99 per cent sure” Kamloops has no anti-jaywalking law.

“In fact, you can pretty much make that a hundred.”

A look at the Motor Vehicle Act seemed not to contradict that. The way I read it, it doesn’t stop a pedestrian from crossing mid-block but you must yield to vehicular traffic and not step off the curb at a time when it’s impossible for the driver to yield.

In other words, if you act like an idiot and jump out in front of a car, you could get a ticket.

I was also curious about crossing crosswalks against signals, because a lot of Kamloops people do that, too. The MVA seems clear on that point. “… a pedestrian facing the red light must not enter the roadway unless instructed that he or she may do so by a pedestrian traffic control signal.”

If the “wait” or “don’t walk” signal comes on when you’re already in the crosswalk, you’re supposed to hurry up.

So, it seemed clear enough: If crossing in the middle of a block, be smart and be careful. If crossing in a signalled crosswalk, obey the signals.

But no, not quite. Some cities, like Vancouver, have anti-jaywalking laws that are enforced (“No pedestrian may jaywalk on City streets”.) Others, like Kelowna, have no such laws and it’s considered legal there. But then I came across the B.C. Newcomers’ Guide to Resources and Services, a booklet for new B.C. residents that says, “You should cross streets only at a corner or a crosswalk, and obey traffic lights. It is against the law to cross in the middle of a block. This is called jaywalking. If the police see you jaywalking, you may have to pay a fine.”

So, was there something I was missing in the Motor Vehicle Act? Had something been changed? Figured I’d better be sure, so I left a message with a lawyer at Criminal Justice in Victoria.

Other than that, I was ready to go. Then Jon Wilson, who heads up the City’s bylaws department, called back.

Jaywalking, he said, is definitely against the law in Kamloops. If a crosswalk is available to you, you must use it. That includes Victoria Street, and the notorious section of Summit Drive between TRU and Upper College Heights.

Bylaw 23-30: “No pedestrian, crossing a highway where marked crosswalks exist, shall cross outside the limits of the markings.”

Can’t hitchhike either, by the way, but Bylaws interprets 23-30’s reference to “highways” as including urban streets, including Victoria Street.

About 7 that evening, the hard-working government lawyer got back to me and we had quite a discussion about the MVA. There were a lot of “on the one hands” and “on the other hands” because there’s quite a bit of case law on this, where accident blame has been apportioned to both driver and pedestrian depending on what happened.

It is, said the lawyer, “situational.”

The Motor Vehicle Act was a bit moot by now, anyway, because municipalities can go beyond provincial legislation as long as they don’t contradict it. And in Kamloops, it’s illegal to jaywalk.

Is the jaywalking bylaw here ever enforced? “No.”

At least, rarely. When Josh Page and I went out on Victoria Street and saw jaywalkers on every block, we found one person, who was legally crossing in a crosswalk, who said she’d gotten a ticket once on Summit drive on her way to TRU.

But that’s not common. So, bottom line is if you jaywalk you could theoretically be fined for it, but it’s not likely.

About Mel Rothenburger (9634 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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