I stood at a pedestrian crossing in Dublin during the week and, like all the other Irish people around me, I walked across the road when no cars were coming. A young student, clearly not a local, was waiting to cross on the other side. He looked confused, as if the rest of us had all seen an invisible green man to tell us we could cross.
“Haven’t you learned to Jaywalk yet?” I wanted to ask him as I rushed past.
A standard practice in Ireland, #jaywalking seems not to be so common in the UK and the word is barely known there. It actually comes from the US, where jaywalking has been an annoyance for years. The word “jay” first referred not to a traffic-weaving pedestrian but to horse-drawn carts (“jays”) and automobiles that were not straying off the correct side of the street. As roads became taken over by cars and walkers pushed to sidewalks, the “jay” began to refer to the foolish person who got in the way of the cars.
Having crossed roads myself in all sorts of places, from Copenhagen to Mumbai, I think we have a fairly sensible attitude to it here in Ireland.
Only 10 countries have made jaywalking illegal, and other countries have varying rules about it. The UK doesn’t have any law about it, whereas in China they’re apparently using facial-recognition to spot jaywalkers.
The lesson? Do it at your own peril, depending on where you are.
(This cool poster was part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) program, by Isadore Posoff.)