Best of Kansas City 2021: Jaywalking is now legal in the city that named it

Four people jaywalk across a street

Photo by Maxwell Ridgeway

In May, the Kansas City Council voted to remove its prohibition against jaywalking, as well as two nuisance bicycle offenses—a decision that was well overdue.

Jaywalking got its name in Kansas City when The Star coined the term in 1905 to ridicule pedestrians who didn’t stay to the right and yield to others on the sidewalks. Since its inception, jaywalking offenses have prized motorists over pedestrians and encouraged subjective overpolicing when no harm was inflicted. 

The council quickly removed the prohibition after the mayor’s general legal counsel reported that of 123 jaywalking tickets issued over the last three years, 65% were handed out to Black pedestrians. Black people make up only 30% of KC’s overall population.

Removing the prohibition is a small step towards a more pedestrian-friendly city—one that doesn’t allow police to target people for walking while Black.

Categories: Culture