Denver City Council votes to decriminalize jaywalking


Denver pedestrians and wheelchair users no longer will risk receiving a municipal ticket if they choose to cross a city street mid-block as opposed to using a crosswalk at an intersection.

The Denver City Council on Monday voted to decriminalize jaywalking.

Despite that 10-3 vote, people walking or rolling around the Mile High City should be aware that vehicles still have the right-of-way anywhere outside of a crosswalk under both state and city law.

The “Freedom to Walk or Roll” bill that passed Monday was more than a year in the making, according to Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, who co-sponsored the legislation alongside Councilman Jolon Clark and Council President Jamie Torres.

Advocates for decriminalization argue that jaywalking laws have been enforced unequally and could be used as a pretext for police interactions.

Once signed by the mayor, the bill will instruct the Denver Police Department to make jaywalking the agency’s “lowest enforcement priority.”

It’s still a state crime, however. Under the Colorado Revised Statutes, jaywalking is a Class B traffic infraction punishable with a ticket of up to $100.

Virginia, California and Kansas City have all recently dropped jaywalking laws.

In a presentation to the council’s Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee earlier this month, CdeBaca said that the goal of the change is not to encourage people to cross streets willy-nilly.

“It replaces criminalization with language that advises safe crossing of roads rather than requiring it,” CdeBaca said. “It encourages law enforcement to make enforcing state-level jaywalking laws their lowest priority.”

One of the biggest things reforming the city’s jaywalking laws does, CdeBaca said, is limit the need for unnecessary interactions between residents and police. That was a key recommendation of the Task Force to Reimagine Policing and Public Safety, a group convened in Denver in the wake of the protests over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd in 2020.

In her presentation, CdeBaca noted that of the 135 jaywalking tickets issued in Denver from 2017 through 2022, 41% were given to Black people — who only make up 10% of the city’s population as a whole.

Twenty-five percent of the 135 tickets went to people who identified as homeless, transient or vagrants, CdeBaca’s presentation showed. That further raises concerns that jaywalking enforcement was being used as a pretext for police contacts that could lead to other charges.

A large coalition of groups supported the decriminalization, including the Denver Street Partnership, which is dedicated to advocating for a transportation system that favors people over cars in the city.

Jill Locantore, the partnership’s executive director, presented at the council’s committee hearing alongside CdeBaca. She noted that the city’s network of often too-narrow, regularly unshoveled or otherwise unreliable sidewalks often leaves people without many options except to cross the street to safely get around.

Voters approved a new sidewalk fee in November to address those problems, but, in the meantime, allowing for mid-block crossing is the most prudent thing to do, Locantore said.


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