Sociotechnical Change: Tracing Flows, Languages, and Stakes Across Diverse Cases| Pedestrian Mobilities at the Crossroads: The Contestation and Regulation of Jaywalking

Josh Widera


California Assembly Bill (AB) No. 2147, commonly referred to as the “Freedom to Walk Act,” took effect on January 1, 2023. It virtually prohibits police officers from citing pedestrians who cross the street away from pedestrian crosswalks or intersections, all but legalizing “jaywalking.” However, this paper argues that AB 2147 is only a transformation of the existing enforcement regime, not a mobility reform. The dominance of car-centered urban mobility remains unchallenged. In fact, it highlights the accepted stability of the current system, where even seemingly significant reform can be passed without expecting a change in pedestrian behavior. The article outlines the historical issue of regulating pedestrians and cars in cities and how, with the production of the “jaywalker,” a public problem has been solved in a particular way and is now considered so stable that policing it is no longer deemed a necessary component. A way of explaining the stability of the current mobility system is through the concept of governmentality, which describes the ways in which populations allow themselves to be governed. The article concludes that this solution was not inevitable; as cases such as the Netherlands and China show, different paths to resolving this public problem are possible to either reinforce or challenge the dominance of automobility.


jaywalking, mobilities, governmentality, publics

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