A walk-through of jaywalking: UC Berkeley edition

Josh Kahen/Staff

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It’s 10 a.m. Monday. Ugh. You were up late last night, working diligently on your article — until you realized you had an hour left before your morning alarms were set to go off. Class starts at 10, and you’re still 15 minutes away. Not even Berkeley time will save you now. And the red lights don’t help your case. So far, you’ve hit every red possible. After all the cars pass the intersection, you look around. No other cars seem like they’re coming, but the light is still red for you. So, you realize you have more important things to worry about, and like the 20 or so pedestrians around you, decide to jaywalk across the street.

Jaywalking is illegal, but it makes life easier in small amounts. The action itself is incredibly popular in Berkeley. Everyone has places to be, and they will try to get there ASAP, regardless of any outside factors — including vehicular traffic and road laws. Even among jaywalkers, however, there is variety. Everyone shares the same  goal, but the way they go about it is unique and intriguing.

Determined walking is just one of these interesting types of jaywalking. These jaywalkers either have extreme bravado or are too apathetic to care if a car hits them. Regardless, they are the first ones to jump the red, typically inspiring everyone else at the intersection headed the same way to commence jaywalking. These jaywalkers are also very observant: they can tell when cars will stop passing through the intersection, and as such, they can very efficiently minimize the amount of time spent in the intersection, typically getting to the end of the intersection first as well. One downside these walkers face is police presence. But even in the presence of police, they will fearlessly jaywalk. Granted, I have not heard of police stopping a jaywalker so far, but these walkers are definitely walking the fine line between convenient and legal.

The next in the group of jaywalkers is the sheep. As soon as the determined walkers hit the concrete, these sheep will undoubtedly follow. Of course, there could be a reason for this behavior: if the person ahead of you doesn’t get run over or stopped by the police, that most likely means you won’t either. Regardless of the reason, sheep will always be sheep, for better or for worse.

Finally, at the bottom of the jaywalking food chain, we have the goody-two-shoes, or GTS. These GTS are frequently parents, young kids or students new to UC Berkeley. They are not used to jaywalking because where they come from, it is frowned upon heavily. Besides the demographic, it can be very easy to identify these walkers: even when there are no cars, these walkers will refuse to cross the street until the light becomes green. For the most part, this is not an issue because it is a personal choice, but it can prove to be problematic when GTS are surrounded by sheep. Because these people do not cross the street, the sheep will also not cross, even though it would not be an issue. Naturally, this can lead to a power struggle between determined walkers and GTS. Typically, sheep will follow the determined walker because sheep are usually inherently inclined toward jaywalking anyway, but if the GTS outnumber the determined walker, then what will happen is one person or a small group of people will cross the street, and nobody will follow them. Ultimately, though,  the GTS and sheep are the ones who are at a loss during this interaction.

Thankfully, UC Berkeley students can be both incredibly brave and apathetic, and as a result, it is not common to witness GTS triumphing over determined walkers. Because of this, jaywalking has been and continues to be a popular UC Berkeley trait.

Contact Hamzah Alam at [email protected].