Pedestrians in Miami Beach jaywalk. You see them crossing intersection guerilla-style, ignoring red lights, ignoring oncoming traffic, ignoring all traffic laws that clearly state that “pedestrians may not cross between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation.” Here are some jaywalkers I have caught in the act, strutting their smug pedestrians selves surly across the street. You can clearly see the red light is showing for them.


Pedestrians Jaywalking Miami Beach

Pedestrians Jaywalking Miami Beach

Why do they do this?

Are they in such a rush that they cannot wait for “their turn” to cross the street? They are walking, so they cannot be *that* concerned about reaching their destination quickly. Is it to piss off drivers? To make them slow down, inconvenience them in their arduous commute home or to the office by having to slightly tap their break pedal?  Are they trying to educate Miami drivers to look up from their cell phones, set aside their mascara, and be more alert to their surroundings?If so, they are doing this at the risk of their own life. Is educating South Florida drivers really worth paying for…with your life? Why are these pedestrians stepping into traffic, dangerously exposing themselves to oncoming motor vehicles?



The Answer.

A little bit of context goes a long way at explaining what is really happening. At both intersections pictured above (Alton RD & 13th St and Lincoln & West, respectively), pedestrians have to wait 3 minutes to get a green sign. Then, they get 20 (!) seconds to cross. Now, 3 minutes may not seem like a lot. But these are 3 minutes of loud, smelly, stinky traffic zooming by you. And after you diligently waited for your turn, the countdown for you to rush over starts a few second after you set foot into the street. To put it in perspective, you have to wait 9 times as long as the time you are allotted to cross. How’s that for making a pedestrian feel like an equal participant in the road usage? The answer is, and very clearly to the pedestrian, that the pedestrian is NOT as important as the vehicle traffic passing by. That the pedestrian is an inconvenience that needs to be begrudgingly dealt with, and removed as soon as possible.

So there, since we are such an inconvenience, we efface ourselves from these streets as fast as we can. We run across intersections. We don’t want to force a red light on anyone so we take our chance and rush. I have never seen as many running, nervous pedestrians as in the USA. And I lived in Paris. But it’s here, in the US, where pedestrians truly feel like they should not be here. Because that is how these streets, these traffic signals make us feel. They tell us, you’re not worth it. Go away. You’re stopping traffic. So, we jaywalk.

And just for fun, term “jaywalking” originated in Chicago. It is “a derogatory slang word that was coined, in part, by local auto clubs and dealers, which was an attempt to redefine streets as places where pedestrians do not belong. Automotive interests used these propaganda campaigns to put the blame on pedestrians who walked in the streets and crossed them whenever and wherever they wished, which was the same way they had done for centuries before the automobile became popular.” (Source:


11 Responses to Why pedestrians jaywalk in Miami Beach

  1. Shawn says:

    Pedestrians need to push the “walk button” while they wait for light to change. Many traffic lights are programmed that the Walk light will not appear if the walk button has been pushed. At West Ave & Lincoln Rd I got the city to change the programing. Now when you push the walk button you will get a 3 second head start before the traffic light turns green for vehicles. This is a safety feature. It allows pedestrians to enter the intersection before vehicles begin their left hand turns. Again, push the walk button, it does make a difference.


  2. Shawn says:

    forgot to include the word “not” in the eaerlier post, “Many traffic lights are programmed that the Walk light will not appear if the walk button has been NOT been pushed”


  3. mike.burke says:

    the city of Miami beach has no TRAFFIC DIVISION
    in the PD. thus, 20 people at a time run red lights on 5th street, blocking the box and forcing pedestrians to play pac man as they cross the street between cars. not that the motorists notice; they are on the phone, eating burgers, applying eye shadow, picking their noses- doing everything BUT obeying the law.


  4. Al says:

    It is not jaywalking if they use crosswalks or cross corner to corner. The lights don’t define the law, the location does.


  5. Very interesting article but how do you know if those jaywalkers are locals or tourists? I believe that it all depends on if the person is curtious or an asshole. What about those people in line at the bank, drug store, supermarket, etc?


  6. prem says:

    in response to Shawn a three second head start on a barrage of heavy metallic vehicles turning left or right in to the intersection a pedestrian attempts to cross only means some fast people will just barely reach the second half of the road, in time to wait as their walk signal turns in to a blinking red hand.

    Many drivers have a lack of respect for pedestrians. I’ve noticed it even among my friends and it starts arguments. When you are in a huge metal box you LEAVE PEDESTRIANS THE HELL ALONE. Give them TONS OF SPACE. DONT HONK AT THEM.
    They own the road. You own the road. Your car doesn’t own a damn thing and has no right to any space or movement or speed.

    Rant over.


  7. James M says:

    A number of studies show city smart dogs moving on their own cross mid block. The reason they do this is because if you are in the middle of the block you only have to deal with traffic coming from two directions, left and right.

    At junctions dogs cannot deal with potential traffic from four directions AND the possibility that cars coming from one direction might suddenly turn and go another direction.

    In a similar way, a jay walker might be safer crossing mid block than at a junction. Most car / pedestrian accidents happen at junctions, even junctions with lights.
    This might be because more pedestrians walk down the street to the intersections to cross, or it might be that crossing mid block is just safer, even though they are technically jaywalking.

    Studies show that on roads where each side has two or less traffic lanes, if a pedestrian crosswalk is placed mid block, with a median or safety island in the middle, this makes the safest crossing, even without a light, because the pedestrian only has to deal with one set of traffic at a time.
    If there is a light further down at the junction that can create pulses of traffic and space that the mid block pedestrian can manage.

    Florida allowing right turns on red just makes the pedestrian being hit at junctions a question of when, not if.
    Yes, the law says turning traffic must yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk, BUT this frequently results in a Mexican standoff with the car half way round the corner and the pedestrian pausing half way across the road.
    At which point one or the other often waves the other on, assuming there had as been no physical contact first.


  8. B says:

    “Pushing the button” only works … if the buttons work! I can point out several intersections on the main strip of Collins where the buttons simply don’t work!!! And if I just miss the light and I know it will be a 3 minute wait until it changes again, you bet I’m looking for the first opportunity to “jaywalk!” A button that makes me wait 3 minutes while meanwhile there are multiple breaks in the traffic IS NOT WORKING!

    It is really the same with those left turns that take 3 minutes to change…yes, motorists are more likely to blow through those, and do you really blame them??? In 3 minutes I could walk another block, possibly be at my destination by then. Also, please consider that “walking distance” for most people is around 10 minutes, while most drivers will put their lives in danger (not to mention everybody else on the road) to save 10 seconds on a 20-30 minute drive!!!


  9. Monica says:

    I purposely cross mid block on Alton and West Ave to avoid getting mowed down by cars making a right-on-red. Cars whip around the corner without even slowing down for folks crossing the street.


  10. Shawn says:

    Here is an email address that you can use to report any pedestrian traffic light that is not working. Billy Paz is with the department that repairs traffic lights. He is very willing to repair any light that is reported to him.

    William (Billy) Rivera-Paz, MBA, P.E.
    Traffic Signal Operations Zone Engineer
    Public Works and Waste Management
    Traffic Signals and Signs Division


  11. Mike Arias says:

    Warning To All Readers / Pedestrians
    Be very careful if you attempt to jay walk in Coral Gables ( Miracle Mile area) since the Police officers on patrol in the area are issuing tickets that have a financial costs of $ 77.00 to pedestrians.

    Lets stop attempting to beat the cars traveling on the roadways which unnecessarily jeopardizes your life. A collision occurring between a vehicle traveling even at low speed and a pedestrian is a no brainer match.

    Simply walk (perhaps a few extra feet of distance and seconds) to the designated pedestrian crosswalk and wait for the proper signal, as well as look at ALL oncoming vehicles before attempting to SAFELY cross a high volume roadway.

    Be very careful anytime attempting to cross a roadway since many motorists in south Florida do not simply respect the pedestrians even when they are NOT jaywalking and have the legal right of way.

    Kudos to the Coral Gables Police Department for doing their job ( enforcing the law) and hope that, other police departments in the area also begin to enforce this violation rather than continuing to ignore this very dangerous public safety common practice which often results in tragedies.


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