Fines for jaywalking vary from $15 to $700 across Canada
Montreal gave out 22,708 tickets last year but thankfully they are at the lowest end of the national average for fines.
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Long Nguyen always looks both ways before he crosses the street. When he dashed towards his Montreal office one Thursday morning in October, he didn’t see any oncoming cars, but he also didn’t see the cop who was watching him.
Nguyen was surprised to be slapped with a jaywalking ticket for crossing Rachel St. E. midblock, near St. Laurent Blvd. He paid a fine of $15, plus fees and surcharges, for a total of $42, despite insisting he didn’t do anything unsafe.
“I don’t think it should be a ticket. Maybe a warning,” argued Nguyen, a 31-year-old web developer, who said it was “silly” for police to give out citations for jaywalking.
But Nguyen should consider himself lucky he doesn’t live in Nova Scotia, where the provincial legislature recently voted to raise the fine for jaywalking from $410 to $697.50. If he lived in Toronto, the penalty would have been between $35 and $90. In Vancouver, crossing unlawfully would have cost him about $100.
In fact, interviews the Star conducted with police departments across the country show that Canadian cities take wildly disparate approaches to ticketing jaywalking pedestrians.
By contrast, the Halifax Regional Police dispensed just 55 jaywalking tickets last year. In Edmonton, the number was 654.
In Montreal last year, police gave out a whopping 22,708 tickets to pedestrians for offences that included jaywalking (generally defined as crossing midblock) as well as entering crosswalks when they didn’t have the right-of-way.
Because some pedestrians break traffic rules all the time, Staff Sgt. Paul Stacey, head of the Calgary Police Service traffic division, said that the number of tickets the police give out depends on a department’s priorities.
“If I were to send all my officers downtown right now and start writing jaywalking tickets, we could probably write an awful lot,” he said. In 2014, the Calgary police handed out 608 citations to pedestrians. “We tend to focus on some of the bigger issues.”
Const. Craig Brister, a spokesperson for the Toronto police, said ticketing pedestrians can play an important role in preventing accidents.
“Pedestrians walk out — they just expect a car is going to stop. Their head is buried in their phone, they’re not even watching where they’re going,” he said.
“Whether it’s the pedestrian’s fault or not, we don’t still don’t want to see people getting injured. That’s why we try to encourage people to pay attention to what’s going on.”
But Dylan Reid, a spokesperson for pedestrian advocacy group Walk Toronto, said there’s no correlation between road safety and how many tickets police hand out to pedestrians. He cited a June report from Toronto’s medical officer of health, which examined vehicle-pedestrian injuries between 2008 and 2012 and found that in 67 per cent of cases, the person who was struck had the right-of-way.
“Most pedestrians who are jaywalking aren’t actually putting themselves or others in danger,” Reid said.
He argued that the most effective way to prevent pedestrian injuries is to lower speed limits, educate drivers, and design safer streets, which includes brighter lightingand more clearly marked crossings.
Not all pedestrians object to police cracking down on two-footed scofflaws. One morning two months ago, Kiel Coyle didn’t feel like waiting for the light to change in front of the Mackenzie King transitway stop in Ottawa. He crossed against the light and was caught up in a police pedestrian blitz, but he had no quarrel with the fine, which came to $50 with surcharges.
“It’s important to uphold the law,” he said. “There are lots of people who do jaywalk at that crossing without any regard to even looking at the traffic that’s coming. There have been some really close calls.”
He paid the ticket, but had it framed — a testament, he said, to his “life of crime.”
With files from The Canadian Press
Halifax: The province recently increased the jaywalking fine from $410 to $697.50. But isn’t often enforced — Halifax Regional Police gave out only 55 jaywalking tickets in 2014.
Montreal: Police gave out 22,708 tickets for all types of pedestrian offences last year. But the fine for jaywalking is relatively cheap, at $15.
Toronto: Police gave out 9,310 pedestrian tickets in an 18-month period starting in January 2012. The fine is between $35 and $90, depending on whether provincial or municipal legislation is applied.
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Edmonton: In 2014, police gave out 860 tickets to pedestrians, 654 for jaywalking. The provincial fine for jaywalking is $78, but under a municipal bylaw it’s $250.
Vancouver: So far in 2015, the Vancouver police have issued 84 jaywalking tickets. The fine under both municipal and provincial rules is about $100.
Calgary: In 2014, police in Stampede City gave out 608 tickets to pedestrians, 483 for jaywalking. The provincial fine is $78, but the municipal penalty is $25; $60 if the offence occurred on LRT tracks.
Winnipeg: Under the Manitoba Highway Traffic Act, “leav(ing) the curb when not safe” carries a fine of $113.10.