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Mind the Crosswalk

    By Mark Brians. February 23, 2015 - 11:11 am


Some five-odd group of tourists, unified by the red and white ‘Iolani Palace stickers they wear at their shoulders like an escutcheon, try madly to push through their language barrier and understand why the police officer just handed them five canary-yellow tickets, each of which amounts to something in the range of $130.

Leaning his hips against the HPD motorcycle, arms across his chest, the exasperated officer sighs heavily and points one mighty hand in the direction of the crosswalk where Fort Street Mall intersects South Hotel.

“You see that sign?” he asks in a manner that is more imperative than inquisitory. He means to indicate the crosswalk signal pulsating over the heads of people as they traverse the white lines glazed upon the hot asphalt.

The tourists shake their heads. Some to mean ‘yes’, others shake their heads ‘no’. Some point to help those who shake their heads ‘no’. One turns and points towards the ‘Iolani Palace from whence they’ve come as if answering an unspoken interrogation. The whole group becomes a mess of gesticulations, mouthfuls of our English foreign tongue cross-referenced in their guidebooks with words of their own and several sets of arms in the air, pointing, questioning, trying to understand.

The lawman sighs again, and, interrupting them, points towards the crosswalk signal and pantomimes the walk sign. He explains, enunciating his pantomime with overly-enunciated, simple, English words, that they are allowed to begin crossing the street only when the lamp displays the white-little-walking-man-figure.

“When you see the hand” he continues, dragging-out the vowel of the word ‘hand’ and pointing to his own, “then you cannot cross.”

The policeman is not alone. He is accompanied by at least three or four other patrolmen, all on motorcycles, parked along the pedestrian mall. Today is Thursday. It is hot and voggy, and in the space of the next few minutes I observe eight other pedestrians called to the side, chastised for incongruity with crosswalk regulations, and fined for breach of the laws of the City and County of Honolulu.

One of them is a young man with a razor-blade slit upon his eyebrow, faux-diamond piercings in each ear. His body is lithe and his eyes are focused ahead in some sharp and distant gaze. He is hailed by a large lawman with long close cropped sideburns. Pulling the one earbud away, the young man turns towards the officer, slowing –but not stopping– his ambulation. The policeman commands him to halt and asks for some form of identification. A wave of umbrage ripples across the young man’s countenance, his eyelids drop slightly and his gaze narrows. He asks what he did wrong. The officer explains tersely that he was jaywalking and repeats his order for the man’s identification. As he lifts his wallet from his shorts the jaywalker explains that the officer must be mistaken. They have a disagreement which ends with the young man receiving his miserable yellow slip of paper, telling the officer that their enforcement is capricious, swearing to stand guard at that crosswalk to make sure that the law is applied with severe equality.

Another policeman, recently arrived on the scene, comments that the man had better regard his attitude.

“There’s one!” the jaywalking man proclaims, singling out a person who had started walking too late.

The large policeman sighs and shakes his head, hailing the businessman on the phone, telling him to wait while he finishes up another yellow ticket he began while arguing with the young man.

The police soon have their hands full of jaywalkers, and in turn fill the jaywalkers’ hands with yellow tickets. The scene becomes quite ridiculous when a little old aunty, her hands full of plastic bags, struggles to hobble across the intersection in order to catch her bus.

The eyes of the young man look jeeringly at the officers on the other side.

The first officer, now freed of the tourists, is signaled by his colleagues to reprimand the bandy-legged septuagenarian. Several bystanders gaze with confusion on the severity of equality under the law.

The young man too is stunned. His eyes seem to be awash with displeasure and confusion. Hadn’t he wanted this to happen?

I must leave now for an appointment, so I tuck my notebook into my knapsack and take-off down South Hotel.

There have been a lot of jaywalking tickets in the past few weeks. A good number of students from Hawaii Pacific University have gotten the yellow portion of the triplicate form which indicates their offense and its respective fine. But what’s to be done? Below are some suggestions for how to stay away from being fined for jaywalking.

The rules regarding crosswalks are not as confusing as they may seem. Start crossing the crosswalk only when you see the walking person. Do not start crossing once the hand starts flashing, no matter how many numbers are left. Make sure you are out of the crosswalk before the numbers finish counting down. The countdown is only to inform you of the time you have left to get to the other side, so long as you’ve already started.

Also, stay within the boundaries of the crosswalk. It is considered jaywalking to leave the white lines prior to reaching the other side.

Please, kokua, do not argue with the police. The consequences may be far more reaching than you imagine. Instead help-out your friends by making them aware of what the stipulations are and how to avoid the fines.

Photo by Thomas Sifford.

2 Responses to Mind the Crosswalk

  1. Marc Peraino

    February 25, 2015 at 9:09 am

    An excellent and highly descriptive article that clearly illustrates a need for reform in this area of the law. I think policemen need to show a little more compassion for tourists and especially the elderly.

  2. Carlos

    March 12, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    I agree with Marc. This is a highly descriptive article. But, in my opinion, much more descriptive than it needs to be. The main point of the story is lost in the words used to describe the events. If the goal was to inform people about the dangers of jaywalking, the goal was not achieved. If the goal was to increase the reader’s vocabulary, then to that, I say “success!”

    Great topic though. One that needs attention. People constantly jaywalk in the downtown area. Pedestrians should take responsibility for their own safety and not rely on paint on the ground to protect them from moving vehicles.