Sometimes a homeless man with a huge horseshoe mustache panhandles at one of the intersections in southwest Austin. I don’t talk with him much, because the timing is rarely right. He’s accompanied by a black Labrador, who usually sits under an umbrella stuck in the ground, a water bowl within reach.
He hasn’t been at his spot that much lately. So one of the very rare times I could talk with him, I asked what was going on, and he told me he had just come back from a half day in jail.
The Austin police have been giving homeless people tickets for jaywalking. And since he couldn’t pay his ticket, he had to spend half a day in jail. Luckily the officer let him find another homeless guy first, to take care of his dog for pay, before taking him in.
Mustache Man felt that this was all a great waste of resources. I have to agree. But that’s not all. I looked up jaywalking. According to the Free Dictionary, Jaywalking is:
walking across a street outside of marked cross-walks and not at a corner, and/or against a signal light. If there is vehicle traffic or clear markings of a place to cross, this is a traffic misdemeanor subject to fine, and may be (but not conclusively) contributory negligence in the event of injury to the jay walker by a vehicle.
First of all, there are no clear markings for a place to cross anywhere around that intersection. So he shouldn’t have gotten a fine. Unless in Austin you get a fine for crossing the road anywhere other than at a pedestrian crossing, regardless of whether there is one to use or not, which in some areas would be pretty much anywhere.
Also, I found out that in Austin panhandling (asking for money) isn’t allowed at marked pedestrian crossings. So it’s a no-win situation for Mustache Man. He can only panhandle where there are no pedestrian crossings, but then he gets fined for jaywalking because he’s not at a pedestrian crossing.
Mustache Man only crosses halfway that road to stand at the median, because he’s homeless and panhandling. Some people consider that a nuisance. But what if I wanted to walk from HEB, which is on one side of that road, to Starbucks on the other side? I’d get a ticket. Instead of providing pedestrians with a safe way to cross the road, they make it illegal for pedestrians to cross the road. How’s that for crazy?