Jaywalking Shouldn’t be Illegal

So far in 2018 a car driver has killed a person every week; if this continues Toronto will see yet another year in which more people die from vehicles than guns. Automobile advocates argue that it’s the victim’s fault for dying and demand stricter punishment for trivial things like jaywalking. Clearly, the debate in Canada needs to change. In America the situation is worse, the pro-car (and historically pro-wealth) policies around pedestrians for walking are being used for reasons beyond protecting drivers from hitting flesh. Sadly, in the USA jaywalking is used by police to target minority populations – and people are already working to change this.

The solutions is clear: don’t let trivial issues like jaywalking be policed the way they are today.

Jaywalking is a trivial crime, one that virtually every person has committed multiple times in their life. This makes it susceptible to arbitrary enforcement. Sacramento’s black residents are five times more likely to receive a jaywalking citation than their non-black neighbors. Seattle police handed out 28 percent of jaywalking citations from 2010 to 2016 to black pedestrians, who only make up 7 percent of the city’s population.


Eliminating jaywalking and similar offenses won’t lead to anarchy on American roads. It’s not illegal in countries like the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, for example, and both countries enjoy markedly fewer traffic fatalities than the United States. It’s not clear how much money flows into state coffers from pedestrian tickets, but it’s likely far less than traffic tickets for drivers. Any lost income may also be offset by the savings for police departments. Fewer unnecessary contacts between officers and citizens means fewer costly lawsuits and officer dismissals.

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Cyclists Obey the Law More Than Drivers

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Cyclists are law disobeying maniacs! At least that’s a common and all too nasty rumour in North American cities. It turns out that car drivers are the maniacs according to a study fresh out of Florida. The study, the largest of it’s kind, put sensors on cyclists which monitored their behaviour and that of cars near them. The drivers didn’t respect the space around cyclists while the cyclists obeyed the law nearly 90% of the time. What’s more, the study points out, is that the consequences of a driver disobeying traffic laws is far more dangerous than a cyclist.

Good on cyclists for being respectful road users and doing what they can to be safe!

If you drive a car please pay attention to what you’re doing and obey the rules of the road.

In the end, the results indicated that cyclists were compliant with the law 88 percent of the time during the day and 87 percent of the time after dark. The same study determined that drivers who interacted with the study subjects complied with the law 85 percent of the time. In other words, drivers were slightly naughtier than the cyclists—even without measuring speeding or distracted driving.

There was only one crash during the study period, and that too was caused by a negligent driver. In that case, a motorist rear-ended a cyclist as she waited to make a left turn. In the published study, researchers noted, “The driver was impatient and tried to pass at a relatively high speed since the oncoming traffic was about to stop for the bicyclist to turn.”

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Courts vs. Climate Change

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New York City launched a lawsuit against some of the larger polluters on the planet to cover the costs the city faces due to climate change (projected to be over $20 billion USD). A decade ago this case would likely have been thrown out, today with the effects of climate change so overt this case stands a winning chance. There have also been a lot of other cases brought to courts around the world that have acted on issues surrounding climate change. The New Republic recently ran a great article outlining why courts are caring about the climate and what the law has done about it.

Some of these lawsuits have succeeded in other countries. In 2015, the Dutch government was forced to lower the country’s greenhouse gas emissions in response to a class action lawsuit from its citizens. A judge in Ireland recently ruled that citizens have a constitutional right to a safe climate and environment. And last month, a climate liability lawsuit against Germany’s largest power company was allowed to move forward. “Judicial decisions around the world show that many courts have the authority, and the willingness, to hold governments to account for climate change,” said Michael Burger, executive director of Columbia’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. He cited a 2007 lawsuit that forced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. “Similar litigation all over the world will continue to push governments and corporations to address the most pressing environmental challenge of our times.”

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The Quick and Powerful Response by the ACLU

via reddit
Image via Reddit.

Over the weekend President Trump enacted what has come to be known as the Muslim Ban. Immediately protestors took to their nearby airports in act of solidarity with the people affected by Trump’s outrageous actions against migration. The protests are continuing today at American consulates and embassies around the world. This is an amazing response by Americans and other citizens to Trump’s ban (which ironically took place on International Holocaust Remembrance Day).

The action that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took over the weekend exemplified the outrage over Trump and the unity of the American people against outright acts of oppression. The ACLU had lawyers ready at nearly every international airport to help migrants and they have publicly spoke out against the Muslim Ban including a seven point action plan to hold the Trump administration to account.

The ACLU received a total of 356,306 donations online, amounting to $24,164,691, which the organization said it would use to fight for the rights of immigrants, as part of a seven-step plan to counter the Trump administration. On Twitter, donation momentum was building as venture capitalists, celebrities and entrepreneurs pledged to match other Twitter users donations.

Asked what the money from the weekends donations would go toward, the ACLU pointed to a seven-point plan of action aimed at taking on the policies of the Trump administration.

The first step in the plan is filing Freedom of Information Act petitions asking government agencies for documents related to Trump’s potential conflicts of interest, followed by plans to protect the rights of immigrants, including challenging “unconstitutional” immigration policies and defending “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

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Here’s the ACLU’s letter to President Trump.

The Future Is Now Relevant In American Courts

There’s a new tactic for environmentalists using the court system to change the world: argue that the government has a responsibility to protect people. The argument environmentalists can use is broadly known as “public trust” and how it relates to certain institutions and what they do. It is basically the notion that we a citizens entrust our government to keep us safe for now and in the future; by not protecting the environment they are endangering us now and for generations to come.

This public trust tactic has been used in other countries and now it’s winning in the USA. Let’s hope that more and more courts begin to understand that we need to act today to save tomorrow.

In 2008, Wood unveiled a novel strategy for climate activists to use the public trust as a legal tool. She called it “atmospheric trust litigation” and began giving dozens of talks about it. Prior to that, the public trust doctrine, when invoked in court at all, usually was seen through the lens of wildlife and access issues. Wood argued that the public trust doesn’t end at the earth and water, but also includes the atmosphere. And since the government is required to preserve resources for posterity—today’s youth and subsequent generations—it should be legally required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to ensure a healthful and pleasant environment in the future.

In 2011, environmental attorney Julia Olson formed the Eugene, Oregon–based nonprofit Our Children’s Trust to coordinate with and support law firms that, working pro bono, have filed a flurry of lawsuits based on Wood’s ideas. In all, there have been 18 state and federal climate-change cases with adolescents as plaintiffs. The cases all claim breach of the public trust and try to force states to implement plans for emissions reductions based on science. “They’re all alleging that their futures are imperiled and that [governments are] violating their public trust rights because government continues to promote the fossil fuels regime that is destroying the climate they need for their survival,” says Wood.

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Thanks to Delaney!

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