| Global Times | 2012-12-13 0:00:10
By Zhang Zihan
Traffic wardens are set to get increased powers to fine unruly pedestrians, although many of them admitted Wednesday that they would be reluctant to attempt to enforce a penalty on a jaywalker, even if they could make one stand still for long enough.
Pedestrians have countered by saying that jaywalking is the only way they can cross the city's streets, as car drivers routinely flout traffic rules which state they should give way to walkers at crosswalks.
An anonymous female traffic warden told the Global Times that in a few days, traffic wardens will be given the right to fine each jaywalker 10 yuan ($1.6), although she did not know when exactly her new powers will kick in.
But traffic wardens may be fighting a losing battle. The warden complained that people are always running across the street, and inching forward when cars still have the right of way.
"I always try to stop them, but few of them will listen," she said.
The expansion to the anti-jaywalking campaign comes after police launched a crackdown against reckless road-crossers, catching and fining people at many crossroads in Chaoyang district on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau's official website.
The 10-yuan fine for law-breaking pedestrians was actually introduced in 2004 by the municipal government, but has rarely been enforced, the People's Daily reported.
There may be safety in numbers when it comes to avoiding a fine.
Over 80 jaywalkers dodged the traffic to cross the very busy road at Dawang Bridge, Chaoyang district, in five minutes from 13:21 pm to 13:25 pm against the red light, regardless of traffic wardens' attempts to halt them.
Another traffic warden at the crossroad, who did not give his name, said he has been informed that their position will be raised to that of an auxiliary police officer, and they will be issued with new uniforms to emphasize their greater powers of enforcement.
"I believe this will help us do our work, and maybe more people will listen to us," he said.
However, the traffic warden said he would not fine jaywalkers even if he were able to catch them.
"Everybody has his own difficulties and I believe the jaywalkers must have convincing reasons. The only thing I hope they can realize is they are putting their lives at risk rather than adding troubles to us," he said.
"A jaywalker got hit by a car yesterday [Tuesday] just one block away from my crossing," he said.
One of the jaywalkers, a bank worker surnamed Zhu, told the Global Times that he knows violating traffic laws is not right, but it is an unconscious habit.
"The roads in Beijing are too wide, sometimes the light turns red when you are halfway over," he said.
But a 26-year-old jaywalker, surnamed Li, said this is the only way to cross a street.
"Car drivers in Beijing never ever stop to let pedestrians go first unless a crowd of people step in front of them. I know this is called 'Chinese style of crossing the road,' but what else can we do when cars won't stop?" said Li.
Cars should stop to let pedestrians cross the road as long as they are crossing with the green "walk" signal, said another anonymous traffic warden, but they never stop, especially at turnings.
"It's a pity that we can't order the vehicles to stop," he said.
According to China's Road Traffic Safety Law, vehicles should slow when they approach pedestrian crosswalks, and if pedestrians are crossing, they should give way to them.
The crackdown is part of a project jointly launched by Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, Beijing Traffic Management Bureau and Beijing Municipal Bureau of City Administration and Law Enforcement, which aims to rectify the traffic, security and environment issues in Beijing.
The anti-jaywalking campaign does have a high-profile supporter.
Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China, recently refused to jaywalk when he was touring Foshan in Guangdong Province, according to a post on the Xinhua News Agency's Sina microblog.
As the group needed to cross a street without traffic lights, Xi led other officials to a crosswalk on the street. It is not known if car drivers stopped for the group.
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