Home > Complete Streets, Cultural Movement, Design the Details, Editorial, Safety Issues, Walking > Applying “stand your ground” to crosswalks–hmmm?

Applying “stand your ground” to crosswalks–hmmm?

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WARNING: This is just a mental exercise… 

As we are well aware of now, Florida also has one of the strongest “Stand Your Ground” laws in the country (Miami Herald). A law that permits “ordinarily reasonable people” to use lethal force against another if they presume “fear of death or great bodily harm”. They may do so without facing arrest or prosecution.

Shoot first, rationalize it away later–f*#king brilliant. Wisely many powers are looking to reform, if not abolish, these stand your ground laws (LA Times). Without getting into details of any specific cases, these laws perpetuate distrust of community and make vigilante justice too easy. They fundamentally erode the value of public space.

New FDOT signs.

However, they offer fodder for an interesting thought experiment.

If stand your ground laws are on the books and spreading (Slate), perhaps we might consider broader applications. For instance, why not apply them to a daily threat people face everyday trying to cross the streets of Florida? Florida is the worst state to be a person on foot or a bicycle (USA-Today).  According to 2008 federal statistics, the sunshine state accounts for 11.1% of pedestrians and 17.4% of bicyclists killed in the U.S. and only has 6% of the nation’s population.

Are Florida’s pedestrians “unreasonable” to have a “fear of death or great bodily harm” when they step out into a crosswalk? The chances remain low, but the reasonable fear is there and when that Tahoe is barreling down the road at you and you see the driver staring at a phone–what are your options? Retreat or stand your ground. Instead of surrender flags at the crosswalks perhaps Floridians might choose to pack heat to help them cross the street.

 Section 3 of Florida’s law seems to apply:

A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

I’m no lawyer, but Florida’s stand your ground law provides an interesting mental exercise. Could the circumstances of someone driving, in a state known to be dangerous by design for people not in cars, plausibly have a “right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force”?

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Absurd? Indeed. 

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Disclaimer: I do not support using violence of any kind to cross the street–so don’t go there. Rather, I support laws, policies and the design of public spaces based on the premise of strengthening community cohesion and civility. Extending the already questionable Castle Doctrine to public spaces is a sad commentary on any place that feels the law is justified. 


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  1. March 29, 2012 at 10:05 am

    I think that’s the first time I ever read: “I do not support using violence of any kind to cross the street.”

    Obviously absurd, but points out something that drivers need to burn into their brains: “I am wielding a deadly weapon.”

  2. timwernerfortc
    March 29, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Continue the thought experiment…

    You fire a few rounds into the car/driver, and stand in it’s path in the crosswalk. Chances are it still runs you over, maybe even increases the chances.

    Absurdity is raised to an even higher level.

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