The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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First-year guard Aaryn Battle (1) dribbles the ball during Thursday evening’s game against Wake Forest in the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt women’s basketball falls back into their old habits, fall to Wake Forest 65-50
By Sara Meyer, Staff Writer • February 23, 2024

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First-year guard Aaryn Battle (1) dribbles the ball during Thursday evening’s game against Wake Forest in the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt women’s basketball falls back into their old habits, fall to Wake Forest 65-50
By Sara Meyer, Staff Writer • February 23, 2024

Editorial | You can lead a horse to Forbes Avenue but you can’t make him use the crosswalk

Signs+posted+along+the+sidewalk+of+Forbes+Avenue+near+Hillman+Library+caution+pedestrians+against+jaywalking.
Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor
Signs posted along the sidewalk of Forbes Avenue near Hillman Library caution pedestrians against jaywalking.

For the better half of the fall semester, the construction on Hillman Library has blocked off the sidewalk running adjacent to the building, preventing students from reaching the intersection of Forbes Avenue and Bigelow Boulevard without first crossing the street to the other sidewalk. 

Upon exiting the library, students now face an incredibly difficult decision — do they make the Odyssean 10-yard journey to the crosswalk in front of Lawrence Hall, or do they simply cross right there in front of Hillman with no protection against oncoming traffic?

As it turns out, the decision is not difficult at all. Every day, droves of students jaywalk across Forbes Avenue, delinquents in the eyes of the law. To remind them of the recklessness of crossing the street without a crosswalk, the construction company erected a sign asking students not to stand or cross outside of the library, lest they be struck by a car.

In response, Pitt saw one of the most widespread — yet incredibly mundane — displays of civil disobedience in the school’s history. Every few weeks, the construction company put out more signs to try and deter the jaywalkers in case they hadn’t seen the sign six feet to the right of the new one. Students, of course, ignored these as well, some even leaning on the signs while they waited to disobey them. 

A rule is only as good as the ability to enforce it, and that ability diminishes as more and more people refuse to follow the rule. Ironically, the collective apathy of college students to walk safely over a crosswalk offers a fantastic model for thinking about self-governance and the power of the masses.

Each time a wave of students marches over Forbes Avenue, J.S. Mill does a dance down in hell, watching these young adults fight the iron fist of paternalism and decide for themselves what they consider safe. And they are safe — with the exception of the odd adrenaline junkie, the majority of jaywalkers wait for the walk cycle at the crosswalk in the distance to cross in front of the Library. This way, the oncoming traffic is blocked by an invisible wall farther up the street.

It seems impossible to try and enforce the message espoused by the seven warning signs now lining Forbes Avenue — too many hordes of students wander across the street every two minutes for any authority figure to even begin to try and stop them. Some have tried to point these rebels toward the crosswalk, but their pleas rarely make it past the AirPods and apathy plugging their ears.

If there are two things to learn from the Forbes Avenue jaywalking fiasco, they are that 1) orange caution signs are beyond useless and 2) collective action is not dead. We as young adults are able to form our own opinions on what is moral, what is safe and what is in our best interest. While jaywalking is certainly not the most consequential law to fight against, it is an important reminder that there is power in numbers. 

Any injustice seems impossible to overcome fighting alone — working with your community is the best way to achieve the social changes you want to see. It’s easy to arrest one person pushing back against our institutions but much harder to kill a movement bolstered by a whole network of activists. When you find yourself hopeless under the crushing weight of a seemingly unchangeable system, make like the Forbes jaywalkers and disobey together.

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