Police officers donning reflective vests and shoulder-mounted cameras manned more than 150 street crossings in Beijing yesterday to catch and fine jaywalkers, as the capital ramped up efforts to improve crossing safety.
After a month of warning pedestrians, police started issuing 10-yuan (HK$12.5) fines to those who ignore red lights or traffic co-ordinators, and 20-yuan fines to cyclists for similar violations.
Authorities did not say how many people were caught and fined yesterday. Xinhua quoted one officer as saying the fine seemed to help curb jaywalking, but another officer said people continued to wander into traffic without heeding traffic lights.
The capital joins a growing list of mainland cities taking a more hardline approach to jaywalking.
Hangzhou, Chengdu, Nanjing, Wuhan and other cities launched similar efforts in recent months, with some handing out tougher punishments such as higher fines.
Public response to the measures have been mixed, as have the results.
Some police lamented what they considered a manpower shortage. One officer told the Beijing Times that three or more officers were needed to effectively stop all the jaywalkers at an intersection. When more than a dozen people ignore a red light at once, which happens frequently, an officer is able to stop maybe one or two people in the lead, while the other violators continue on their way.
Stopping cyclists also proved challenging for officers on foot patrol, as was imposing the fine itself. Most people caught yesterday were unwilling to pay the fines, Xinhua reports. Some insisted they had no cash, so the police simply let them go.
Wang Changjun, director of the Traffic Management Research Institute under the Ministry of Public Security, told the Legal Daily that the mainland's traffic laws specified as far back as 2004 that the fine for jaywalking could range from 5 yuan to 50 yuan.
But because of difficulties enforcing the law, only about 5 per cent of those caught over the past several years have been effectively charged.
Wang said cars didn't start becoming popular in China until about a decade ago - a relatively short time for the public to become fully adjusted to traffic laws. Many pedestrians in mainland cities are migrants who arrived from rural areas and have never been taught about traffic safety. He said the government should prepare for a long programme to educate the people. He said perseverance was necessary "to show the government's determination and seriousness".
Wei Dan, a resident of Dongcheng district, said she had seen people jaywalking in other countries, especially developed ones, "but now our government is trying to catch up with first-world nations such as the US, Japan and ones in Europe".
"Our citizens are required to behave as first-world citizens," she said.
"It's all about face."