In America, jaywalking (crossing against the light or in the middle of a block where there is no marked pedestrian crossing) is technically illegal, but the enforcement rate is generally* very close to zero. I tend to cross the street when it's convenient and looks to be safe to do so**, not when I reach an intersection and the light is green.

We'll be traveling to England (London). While we're there, we'll be doing a lot of walking, and I'll be going for at least 1 run.

I'm sure that jaywalking is probably just as illegal in England as it is in the USA, I'm curious to know if the enforcement rate is generally* very low there (particularly in those cities), as well, or will I need to alter my procedures to not run afoul of the local constabulary. Last thing I want is any sort of legal trouble while traveling...

* I say generally because I know that's very dependent on the exact day and time, the mood of the officer who may happen to notice the offense, and, possibly the phase of the moon and recent sun spot activity. If the answer is "No, it's not enforced", I realize that the answer will generally apply and that these things may will factor in as well. I recognize that if I chose to break the law based on suggestions here and get ticketed for it, "Travel.SE user X said it was OK", will most likely not hold up in court.

** I learned the skill from my parents and grandparents in midtown Manhattan where one crosses the road whenever the traffic is stopped (which is often) and one wants to get to the other side. Walk to the corner to cross the street? Then walk back? My bagel shop is straight across the street, why would I do that?

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    Jaywalking isn't generally illegal in the UK, except on motorways (think interstate highways). Of course, standing in the middle of the road isn't a sensible idea either...
    – origimbo
    Jun 15, 2018 at 15:30
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    Both the legal situation and how the law is practiced is likely different in the four countries you are asking about. I would suggest that you split your question into four to make it easier to answer. Voting to close this one as too broad. Jun 15, 2018 at 15:46
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    @Henrik There's no such thing as "jaywalking" in the UK so "obeying the law, i.e. not jaywalk" isn't helpful advice. Jun 15, 2018 at 16:09
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    @FreeMan It's probably safe to expand the question from England to Great Britain, since the situation in Scotland and Wales is pretty much identical. You could even ask about the whole UK, although that would require an answer to give a paragraph on how Northern Ireland is special.
    – origimbo
    Jun 15, 2018 at 16:56
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    It's not too broad. In most of the UK, "jaywalking" (a foreign expression) is not illegal, except on motorways which are reserved for motor vehicles only and a pedestrian is unlikely to find himself by accident. In Northern Ireland, it is not enforced unless the pedestrian causes an accident. I live in London and cross at least a dozen roads on my walk to work, I largely ignore lights as they change too slowly and don't reflect the current traffic conditions. The most important thing is to watch for cyclists.
    – Calchas
    Jun 15, 2018 at 19:32

1 Answer 1


Other people have done nearly all the work here, but someone should draw everything together in an answer so the question can be put to bed.

Your assumption that jaywalking must be a crime in England, Scotland and/or Wales is wrong. Growing up as a child in England, I heard about the existence of jaywalking. But because simply crossing against the lights is not an offence here, I got completely the wrong end of the stick and assumed for most of my younger life that it meant gratuitously dancing around in the road when traffic was coming. Only when I moved to live in other countries did I discover, to my horror, that the pedestrian lights were mandatory elsewhere. And that in Germany, at least, people actually obey them.

Sarriesfan above points you to the highway code, which is HMG's definitive repository of guidance for road users (though not for Northern Ireland). Rule 7 gives general guidance for crossing, and though it advises you against crossing at certain unsafe places, it is only advice. With regard to light-controlled pedestrian crossings rule 21 says:

At traffic lights there may be special signals for pedestrians. You should only start to cross the road when the green figure shows.

The bold lettering is my addition. With regard to interpretation, it earlier notes:

Many of the rules in the Code are legal requirements, and if you disobey these rules you are committing a criminal offence [....] Such rules are identified by the use of the words ‘MUST/MUST NOT’.


Although failure to comply with the other rules of the Code will not, in itself, cause a person to be prosecuted, The Highway Code may be used in evidence in any court proceedings under the Traffic Acts (see The road user and the law) to establish liability. This includes rules which use advisory wording such as ‘should/should not’ or ‘do/do not’.

Again, the bold lettering is mine. This makes it clear that rule 21 is only advice, and not a requirement/prohibition. If you cross the road against the lights, and an accident ensues, then your decision to do so against the advice of the Code may help establish that you bear some liability for the accident. But merely crossing against the lights, even right in front of a policeman, will occasion no (legal) response.

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    Wow, they should print it in huge font somewhere at when you enter the UK. :-O
    – bipll
    Jun 16, 2018 at 7:22
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    @bipll every country could do with a sign like that. Or maybe a free book, for visitors. The single best thing I learned from living abroad as a fairly young man (24) was that a whole bunch of things are done a certain way in my country for no better reason than that's the way things are done there, and that other countries do them differently, often for still no better reason. People are different, and it's OK. That's a useful lesson for a young man!
    – MadHatter
    Jun 16, 2018 at 8:00
  • Sure, but then go higher (a posteriori) probabilities that can be accepted as default case, and more remarkable cases that are better spoken out explicitly. Anyway it's just yet another 'could be so nice if' on my side. >_<
    – bipll
    Jun 16, 2018 at 16:21

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