Police conduct pedestrian safety campaign

Police conduct pedestrian safety campaign

Michele Ellson
Alameda Police Department

Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri said he doesn’t know whether it’s gratifying or horrifying that officers in his department wrote 62 tickets in five hours during a February pedestrian crosswalk sting.

The department is stepping up its efforts to make sure pedestrians cross Alameda’s streets safely and to let the public know the department takes pedestrian safety seriously, and the periodic stings are one of several strategies it’s employing. Other efforts will include safety messages on the department’s Twitter account and Facebook page, a poster contest for Alameda’s students and “May You Arrive Safely,” a safety walk scheduled for May 3.

“At some point, motorists have to be responsible for what they’re doing. But as a public safety agency, we do have a duty to educate people,” Rolleri said.

Rolleri said the department’s efforts are part of an ongoing effort to raise awareness about pedestrian safety rules in order to combat vehicle pedestrians with collisions. The department has investigated about 40 such collisions over each of the past few years, and eight in just the first month of 2014.

Of the 41 pedestrian collisions the department investigated in 2013, drivers in 36 were found to be at fault, 26 of them for failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

“In a perfect scenario, we wouldn’t have pedestrian collisions or crosswalk violations,” he said.

The city has engaged in a range of efforts to make its streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Pedestrian safety improvements are in the works for Park Street and at two schools – Encinal High School and Will C. Wood Middle School – as is a dedicated cycle track along much of the Island’s shore. Even Mayor Marie Gilmore has gotten in on the act, starring in a pedestrian safety public service announcement that’s airing at the Alameda Theatre & Cineplex.

Police told The Alamedan in 2013 that they were preparing to add motorcycle officers who could help broaden the department’s effort to enforce pedestrian safety laws and also, some additional crossing guards for schools.

For the stings, police are sending decoys into crosswalks where collisions have occurred as drivers approach. Drivers who stop for the pedestrians “pass,” Rolleri said; those who honk at the decoy or drive through as they’re crossing “fail” and are ticketed, he said. So far, the decoys have been sent through crosswalks at Park and Webster streets, he said; data provided by the department show those streets were where many of last year's collisions occurred. Additional enforcement efforts will also be conducted in some school zones, he said.

While the enforcement effort is focused on schooling drivers, Rolleri said he hopes pedestrians and cyclists will take some lessons away from the department’s safety effort too. (In 2013, The Alamedan documented unsafe conditions perpetuated by drivers and pedestrians at Henry Haight Elementary School.) All too often, Rolleri said, he sees pedestrians focused on their cell phones as they cross the street, instead of traffic.

“I’d like for people to be safe,” he said.

The safety walk will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 3. Participants can start the walk at either of Alameda’s two ferry terminals, and it will end at City Hall. Registration for the event is free, and is being conducted online.

SAFETY TIPS

The Alameda Police Department is offering the following safety rules and tips for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

Slow down in school zones. Traditionally, during the school year, parents and children have daily routines and become rushed. Many times they leave for school late and are rushing to drop their kids off at school so they too can get to work on time. When you realize this is what you’re doing, take that opportunity to remind yourself to drive slowly and safely to your destination. Plan the next day to start 15 minutes earlier.

Watch for crosswalks and crossing guards on your path of travel. Remember – when pedestrians are crossing the street, ALL vehicles must yield the right of way until the pedestrians are a safe distance away. Pay attention to the directions given by the crossing guards. You must remain stopped when the “STOP” paddle is displayed.

Pedestrians must enter a crosswalk only when it is safe to do so. Adults can teach and model the proper way to do this for their children. Even if your child does not walk to school on a normal basis, having proper instruction from an adult will help keep them safe when they do start.

Reduce any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings. Put down your phone and don’t talk or text while driving.

Enter school zones on full alert. Be on the lookout for children running into traffic from between parked cars. Be aware of all pedestrian traffic when entering and exiting driveways, particularly the ones that lead in and out of schools. When you approach a school bus that is stopping, or has stopped, watch for flashing bus lights and extended bus “STOP” signs. Passing a bus with its red lights flashing or “STOP” sign extended is against the law.

When a bicycle is ridden on the roadway, the rider of the bike must follow all of the same rules that a motor vehicle driver must follow. It is recommended that cyclists entering a crosswalk walk, rather than ride, their bike through the crosswalk. Even though the law requires all riders under the age of 18 to wear a helmet, it is highly recommended that all riders wear one.

Comments

Submitted by N.Tam (not verified) on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

I moved to Alameda from San Francisco 1 year ago and the thing that has stood out the most to me about Alameda is how the majority of drivers have a blatant disregard for people waiting to enter the crosswalk. What irks me more is how people have blown right past me as I try to enter and police officers are in the same traffic flow but DON'T PULL THEM OVER. Yet this town is infamous for cops pulling people over for exceeding the speed limit. (Notice I didn't say "speeding?").

This article is encouraging but there is a culture here that doesn't place a high enough value on pedestrian safety so it is going to take awhile for that to turn around.

Submitted by Bette page (not verified) on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

How about ticketing the peds and cyclists who step out into the street in the middle of the block, or ride thru stop signs w/o stopping - A BIG problem on Santa Clara.

Submitted by C. (not verified) on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

I applaud this effort. Driving in Alameda has gotten more complex - with more traffic congestion than in years past. I would like the police (and traffic planners) to talk to "Steve" the crossing guard at Mecartney and Island drive who witnesses some of the problems of that intersection every day. People making left hand turns from Mecartney onto island are so focused on traffic they don't even look to their right to see if pedestrians are going to cross. People turning right from Island to Mecartney (from 2 lanes) are also ignoring pedestrians. Speed isn't the only issue - it is that there are too many places for drivers to have to watch to see if it is their turn to go and pedestrians are the last thing on their minds. If I am in the crosswalks at this intersection I wait and make sure I have made eye contact with the drivers before I pass in front of their car - even if it is stopped. Why this intersection does not have signal lights is beyond me. Even if nobody has been killed in this intersection (yet) why should pedestrians have to be in constant fear here? If Alameda wants a more pedestrian-centric city - why isn't there a stop light at this intersection that divides Bay Farm in two. Those of us who do not live in the Community of Harbor Bay Isle deserve safe crosswalks too. How is it that there is a stop light at Packet Landing and Robert Davey Jr. Drive and none at Island and Mecartney? It makes no sense.

Submitted by Tom (not verified) on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

In addition to pedestrian stings. May I suggest bicycle strings!

From my vantage point as a driver here innAlameda I see very few bicyclists adhere to stop sign law.

Would be interesting to see data presented on auto-bicycle collisions here on the island.

Submitted by WRD (not verified) on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

Much of the education must be done with bike riders, who negotiate traffic based on their own rules, and pedestrians who have no idea what the "hand" means at each stop light. I see many examples of people walking in to a crosswalk even though the "hand" is well lit and working. Though drivers do cause problems, those problems would be reduced if people on biles and walking would pay attention to what they were doing.

Submitted by MJ (not verified) on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

I'm surprised that no one has noted the revenue collection aspect of this... 62 tickets in 5 hours! How much is that?

Does anybody really think that this effort started with a realistic expectation of changing the behavior of 70,000+ Alameda residents plus their guests?

To suggest, as the above comments do, all kinds of other groups that should get tickets also is nothing more than the old "Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that fella behind the tree."

I hear the "education" aspect of this as nothing more than a noxious cover story for yet another form of taxation... as though everybody, including all of the commenters above, all of the residents of Alameda plus all of their guests will surely be happy once and for all when everyone is finally regulated and fined into perfect behavior.

Here's what is going to happen... a bunch of money will be collected by these tax collectors we have set upon ourselves and people will still do all kinds of things like jay walk and not yield to pedestrians. To say, "In a perfect scenario, we wouldn’t have pedestrian collisions or crosswalk violations,” would more accurately be "There are already plenty of more serious dis-incentives for colliding with pedestrians. This effort will not change anything."

If you doubt the motivation behind this, ask yourself why police are often too busy to fully investigate serious crimes like theft, but seem to have plenty of time to write all kinds of tickets? Answer: because they are glorified tax collectors.

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

Hi MJ: As I understand it, Alameda PD only keeps a small portion of what they collect from the tickets. I know they've told me the amount before; let me double check the info and get back to you with it.

Submitted by MJ (not verified) on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

Hi Michele: What portion does the city keep (vs APD)?

Submitted by Jeff Heyman & K... (not verified) on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

Great job, APD! I can't tell you how many close calls we've had on dog walks. Drivers just aren't paying attention -- and, occasionally, bicyclists too.

Submitted by DRH (not verified) on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

Alameda won't truly be pedestrian friendly until the city takes a hard look at the traffic planning mistakes made many years ago. Giving out 60 tickets makes very little impact, given that more than 60 vehicles pass in front of my house every 15 minutes. If Alameda was serious about safety they would be looking into increasing lighting at intersections, adding stop signs or signals at school crosswalks, building raised crosswalks with warning lights, reducing the number of traffic lanes where appropriate and adding bulb outs at crosswalks and continuing with public outreach.
Instead of placing blame and giving tickets to drivers, pedestrians or bicyclist lets make it easier for all to coexist by actually discussing solutions. Traffic is only going to get worse over the next few years so now is the time to act.

Submitted by Kristen (not verified) on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

I would love to see APD conduct a sting for drivers who a.) speed between 8th and Webster on Central, and b.) fail to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk at Central and Page, which happens ALL THE TIME. Another problem is vehicles making a left hand turn onto Central from the McDonald's drive-thru, even though there is a sign that tells them not to. It's crazy dangerous on that stretch of Central.

Submitted by bingo (not verified) on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

"Pedestrians must enter a crosswalk only when it is safe to do so"

What ever happened to look both ways? Too many Alameda peds will step off the curb in front of a moving car, educating the walkers is equally important. Don't get me started on bicyclists, they are the worst offenders. Stop signs are for everyone.

Submitted by Eugene (not verified) on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

MJ, It turns out there is a simple but little-known way to avoid this sneaky new tax - it's called "obeying traffic laws". Let us know if this tip works for you!

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

Hi MJ: I checked in with Police Chief Paul Rolleri, and he forwarded a link to a post on the Action Alameda blog that lays out the fines and where the money goes, here: http://www.action-alameda-news.com/2013/11/25/alameda-police-turn-up-the.... The piece says the city gets 12 to 17 percent of the total fine collected for tickets (it talks about an earlier speeding sting).

Per the chief: "This has NEVER been about money for us. It's about safety, enforcement, and education. Period."

Submitted by marian on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

Some of you [both peds & drivers] need to get a copy of the Calif Vehicle Code. It's only $10-such a deal!-& you can get it in person at the DMV. Only took 20 minutes for the DMV to find one for me. You also might want to check out the legal requirements for traffic control features:
http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/traffops/signtech/mutcdsupp/ca_mutcd2012.htm
Once you start actually counting cars, you find perception is often worse than reality.
Grand Street is about to get a humongous ugly annoying pedestrian island mid-block in front of Wood School. At the meeting I went to, someone said it was because there were 2-4 pedestrian collisions per year there. I did not remember reading or hearing about that many & I have lived on Grand Street for decades. Remarkably, No Such Collisions are indicated on Grand Street on "the Alamedan" map of such collisions for 2013. Someone is lying to advance their own interests again, as usual. As long as fake scare tactics are used to exaggerate danger to pedestrians here, I see no hope of positive realistic solutions.
And NTam: I've been hit by a car in San Francisco. Peds are hit every day in SF. Being a ped in SF is WAY more dangerous than in Alameda.

Submitted by eugene (not verified) on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

"Grand Street is about to get a humongous ugly annoying pedestrian island mid-block in front of Wood School"

Good. The humongous-er, the better. Right in front of a school? Bring it on.

Submitted by Jan Greene on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

Part of the problem is people driving more by their own judgment than by what the traffic laws say. If a pedestrian enters the crosswalk, you're supposed to stop, not judge whether they are far enough away and you can sneak through. I give pedestrians plenty of room to cross, and get honked at by people who don't get it. Also, pedestrians have to step off the curb to make it clear they want to cross. It's up to the cars going through crosswalks to be prepared to stop if a person needs to use the crosswalk. Another reason not to speed.
I assume it's up to me to use my car responsibly (since I pose a much greater danger to the human than they do to my car). It's not up to pedestrians to help me make it to my destination faster.

Submitted by Meg Mom (not verified) on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

Bay Farm Island is dangerous for pedestrians and there is much less enforcement than on the main island. If a speed trap is set up at all, it's on Robert Davey or maaaaybe Mecartney. Drivers on Bay Farm interpret the stop signs on to really mean stop-is-optional-if-I-can-beat-the-other-car-and-swerve-around-any-pedestrians. Case in point: The city spent a bunch of bucks in 2013 improving an especially problematic intersection at Robert Davey and Channing. The reason given was poor visibility. However,the real problem is folks running the stop sign from Channing to Robert Davey following the beat-the-other-guy mentality.
Don't even get me started on the Mecartney/Aughinbaugh intersection or any stop sign on Dublin, Sheffield or Seaview that haven't been previously mentioned - and those are only the "big" intersections.

But wait! The fun doesn't stop there! There are places on Bay Farm where you can be on the sidewalk and be in danger of getting hit. Try walking across the driveway entrance to the ferry landing parking lot. The residents that live on that part of the island consider it their personal pass-through to all parts south. Or any sidewalk that borders the Harbor Landing shopping center, either elementary school or the Harbor Bay Club. The drivers are actually indignant that pedestrians actually have the temerity to be on the sidewalk and the driver must wait for them.

Long story short, every intersection is a game of chicken on Bay Farm. If I hear a car coming (not even if I can see it) I don't step off the curb. Just my strong sense of self-preservation.

BTW, C., someone was killed on Mecartney a year or so ago walking *in the crosswalk* by Leydecker Park, just down from the intersection of Mecartney and Island.

Submitted by David (not verified) on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

People who received speeding tickets in the past, and felt that the citing officer inflated their speed on the ticket, may note that City of Alameda's share of the total bail increases significantly at 26 MPH over the limit, and above.

Submitted by PCD (not verified) on Fri, Mar 28, 2014

Safety is our joint responsibility --- whether and WHEN we are pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. Courtesy and kindness, as well as adherence to the law, will always go a long, long way.

Submitted by MJ (not verified) on Fri, Mar 28, 2014

I would wager that every single person who has posted about the importance of safe driving and more laws and additional enforcement drives no better than the average driver at best and have themselves broken all the laws they want more strictly enforced. After all, self-righteousness feels so good and is still cost-free.

Submitted by frank on Fri, Mar 28, 2014

I walk through Alameda everyday and have pretty much seen it all. What astounds me is just how many drivers are ignorant of how the 'HAND' works.
The crossings at Park St. and Otis are a good example. You push the button and you hear a WAIT instruction. When it is time to cross there is another vocal instruction. At that point there is a flashing white WALK displayed. After 6 seconds the WHITE will turn to a FLASHING RED HAND with a 20 second countdown. At 6 seconds it will turn to a SOLID RED HAND. Twice I and my wife have almost been struck there. One driver swerved towards us screaming that we had no right to be in the Xwalk even though there were still 19 seconds on the countdown. Another woman made a speeding right turn off Park on to Otis and had to slam her brakes, She was pointing at the Flashing Red Hand which still had 15 seconds on it. I can only assume that these people have never actually crossed a Street as a Pedestrian.

Submitted by maria young (not verified) on Fri, Mar 28, 2014

Grand and Otis is a particularly bad spot...as a driver who is headed towards the water on Grand and turning left onto Otis I usually see just Big Blue Skies and Dramatic Sun Sets so it's easy to get lulled into a sense that you can take that gorgeous, easy, sweeping left turn...But as a frequent dog walker/pedestrian I'm extra cautious there because I always see drivers not looking the last minute and swerving. I hope the Island helps...Thanks Michele for the great detective work...love the cost break down...Welcome to Alameda 25 mph! Yay!

Submitted by neil (not verified) on Fri, Mar 28, 2014

David, 26 mph over the limit is 51 mph on most streets. If someone is driving anything like that fast, they're being very dangerous. I doubt that many people who have been pulled over for driving at 35 have gotten 51 mph tickets. This would seem to be a rather hypothetical source of APD misbehavior. In fact, giving police an incentive to focus on people driving at 51 along residential streets seems pretty sensible.

Submitted by Jan Greene on Fri, Mar 28, 2014

So MJ, I always find it interesting when people focus on taxes and regulation as the problem. What would you do about the 40 collisions each year between cars and humans, many of them in crosswalks? Do you think that's an acceptable number? Just the free market at work?
By the way, I may try to drive safely but I'm not always successful. There's a lot to pay attention to. But if you go out there with an attitude that pedestrians need to stay out of your way, conflicts are more likely, and the car is going to win. Do you disagree?

Submitted by tom (not verified) on Fri, Mar 28, 2014

Just for the record!

Have you ever tried to figure out when to cross at the new pedestrian street crossing on Park?

There is no visual electoral sign for the pedestrian to know when the flashing lights are on in the street to alert drivers to stop for your passage.

Wonder who approved such a flawed system? The lights in the street are fine, but how the h… is the pedestrian supposed to know if and how long the lights will be on….just wait for all cars to stop?

Another engineering boondoggle is in our midst.

Submitted by MJ (not verified) on Fri, Mar 28, 2014

Jan, I doubt drivers and pedestrians are any better or worse in Alameda than just about anywhere else. To answer your question, I would imagine that any driver that goes out with the attitude you describe is more prone to accidents. If others are right about how great this "education" campaign is, I guess this year will show a decrease in car/pedestrian accidents, but I doubt it. If no accident decrease turns out to be the case, I'm sure a lack of results won't change your support for more enforcement. Actual results don't really matter as long as self-righteous complaining feels so good. If you drive, tell me you haven't broken the speed limit or entered a cross walk with a pedestrian in it. If you don't drive, tell me you haven't walked against the don't walk sign. Get real!

Submitted by Meg Mom (not verified) on Fri, Mar 28, 2014

@MJ
I know I shouldn't feed the troll, but have you looked in the mirror lately re: After all, self-righteousness feels so good and is still cost-free.

And yes, I do plead guilty to having gone over 25 in the streets of our fair city. One time, being followed by a police car going south on Mecartney, I put my cruise control on 25 just to be extra careful. Said policeman pulled out and around me with a dirty look thrown my way when Mecartney widened to two lanes. So, seeeee we're all guilty at one time or another. It's called being human, not self-righteous.

Submitted by David (not verified) on Fri, Mar 28, 2014

Neil - please go back and re-read my comment. I wasn't referring to people who were genuinely driving 26 MPH or more over the limit. I was referring to people - and I've spoke to them - who believe that officers have inflated the cited speed when writing up a ticket. i.e. Written them up for 51 MPH when they weren't going anywhere near that fast.

My point was that if there's any gaming of the system to be done by the police department to "generate revenue," it's not in the issuing of tickets, it's in the practice of inflating the cited excess speed.

To be clear *I'm* not accusing the police of inflating cited speed, but I believe there are others other there who do make that accusation.

Submitted by frank on Fri, Mar 28, 2014

Self-righteous Posters on a blog are harmless.
Self-righteous drivers worry me

Submitted by neil (not verified) on Sat, Mar 29, 2014

So, David, you're simply reporting rumors. OK. My point related to the degree of plausible citation-inflation.

If I were stopped doing 35 and the officer tried to write me up for 51 (which would strike me as a very fishy number to pick), I would object. Are there people who exist (or, should I say, you believe to exist) who have gotten 55 mph citations for mild speeding? Would they not contest such a citation? Maybe they are angry about getting a legitimate ticket and are justifying their behavior ex-post; people do such things.

If you don't have any evidence, then I go back to my original point: your concern is purely hypothetical and therefore not pertinent. Imputing bad motives without any evidence is neither useful to the discussion nor a legitimate way to argue. If you were to cite any actual evidence, then your post would rise above mere rumor-mongering.

Note: I don't rule out the possibility of bad police behavior. I'm simply saying your posts add no information about that possibility.

And, on the original point about police enforcing crosswalk laws--it's a good idea. Sure there are careless pedestrians, but the consequences of dangerous walking to other parties are typically less than those of dangerous driving.

Submitted by Bernice (not verified) on Sat, Mar 29, 2014

Good Job APD. Next target unlicensed drivers like the fellow driving the beige passenger van on Grand between and Eagle and Buena Vista.

Submitted by David (not verified) on Mon, Mar 31, 2014

Neil,

I'm afraid that you are either misunderstanding my prior comments, or willfully misrepresenting them. Whatever the case, I'll not engage with you any longer. I'll let my comments stand for other readers.

Submitted by AD (not verified) on Tue, Apr 1, 2014

My family moved to Alameda last year after a few years in Berkeley and I immediately noticed that Alameda drivers are less aware of pedestrians than in Berkeley.

The biggest difference is drivers who pull into the intersection at a stop sign to get a better view of oncoming traffic as they prepare to turn -- they pull through the crosswalk before coming to a complete stop.

After two near-misses when a driver was already looking to the left while entering the intersection I now never ever enter a crosswalk before seeing the driver make a complete stop AND I make eye-contact with the driver. I don't think this is acceptable on the part of drivers but it's a behavior change I've had to make! One small example of a small change drivers can make to be more pedestrian-friendly.

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