Friday, April 10, 2009

CityWatchLA - Inside the Crosswalk Sting at Deadly Intersection

CityWatch, Apr 10, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 29

Watching the LAPD conduct a crosswalk sting operation is like watching the home team win the big game, over and over again. Last week, Capt. Trotter of Valley traffic responded to the recent spike in pedestrian deaths by deploying a team of traffic officers to the intersection of Reseda and Dearborn on the west side of Cal State Northridge.

Sgt. Justice ran the operation which consisted of plainclothes officers crossing the street in the crosswalk while a dozen officers stood by in squad cars and on motorcycles to cite the motorists who fail to yield the road to the pedestrians.

Senior Lead Officer Del Valle was the first LAPD "decoy" to cross the street and on his first pass three motorists blew past him, earning citations from the motorcycle officers who raced into the congested street with lights, sirens and loudspeakers full bore.

Within minutes, all officers were busy writing tickets and the decoys had a chance to rest while waiting for the supporting team to reposition.

The intersection of Reseda and Dearborn has residential on one side and CSUN on the other. In both directions on Reseda there are abundant restaurants, coffee shops and businesses that draw a heavy pedestrian crowd, all supported by crosswalks that challenge the primacy of the motor vehicle.

The crosswalk sting drew immediate attention from neighbors, the merchants and students with many stopping by to thank the LAPD and to share their own "ped vs. motorist" horror stories.

As for the motorists, their responses ranged from "there was no ped" to "I didn't see the ped" to " I thought the other cars were stopping to turn" to "I just followed the other cars." These excuses prompted Capt. Trotter to explain "When a motorist sees other cars slow down or stop, they must assume there's a pedestrian in the area, even if they can't see one, and they must slow down and be prepared to yield."

The impact of the sting was dramatic to watch, especially when the motorcycle officers rode into the traffic with one arm in the air like cowboys herding cattle and pulling over up to four motorists at a time.

Sgt. Justice was asked how other neighborhoods could advocate for a similar operation in their community but his response was less than encouraging. "The LAPD doesn't respond to public pressure but uses data to determine where to deploy our forces."

In other words, LA's vision for safe streets is based on reacting to the unnecessary death of our most vulnerable before we act to make our streets walkable, ridable and livable.

If you'd like to work with the LAPD to make our streets safer, take a walk to your local police station and invite the Captain to go for a walk.

Unfortunately, getting a police escort is the only safe way to cross the street these days. Let's work together to change that. (Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist advocate and writes for CityWatch. )


Michael J. said...

I'm 100% for making better conditions for crossing the streets. But I don't feel dishing out 100 tickets on day X is going to make me feel any safer crossing the street on day Y.

Why don't we take those officers salaries and instead of paying them to write tickets, we build a few pedestrian bulb outs? Or just paint some human-scaled details on the crosswalks... or add some texturing to the surface. That would make a lasting difference without 'victimizing' (cringe) those drivers.

2whls3spds said...

The bulk of motorists will never learn. In Norfolk, VA they have "boxed" intersections, it is clearly posted that if you are in the boxed section after your light turns red there is a $150 (IIRC) fine, this is an attempt to minimize gridlock. Two to three days a week officers hand out many tickets because motorists are bound and damn determined they WILL make it through the intersection on this cycle of the light. Similar behaviour on the part of the motorists in LA.

Too many people have a sense of entitlement whether driving or otherwise and until that can be unlearned the issues associated with it will continue.

They also should consider a possible redesign of the intersection to make it safer for pedestrians, but that would be too easy.


Andrew Cencini said...

in washington state there's a number you can call to report carpool lane violators (764-HERO). anybody can call and report another vehicle that is violating the carpool lane - the owner of the vehicle that has been reported ends up getting a letter in the mail (no citation, of course) saying they have been reported by someone else and they should be careful. if they ever get pulled over for a carpool lane violation in the future, they're already in the system, and are less-likely to be given a 'warning'. it would be good to have a 764-HERO for crosswalks as well - might make crosswalk violators think twice before blowing through.