Crosswalk cops issue 38 tickets

The second crosswalk enforcement action by The Dalles Police Department, held Monday at two locations downtown, netted even more tickets than the first one, though it had one more officer on ticketing duty.

The four-hour effort saw 38 tickets written for failure to yield to pedestrians, three for driving while suspended, three for driving with no insurance, two for using cell phones, one for driving without a driver’s license and one for no seat belt, said The Dalles Police Officer Jeff Kienlen.

Two motorists were pulled over solely for cell phone use. The rest were for failure to yield, and a few drivers got two or three citations.

In all, 48 citations were issued. At the initial enforcement action last month, 28 tickets were written for failure to yield to pedestrians and one was written for another infraction.

The first effort had three officers on traffic duty and this one had four, Kienlen said. The grant he obtained for the enforcement actions pays for up to four officers to work overtime.

Serving as the pedestrian for part of the time was The Dalles City Councilor Russ Brown. The city’s on-duty animal control officer, Lisa Stuck, served as the pedestrian the rest of the time.

The ticket for failure to yield to a pedestrian is $260, a level set by the state. For any ticket written for any offense, $61 goes to the state and the rest goes to the city general fund, said The Dalles Municipal Court Clerk Dorene Brown.

She said about half the people that came to pay the tickets from the first enforcement action were actually glad it was being done. In an ironic twist, one man who came to pay his ticket told Brown that as he tried to cross the street to get to city hall, none of the drivers would stop for him as a pedestrian.

In Monday’s enforcement action, the effort was first set up at Second and Taylor streets, at the east end of downtown, just west of the roundabout. Signs warning that the crosswalk enforcement was ahead were placed at the base of Brewery Grade and in the roundabout.

At that location, “people were actually doing really well and stopping,” Kienlen said. But that’s not always the case. He said Precision Auto has locations on both sides of Second at Taylor, and employees reported drivers regularly don’t stop for them as they try to cross the street.

“We spent probably close to an hour in that location and had only a couple violators, so we moved to Second and Liberty, which is right by the post office and Oregon Motor Motel, The Dalles Inn area, and then we were extremely busy,” Kienlen said.

He left the warning signs where they were on the east end of town.

In the enforcement action, the “pedestrian” must be showing intent to cross – usually by standing in the street – while oncoming vehicles are at least 131 feet away. That is considered adequate distance for a driver going 20 mph – which is the speed limit downtown -- to react and stop the vehicle for the person.

The grant requires that no vehicles be parked on the sides of the street in that 131-foot buffer, giving drivers ample opportunity to see the “pedestrian,” so barricades or cones are set up to prevent parking.

Kienlen didn’t need to block off the 131-foot buffer at the east end of town because no parking is allowed before that intersection anyway. When he moved to the Liberty Street location, he was able to block off the required 131-foot distance with traffic cones because it was early enough in the morning that few cars were there. He only had to ask one driver who was parked and talking on his phone to leave, which they did.

In the enforcement action, a spotter is positioned at the intersection to videotape drivers, to provide evidence that they committed the infraction. This time, the spotter was at street level, as opposed to being posted on a roof for the first action, and that helped the spotter call in to traffic officers offenses like talking on a cell phone, Kienlen said.

At the Taylor Street intersection, people are coming out of the roundabout in one lane, basically, even though it opens into two lanes at that point, and that meant if the lead car stopped for a pedestrian, the ones behind it did too, Kienlen said.

By the time drivers hit Second and Liberty, both lanes have traffic. “That’s where we got more violators. I don’t know if drivers are more distracted because there’s cars in both lanes.”

He also said he issued tickets to men and women about equally.

In a few instances at Second and Liberty, the “pedestrian” got across one lane and had a driver go right by them in the other lane, Kienlen said.

At a class Kienlen attended in preparation for the enforcement actions, he was warned to expect irate drivers. He said a few people were upset, but not many. Several even reported seeing the signs warning about the enforcement action.

One woman even told Kienlen her daughter sent her a message about the crosswalk enforcement and to be careful.

“To be honest with you, the way it started out with everybody being very compliant, I was really hopeful our numbers would be down and it would show people were starting to have a change in their behavior regarding crosswalks,” Kienlen said, “and when it moved [to Second and Liberty] that quickly went away.”

The grant requires the police department to issue a press release about a week before the action to warn the public. Kienlen said in that press release that the action would be in several locations downtown.

“I did intend that if one location didn’t work out very well for whatever reason, we would move,” he said.

“The one thing I’ve been pleasantly surprised with has been the amount of positive feedback we’ve received from the public,” Kienlen said. “There’s been multiple times that I’ve been pulled aside or cornered by a citizen saying ‘Thank you, it’s making a big difference.’ I had one guy yesterday who said that he’s walked around this town for the majority of his life and he’s noticed a huge difference since the first crosswalk operation on how motorists are responding to pedestrians.”

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