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PBOT crosswalk enforcement actions net 904 citations in five years

Posted by on January 7th, 2011 at 9:16 am

What happens when you mix
cops and crosswalks?
(Photos © J. Maus)

One of the tools we can use to make our streets safer is to get tougher on enforcement. So, what happens when police officers focus on particular violations at specific locations?

Recently, we came across a report detailing five years of crosswalk enforcement actions carried out by the Traffic Division of the Portland Police Bureau. The results (below) show that in most locations, there is either simply ignorance or blatant disregard for basic traffic laws that protect our most vulnerable road users.

PBOT data reveals that from 2005 to 2010 police officers gave out 904 citations during 51 enforcement actions focused specifically on failures to yield to a person in a crosswalk (an average of about 18 citations for each 1-1.5 hour enforcement action).

Crosswalks in action-3

The actions (you might have seen this excellent Streetfilm on them) are managed by the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety program.

According to the PBOT staffer in charge of the program, Sharon White, the actions are typically conducted every month on Wednesdays between 12:30 and 2:00 and the number of officers that participate varies from three to as many as eight (therefore, the number of citations issued also varies). During the actions, a decoy is “strategically positioned” at locations that have marked or unmarked crosswalks (after all, in Oregon “every corner is a crosswalk”). Locations are chosen based on high walking volumes and/or known trouble spots.

Below are results from the 51 crosswalk enforcement actions in Portland from 2005 – 2010 (data taken directly from PBOT, with emphasis given to highest citation action of each ear):

2005
  • 800 Block of NE Multnomah St.: 25 citations, 3 warnings
  • NW Pettygrove at 25th and 23rd: 20 citations, 3 warnings
  • NE Glisan St. and NE 76th Ave: 31 citations, 3 warnings
  • N Killingsworth and N. Kerby; NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Jessup St: 7 citations, 7 warnings
  • SW Barbur and SW 13th: 28 citations, 25 warnings
  • 800 Block of NE Multnomah st: 12 citations, 5 warnings (repeat location)
2006
  • 1111 SW 10th Ave.: 25 citations: 60% vehicles, 40% pedestrians & bicyclists
  • SW Sam Jackson Park Rd. & SW US Veterans Hospital Rd. 1 citation
  • SE 82 Ave. and SE Foster: 37 citations, 5 warnings
  • SE Powell at SE 36th Ave.: 33 citations plus 1 tow
  • NE 30th & NE Killingsworth; 41 citations, 6 warnings, 2 arrests
  • 1111 SW 10th Ave.: 48 citations (62% vehicle; 31% pedestrian and bicycle; 7% other non-moving violations), 1 warning
  • NE Fremont & NE 48th: 18 citations (14 Failure to yield to ped (all vehicles, no bikes); 3 seat belt violations, 1 misc. non-moving violation), 4 warnings
  • Westbound “slip lane”, intersection of SW Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy & SW Bertha Ct.: 15 citations, 8 warnings
  • SE 82nd and Holgate, and SE 82nd and SE Francis: 18 Citations (9 Failure to yield to pedestrian; 3 Non-moving violations, 2 Pedestrian disobey signal, 4 Other moving violations), 9 warnings
2007
  • N Lombard at N Richmond: 11 citations (1 uninsured, 1 tow), 3 warnings
  • SE Powell at SE 45th and SE 49th: 3 citations (all 3 vehicles towed), 4 warnings
  • NE Alberta at NE 19th Ave. and NE 33rd at Jarrett: 11 citations (10 to motor vehicles, 1 ped; all citations except 2 were given at the NE 33rd location)
  • SE Foster at SE 80th: 4 warnings, 1 citation
  • NW Pettygrove at NW 25th, NW Vaughn near NW 27th, NW 21st at NW Irving: 15 citations (14 of them at NW 21st and Irving), 6 warnings (4 at NW Vaughn, 2 at NW 21st)
  • SE Belmont at SE 33rd, 8 citations
  • NE 47th at Multnomah: 22 citations (22 Fail to Stop for Peds, 2 speeders, and an assortment of other violations), 4 warnings
  • E Burnside at SE 16th: 35 citations (35 Fail to Stop for Peds, 1 custody for a warrant), 3 warnings
2008
  • SW 4th at College: 40 citations (36 for Fail to Stop for ped, 2 Ped disobey signal, 1 Obstructing cross traffic, 1 No operator’s license)
  • SW 4th at College: 23 citations
  • SE 122nd at Main: 26 citations (18 for Fail to Stop for ped, 8 for other issues, 3 vehicle tows)
  • W Burnside at SW 20th Place: 33 Citations (33 for Fail to Stop for ped, 1 arrest for an outstanding warrant, 2 warnings
  • N Williams at NE Morris: 34 citations (31 for Fail to Stop for ped (29 vehicles, 2 bikes), 3 non-mover violations, 3 vehicle tows), 6 warnings
  • NW 16th at Johnson: 21 citations (20 for Fail to Stop for ped, 1 for Driving with a Suspended License), 3 warnings
  • NE Multnomah at NE 6th and NE 8th: 17 citations, 10 warnings
  • SE Division at SE 58th: 10 citations (10 for Failure to Stop for ped (this Crosswalk Enforcement Action was for 1 hour compared to 1.5 hours for typical Crosswalk Enforcement Actions)
  • NE Broadway at Ross: 20 citations (20 for Failure to Stop for ped (18 vehicles, 2 bikes) (involved 3 officers compared to 5-7 officers for a typical Crosswalk Enforcement Action)
  • E Burnside at SE 24th Ave.: 14 citations (all for Fail to Stop for ped (11 vehicles, 3 bikes)), 3 warnings
  • SE Division at SE 35th Place: 5 citations (2 for Fail to Stop for ped, 3 other (involved 2 officers compared to 5-7 officers for a typical Crosswalk Enforcement Action)), 10 warnings
2009
  • NW Glisan at NW 22nd Ave.: 13 citations (11 for Failure to Stop for ped, 2 others (1 for not wearing seat belt)), 2 warnings
  • SE Tacoma at SE 7th Ave.: 19 citations (all for Failure to Stop for ped)
  • NE 82nd at Pacific: 13 citations, 18 warnings
  • SE 82nd at Cooper: 23 citations, (1 rear-end crash at the site), 7 warnings
  • NE 82nd at Thompson: 21 citations (17 for Failure to Stop for ped., 4 others)
  • SE MLK at E Burnside: 10 citations (2 for Failure to Stop for ped, 2 for equipment violations, 6 for Failure to Stop for the light), 4 warnings (Failure to Stop for ped)
  • SE 17th at SE Center (outside TriMet depot): 5 citations
  • SE 17th at SE Marion: 2 citations, 17 warnings
2010
  • NE 33rd at Klickitat St.: 10 citations, 4 warnings
  • SE Foster at SE 80th Avenue: 9 citations, 3 warnings
  • In front of 9920 NE Cascades Parkway and 10005 Northeast Cascades Parkway: 6 citations, 2 warnings
  • N Kerby north of N Graham: 9 citations (3 for Fail to Stop for ped, 6 for speeding), 3
  • 7635 SW Barbur Blvd. (near SW 13th Ave.): 9 citations, 21 warnings
  • SE Foster at SE Cora: 10 citations (9 for Fail to Stop for ped, 1 for cell phone usage), 1 warning
  • SE Division at SE 68: 2 citations (1 for Fail to stop for Pedestrian, 1 for speeding) 10 warnings
  • SE 122nd at SE Stephens: 5 citations (2 for Fail to stop for Ped, 3 for other violations), 4 warnings (2 vehicle drivers, 2 pedestrians)
  • N Williams at NE Failing: 27 citations (most for Fail to Stop for ped, a few for Driving While Suspended and unlawful use of cell phone), 5 warnings

While the outcry about “scofflaw cyclists” continues to permeate the public dialogue, what these actions show is that, similar to cell phone use and speeding, violation of the crosswalk law is common among motor vehicle operators. Just imagine how traffic behavior (and our entire street culture) might change if we had more funding and stronger tools to make enforcement actions like this a much more common occurrence.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Alex Reed
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Alex Reed

Wow, given the constant violations of these laws, 904 citations over five years seems like a tiny, tiny number. We can do better.

Brewcaster
Guest

So, if we celebrate these “crackdowns” on drivers, I expect to not hear any whining about crackdowns on cyclists blowing red lights and signs.

Right guys? It goes both ways right?

Jackattak
Guest
Jackattak

Nice article, Jonathan thanks. I am a big advocate for pedestrian safety as I live Downtown and deal with the motorcade madness every day. I also ride a bike and am big on calling out scofflaw cyclists when I see them (I always keep it mature and non-abrasive).

I find it interesting that the worst of my travels at Park Ave & Market wasn’t mentioned. I witnessed two stings from the police with motorcycle and cycle cops this year after I contacted Mayor Adams that this was a problem intersection for peds. Suburbanites flying in from the HWY-26 parking lot on their morning commutes were simply not stopping for pedestrians in the early morning (6:30-7AM) rush.

Those two stings produced quite a few infractions, I’m almost certain, as I witnessed two myself.

Also to add, motorists stop for me in the crosswalks more often than cyclists. I cannot stress this enough: If you are on a bike on the city streets (and Downtown you have to be, legally as it is illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalks Downtown), YOU MUST STOP AT THE CROSSWALKS TOO.

Steph Routh, WPC
Guest

Thank you very much for this thoughtful article, Jonathan. Sharon White and the Traffic Division are pioneers in crosswalk enforcement actions, and watching Sharon in action crossing and recrossing the street for two straight hours is poetry in motion. You are a star for highlighting both the need for these actions and their valuable work.

WPC will be working in the next year on crosswalk safety education and enforcement actions in partnership with PBOT. We are thrilled and look forward to getting us all just a little closer to the golden apple of safer streets for everyone. During such a tragic week (and season), recognizing the importance of this work is crucial.

twistyaction
Guest
twistyaction

Has there ever been a sting for under-illuminated cyclists? I think we could use some action(s) to bring that responsibility up from it’s abysmal state of compliance. Without using stereotypes, there is a certain, large percentage of “lifestyle cyclists” that take the minimalist approach too far when equipping themselves to share the streets with all other users at night, especially in the reduced visibility of rainy weather. A car would get pulled over for driving with its lights off in a second (rightfully so) if a cop passed it, yet I see so many bikes riding around every night under-illuminated. Sorry to stray a little, but the stings for safety aspect brought this issue to mind.

CRM
Guest
CRM

I’d like to commend PBOT and Sharon White for continued improvements at one intersection in particular – N Killingsworth at N Concord (near the Lucky Lab if a landmark helps..). Over the last 5 years it’s gone from no crosswalk, then to a single one with ‘traffic island’, which helped. But drunk? or distracted drivers kept running over the island and taking out the sign. Recently they added a 2nd crosswalk lane (both W & E sides of the sidewalk feed into it). The addition of the 2ND LANE of striping, etc was a HUGE improvement. I’ve walked across that intersection 2x/day for 8 years, and with the “double crosswalk”, it REALLY slows down traffic & drivers almost always stop. I’m blown away by how much more effective this type of crosswalk layout works. Thank you PBOT!

Joseph Rose
Guest

Jonathan, you don’t mention that transportation officials and police see apathetic and uneducated motorists as half of the problem.

The other half: Apathetic and uneducated walkers. (My guess is that the average pedestrian caught jaywalking is more the former than the latter.)

For instance, as you note, the last 90-minute crosswalk mission of 2010 resulted in 27 citations issued to motorists, the highest number from any of the nine such enforcement actions last year. The two missions before that led to 5 citation and two citations.

Now, let’s look at the last time that Portland police conducted a 90-minute mission to crackdown on jaywalkers. It was in November along the Portland transit mall, a particularly dangerous area for pedestrians unwilling to cross at the corner or wait for a light.

Police gave out 23 warnings and 32 citations, primarily for entering traffic in the middle of the block and disobeying a traffic control device.

After the record number of pedestrian deaths in 2010, this is a problem that requires attention from everyone in traffic — walkers, bicycle riders and motorists.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

Brewcaster: I agree 100%. It actually made me really angry when Jonathan posted a “look out for the stop sign sting” article a few years ago (http://bikeportland.org/2007/04/11/enforcement-action-at-ladds-circle-3382) because he was essentially trying to circumvent the enforcement action. It’s been nearly 4 years since that article, maybe he’s come around on the value of enforcement actions in that time?

LDA
Guest
LDA

What exactly is the law regarding crosswalks. I mean, I know a car needs to stop at a marked crosswalk if people are waiting to cross but do they need to stay stopped until the pedestrian leaves the crosswalk? Even if the crosswalk spans 4 lanes? Does a car need to stop at every intersection if a person is waiting to cross the street regardless of whether there’s a crosswalk? What about stopping distance for the car behind you?
Also, is a crosswalk spanning 4 lanes of traffic really a good idea? I don’t know how many times I’ve seen someone trying to cross MLK at a crosswalk and 3 of the 4 lanes stop but the 4th lane doesn’t see the person. Wouldn’t a light be safer?

Brian
Guest
Brian

I’m tired of this supposed lack of funding and stronger tools to make enforcement actions. The fines should fund the action. The data above shows the revenue would be there. The real problem is that most people find the status quo acceptable.

VIE
Guest
VIE

Jonathan, you call these stings a “tool” to “make our streets safer.” But, based on a quick review of the above data, it looks to me like there is no relationship between giving out citations and motorists behaving more safely. The police just occasionally pick places to do stings, but nothing much seems to change.

Am I missing something? If not, it’s not much of a “tool,” is it?

mabsf
Guest
mabsf

I understand all the calls for enforcement of traffic laws for cyclists and pedestrians.
On my daily rides I see many under-lit bikes and pedestrians who cross neighborhood streets without looking in dark clothing.
BUT here is the big difference: As a cyclist I can go slower, swerve around the pedestrian, call out to them, stop easily… Even if in the worst case scenario I would hit somebody, it is unlikely that I would kill them!
If you operate powerful machinery, you need to accept the responsibility for it!

valkraider
Guest
valkraider

While the outcry about “scofflaw cyclists” continues to permeate the public dialogue, what these actions show is that, similar to cell phone use and speeding, violation of the crosswalk law is common among motor vehicle operators.

I recorded a video of drivers violating laws near my home – just for this purpose exactly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRRJzoxwo2Q

For every “scofflaw cyclist” there are 100 “scofflaw auto drivers”. Any time someone complains about cyclists, feel free to show them this video…

I plan on making one with more cars once lighting conditions get better during rush hour. Last night I caught 4 violators on video in less than 5 minutes!

BURR
Guest
BURR

Meanwhile, in other news, we’re still waiting for the first enforcement action that targets motorists who violate cyclists’ right of way….

VeloBusDriver
Guest

valkraider
Sort of. When Cyclists start killing people I will feel just as strongly about cracking down on their behavior.

It happens. Here is a tragic case from the Seattle area.
There are also somewhat regular incidents in the city of cyclists blowing through crosswalks and mowing down pedestrians. A child, legally crossing in a crosswalk, was seriously injured by some bozo sometime last year although I can’t find the article. The trick is to motivate authorities to do enforcement of the most dangerous infractions and not focus on easy items to write tickets for, like a helmet infraction.

Just wondering
Guest
Just wondering

These are called “cross walk enforcement actions”, in this article, does that mean you’ll start calling the actions in the Ladds neighborhood, “stop sign enforcement actions” in future articles?

Either all these actions are “stings” or they are all “enforcement actions”.

Which is it?

deborah
Guest
deborah

i can tell you that everywhere else I’ve lived (6 states) this is a HUGE infraction with a very large monetary penalty. What makes the difference is 1. enforcement and 2. stronger penalties. This police force is obviously hugely pro-car.

Until the Portland Police Bureau sees enforcement of crosswalk infractions as a high priority drivers will continue to be mowed down while crossing streets.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

did the Streetsfilm video intent to include a cyclists breaking the law in the first clip? guy in the green jacket is clearly exceeding the speed of the pedestrian… or is this ok because the cyclist moved into the street and is no longer a pedestrian but rather a vehicle making a left turn?

I’m curious about this one because I often turn out of the middle of a crosswalk to enter the roadway while crossing as a pedestrian… and other times I enter the crosswalk from the bike lane and convert myself instantly to a pedestrian… I don’t remember seeing laws related to this activity…

craig
Guest
craig

Jonathan, in paragraph 5, did you intend to write “locations that have marked or UNMARKED crosswalks…” ??

SE Cyclist
Guest
SE Cyclist

Crosswalk enforcement actions are a joke! The police even put up signs in advance warning of the enforcement ahead! And they enforce for 1 1/2 hours during mid-day on Wednesdays?! I can’t count how many times I’ve had cars zoom through the crosswalk when I’ve been in it.

Instead of writing citations, the police should make each motorist serve as the decoy crossing the street until they snag the next offender. That way the motorists would start getting a feel for what it’s like to be a pedestrian!

Kevin Wagoner
Guest

Interesting. I guess I am shocked at how little enforcement there is. I wonder if there is a way to treat that like a revenue stream, similar to taxing tobacco?

Doug Klotz
Guest
Doug Klotz

If the Enforcement Actions or Stings net this many violators just between Noon and 2 PM, think what they’d find if they actually did them at rush hours, when a much larger driving population is on the road. The actions would reach more of the population that is causing the problems. (Of all the working population of our area, how many are out driving between Noon and 2?) Another factor is darkness. Why aren’t there Enforcement Actions in the dark, say at 5:30 PM in December? Even drivers who stop for pedestrians at noon often don’t even see them at 5:30 PM. To really improve compliance rates, let’s see some Enforcement Actions at rush hour in the dark. (And yes, have the “decoys” dress as the majority of our population does, in dark clothes. The law still requires drivers to stop, so let’s enforce it)

I would bet that the reasons these things don’t take place at rush hour are 1. “They’d slow down traffic” and 2. “It’s shift change time for the police (5 PM)”. Whether the city is willing to work around these issues will be a good test of their Traffic Safety priorities.

El-Db
Guest
El-Db

I’d like to know where are the police when I’m riding home across Marine Dr at the 205 intersection? I’ve stood with my bike in the middle of the east bound lane with cars stopped waiting for me while the west bound lane FLY by. The yellow flashing lights don’t do squat. That and the 33rd St crossing are two of the most dangerous that no one seems to mention.

Steve B
Guest

For those of you who would like crosswalk actions in your own neighborhood, the only way to get it is to ask, and I encourage you to do so! 503-823-SAFE or safe@portlandoregon.gov should get you there.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“… It turns out I was confusing OR law with City of Beaverton Ordinance when I imagined that mid-block crossings were illegal. They are in violation of Beaverton city code if made within 150 ft. of a crosswalk. I don’t know whether Portland has a similar ordinance. …” El Biciclero January 10, 2011 at 2:12 pm

hey el biciclero …I didn’t know that about there being a specific ordinance in Beaverton, discouraging mid-block crossings 150 ft from a traffic control device. With Beaverton’s through-city thoroughfares, Canyon Rd and Beaverton-Hilldale/Farmington, the ordinance is probably a good idea. Occasionally, people do cross those thoroughfares mid-block during peak traffic hours, which is kind of flirting with death.

About the rest of your comment; Again, I think that sustaining an essential level of safety is only part of the reason traffic violations are enforced. Livability is another reason they’re enforced. Not thinking of a very good example right now, but how about vehicle noise violations? I’m fairly sure there’s laws on the books prohibiting excessively loud exhaust motor noise. Is this because loud pipes are unsafe (lots of motorcyclists argue just the opposite.) . Or are citations for loud pipes a livability issue? Because…a lot of vehicles driving around without quiet exhausts can have a devastating effect on people’s peace of mind. (by the way…cops generally seem to blithely ignore loud pipes on harleys …fortunately, they’re far and few enough between that it’s mostly possible for people to enjoy the mellow but loud pipes.

The fine for a pedestrian walking against a traffic control device is probably less than that for a motor vehicle running a stop sign or stop light…number 1). Because pedestrians, though they are road users, they aren’t vehicles that actually travel in main travel lanes with other vehicles. Pedestrians mostly only cross streets in a crosswalk, and at only 3-4 mph (but then of course, what about joggers that travel 10-12 mph?)

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

it seems that they cited pedestrians… I understand the “failure to obey a traffic control device” when crossing at a corner… but can somebody post the ORS for jaywalking in the middle of a block? I can’t seem to find the law…

craig
Guest
craig

There’s no ORS, but Portland City Code 16.70.210 oughta do it for you.

“No pedestrian may cross a street other than within
a crosswalk if within 150 feet of a crosswalk.”

http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?c=28596&a=16267

jim
Guest
jim

I stoped at a midblock crosswalk today just after I passed a bike, I just knew he wasn’t going to stop for the pedestrian trying to cross. It is a really safe bet that a bike will not stop for someone in a cross walk. True it’s pretty unlikely that you would kill them, but I would really hate to get ran into by a bike. Since I noticed that this is how bikes behave I pay more attn. to it, they just never stop

John
Guest

I commend the police for enforcing pedestrian safety at cross-walks (Marked and Unmarked).
“From 2005 to 2010 police officers gave out 904 citations during 51 enforcement actions focused specifically on failures to yield to a person in a crosswalk (an average of about 18 citations for each 1-1.5 hour enforcement action).”

This is great, if they did it under “Normal” circumstances. However, they do not.

I was a potential victim of the police’s “Enforcement Actions and I have seen many other drivers who were victims or Potential victims of these “Enforcement Actions”. “During the actions, a decoy is “strategically positioned” at locations that have marked or unmarked crosswalks “.

Let me explain, the term “strategically positioned”… During these actions, I watched many times as a “decoy” (undercover police officer) stood at the curb on the corner of an intersection and did not attempt to walk across the street while the intersection was free of traffic –making nearby drivers believe this pedestrian did not intend to walk across the street. Then as the car(s) approach the intersection, at the last moment, the “decoy” suddenly steps into the intersection right in front of the oncoming traffic.

I saw this happen many times in the downtown area where I live. The “decoy” stands there without any attempt to cross the street while the intersection is clear. Then, steps in front of your car or in front of other driver’s car right before the vehicle is about to go through the intersection. Since the decoy purposely enters the crosswalk at the last moment (in a reckless and unsafe manner, for the purpose of entrapment), the driver(s) have to slam on their brakes to avoid hitting the “decoy” or to avoid entering the crosswalk illegally. And if they fail to stop in time, the unwary driver gets an expensive ticket from the police waiting at the scene for their unsuspecting victims.

Are the police good at catching people who routinely ignore pedestrians in crosswalks? Or, are the police good at catching honest citizens who are not aware of the police’s ensnarement trap devices and the ruthless vagary they use to catch unwary, unsuspecting citizens?