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Did you know drivers need to stop for pedestrians at every corner?

Posted on 08 November 2016 by Calvin

Stop for Me working to educate drivers and pedestrians to prevent crashes and fatalities in St. Paul, state

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Someone walking or biking is hit by a car every other day in St. Paul.

Someone is killed every other month.

This is despite a state law that says vehicles must stop for anyone at a crosswalk or intersection.
And, all of these crashes were preventable, according to St. Paul Police Department Sgt. Jeremy Ellison, who is the Toward Zero Death Grant Coordinator.

“This is an extremely important topic,” Ellison stated. “We need everyone to do their part in reducing the number of crashes. Drivers need to slow down and look for pedestrians at every intersection, whether it’s a marked or unmarked crosswalk. Pedestrians need to walk safely and never get in front of a moving vehicle.”

Stop for me. Every corner. Every time.
To improve safety for people who use St. Paul’s sidewalks and cross the streets, community members created the Stop For Me campaign.

a-driver-stops-while-a-district-10-volunteer-crosses-lexington2Photo right: Stop For Me educates drivers about Minnesota’s pedestrian safety laws and enforces the laws in partnership with local law enforcement. To get involved email jeremy.ellison@ci.stpaul.mn.us or call 651-266-5457. (Photo courtesy of District 10 Community Council)

It is organized by St. Paul’s 17 district councils, St. Paul Smart Trips and the St. Paul Police.

Stop for Me is working to:
• Bring attention to how often pedestrians take their life into their hands when they cross a street or parking lot.
• Raise awareness that state law requires drivers and cyclists to stop for pedestrians at every intersection, whether or not there is a painted crosswalk or stoplight.
• Educate everyone who uses the streets that they need to share the road, show more respect and patience, and recognize that the moment we step out the door, we are all pedestrians, according to Ellison.

He added, “We need to do something about the number of people who are being struck by vehicles. Too many of our friends, neighbors, and family, are needlessly being hurt, injured or killed by vehicles.”

highland-ped-event-headerPhoto left: Volunteers, St. Paul Police and St. Paul Smart Trips, are working to bring attention to how often pedestrians take their life into their hands when they cross a street or parking lot. They aim to raise awareness that state law requires drivers and cyclists to stop for pedestrians at every intersection, whether or not there is a painted crosswalk or stoplight. An event calendar is posted at www.stopforme.org. (Photo submitted)

“This campaign is important and making an impact because it brings together community volunteers, city staff, and the St. Paul Police Department to work towards a common goal: making St. Paul safer for pedestrians,” said Samantha Henningson, Legislative Aide to City Council President Russ Stark of Ward 4. “Having a city that’s safe (and pleasant!) for pedestrians increases our economic competitive advantage with other cities, improves public health, and puts more eyes on the street which is good for public safety.”

Stop For Me educates drivers about Minnesota’s pedestrian safety laws and enforces the laws in partnership with local law enforcement.

During set events, volunteers don high-visibility clothing to cross the street at designated intersections recognized as troublesome or otherwise unsafe for pedestrians. Law enforcement officers are present to issue citations to drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.

A dozen District 10 residents, including Council Member Amy Brendmoen, put their foot down for pedestrian safety in May as the Como Community Council held its first Stop for Me pedestrian safety event.

Residents gathered at the intersection of Lexington Pkwy. and E. Como Lake Dr., where park paths cross north of the Pavilion. This corner is the second-most-dangerous intersection for pedestrians in the neighborhood, according to a survey of community residents. During the event, volunteers repeatedly crossed the street to emphasize that state law requires drivers to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk—marked or unmarked—every corner, every turn, every time.

Other local events included Pierce Butler Rte. and Hamline in Nov. 2015; Snelling and Englewood in June; and Como/Front/Dale and Jessamine/Dale in Sept. During National Walk to School Day on Oct. 5, multiple events were held in the Como/Midway area, and there was another push at Hamline and University on Oct. 19.

some-of-the-volunteers-debrief-at-the-end-of-the-eventPhoto right: Volunteers debrief at the end of the May 19, 2016, pedestrian safety event at the intersection of Lexington Pkwy. and E. Como Lake Dr. This corner is the second-most-dangerous intersection for pedestrians in the neighborhood, according to a survey of community residents. During the event, volunteers repeatedly crossed the street to emphasize that state law requires drivers to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk—marked or unmarked—every corner, every turn, every time. (Photo courtesy of District 10 Community Council)

These events were in addition to other enforcement activities when officers ticketed offenders, but volunteers were not involved.

The city’s goal for 2016 was to do a total of 34 pedestrian safety events, two in each of the city’s 17 district councils. There were actually a total of 60 events between Oct. 1, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2016.
“SPPD and the city of St. Paul are committed to pedestrian and bike safety,” observed Ellison.
Get involved

The goal for 2017 is to continue to increase the number of events and impact on driving behavior in St. Paul. “We are also working closely with public works to provide feedback and make engineering changes when appropriate,” said Ellison. “Anyone interested in participating in the events should go through their district council representatives or if they prefer can contact me directly.” He can be reached at jeremy.ellison@ci.stpaul.mn.us or 651-266-5457.

An event calendar is posted at www.stopforme.org.

Why aren’t drivers stopping?
In the city of St. Paul, it is because they weren’t paying attention.

When asked, “Why didn’t you stop for the pedestrian?” the most common response during enforcement events is that they did not see the pedestrian.

“We interpret this to mean that they were not paying attention, whether they are distracted by a phone or perhaps daydreaming,” said Ellison. “We also know that drivers who drive slower (say 25 miles per hour) and actively look for pedestrians, do see them and do stop for them.”

A few drivers have said they were not aware of the law requiring them to stop at all marked and unmarked crosswalks.

“While the state crosswalk law is pretty old at this point, there hasn’t been enough education or enforcement historically,” observed Henningson. “We are starting to change this in St Paul, but drivers aren’t educated about the law, and they are not paying attention to pedestrians.”

The problem is everywhere, pointed out Ellison. “There is not a specific location in the city (or metro area for that matter) that this is not an issue,” he said.

One of the campaign struggles has centered on how to reach the broader community. “If you look at the crash data, you can see that only 38% of the drivers who hit pedestrians/bikers are from St. Paul. The majority live in another part of the metro area,” observed Ellison.

Stop for Me is working with partners at the county and state level to try to educate more broadly and call attention to the issue. “Our goal is to increase compliance with the Minnesota Crosswalk Law statewide,” said Ellison.

“We know that if we can change driving behavior, we will save lives. The police department alone can’t solve this problem. We know that by working closely with our partners in engineering, education, and the community, we will have the most impact.”

Are pedestrians always acting safely?
While the majority of pedestrians involved in crashes are acting appropriately, there are instances when they are illegally crossing, whether that be mid-block or against the light, according to Ellison.
Part of the Stop for Me campaign includes helping pedestrians be safe.

“We always tell them the number one rule is never to step in front of a moving car,” said Ellison. “We teach them how to put their foot into the crosswalk, so they satisfy the legal requirement of crossing in the crosswalk, while still being able and ready to step back if needed for safety.”

“The one thing that many of the citizen volunteers we train say,” noted Ellison, “is that they were not aware of how much distance they needed to give vehicles to safely slow down and stop. On a 30 mph road, vehicles are given 193 feet to see the pedestrian crossing, slow down and stop.”

In addition to the Stop for Me campaign, the city, and St. Paul Schools applied for and received a grant from Minnesota Department of Transportation to do rapid planning workshops for Safe Routes to Schools at three schools: Chelsea Heights, Upper Farnsworth, and Bruce Vento.

“From a city perspective, pedestrian and bike safety are priority issues but we have hundreds of miles of streets and thousands of intersections,” said Henningson. “It makes sense to start with schools because if you make an area safer for students, it will be safer for everyone else, too.”

Walking is healthy but leaves people vulnerable
“We often hear from people who are intentionally seeking out more walkable neighborhoods and from others who are concerned with a lack of pedestrian safety where they live and work. It’s not surprising,” stated Jessica Treat of Transit for Livable Communities, 2356 University Ave. W.

“Walking is an affordable, healthy, and sustainable way to get around—but it also means you’re vulnerable.”

“Pedestrian fatalities are up in Minnesota this year,” Treat added, “and fall is typically a particularly dangerous time. In our communities and as a region, we can and should do more to ensure people of all ages and abilities can stay safe while they are out and about on foot. How our streets are designed, how our traffic laws are enforced, and to what extent we’re investing in safe and accessible infrastructure all have major roles to play in making that happen.”

SAFETY TIPS
DRIVERS
• Stop for crossing pedestrians at every intersection, even those without crosswalks or stoplights
• Before making a turn, look in all directions for pedestrians
• Leave lots of room between you and the pedestrian when stopping
• Scan the road and sides of the road ahead for pedestrians
• Look carefully behind your vehicle before backing up, especially for small children
• Watch for people in wheelchairs and motorized carts, who may be below eye level
• Put away the cell phones, food and make-up
• Stop for pedestrians, even when they are in the wrong or crossing mid-block
• Never pass or drive around a vehicle that is stopped for pedestrians
• Obey speed limits and come to a complete stop at STOP signs

PEDESTRIANS
• Make eye contact with drivers and ensure they see you and will stop
• Clearly show your intentions to cross
• Watch for turning and passing vehicles
• Look across ALL lanes for moving vehicles before proceeding
• Stand clear of buses, hedges, parked cars or other obstacles before crossing
• Cross in a well-lit area at night
• Wear bright-colored clothing and reflective material
• Mount a safety flag on a wheelchair, motorized cart or stroller
• Cross streets at marked crosswalks or intersections; don’t cross-mid block
• Remove headphones and stay off cell phones while crossing
• Obey all traffic signals
• Don’t rely solely on traffic signals; look for vehicles before crossing
• Always walk on the sidewalk; if there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic
• If intoxicated, don’t walk without assistance, a cab ride home may be a safer option

WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?
MN State
Statue 169.21 PEDESTRIAN.
§Subd. 1. Obey traffic-control signals. Pedestrians shall be subject to traffic-control signals at intersections as heretofore declared in this chapter, but at all other places pedestrians shall be accorded the privileges and shall be subject to the restrictions stated in this section and section 169.22.
§Subd. 2. Rights in the absence of signal.
(a) Where traffic-control signals are not in place or operation, the driver of a vehicle shall stop to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk. The driver must remain stopped until the pedestrian has passed the lane in which the vehicle is stopped. No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield. This provision shall not apply under the conditions as otherwise provided in this subdivision.
(b) When any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.

 






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