In many communities, enforcement is often neglected as a technique for making communities safer for walking. In others, enforcement can be heavy-handed and poorly planned, which serves to further alienate underserved and over-enforced populations. Communities that have created comfortable walking environments through engineering improvements or urban design features may still have safety concerns if traffic laws are not properly understood or adequately enforced. Enforcement works best when implemented in conjunction with education and awareness activities, with an approach that acknowledges and prioritizes equity. Well-implemented enforcement campaigns include public education campaigns, law enforcement officer training, and strategic law enforcement and ticketing strategies. A successful enforcement program will usually require the involvement of community members, law enforcement officials, city council members, and the media.
Traffic Safety Unit
Demands on a police department and the level of support departments can offer vary from community to community. By designating traffic safety officers, communities can prioritize traffic safety enforcement.
- In Santa Monica, CA, the Neighborhood Resource Officer (NRO) program has been the face of the police department and has exemplified community-oriented policing since 2008. The NROs have been given long-term assignments in specific neighborhoods, allowing them to tackle chronic problems. The officers’ role is not just about solving crime; it is about improving community livability.
- The Gainesville, FL, Police Department has two full time bicycle officers that patrol downtown. During the evening, hospitality areas are complimented with up to 10 officers on foot and at least two on horses. The agency currently has 30 officers bike patrol certified. There is also a full time traffic unit dedicated to making the streets safer, comprised of eight officers on motorcycles.
- Long Beach, CA’s Police Department is dedicated to pedestrian safety enforcement —100 percent of officers are trained in pedestrian laws and safety. The Department’s traffic safety division has police patrolling on foot and bike, with 30 officers bike patrol certified. Patrol officers attend monthly neighborhood meetings and give reports of safety conditions and concerns in that particular neighborhood.
Targeted Enforcement Operations
Enforcement may be the most important tool for reinforcing laws related to walking, such as yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks. Communities that have created comfortable walking environments through engineering improvements or urban design features may still have safety concerns if traffic laws are not properly understood or adequately enforced.
- NHTSA’s Countermeasures That Work
- PBIC FAQ: How to Improve Yield-to-Pedestrian Compliance
- Pedestrian Safety Enforcement Operations: A How-to Guide
- Law Enforcement Approaches
- The Montclair, NJ, Police Department’s well-staffed Traffic Bureau conducts four to six pedestrian decoy operations per year. Their operations are often covered by the media, which helps raise awareness and multiplies the impact of the operations. Many of these operations are treated as a warning campaign for motorists, but the township also does a good job of issuing and tracking citations for “failure to yield,” or parking on sidewalks or too close to crosswalks.
Adult school crossing guards play an important role in the lives of children who walk or bicycle to school. They help children safely cross the street at key locations. They also remind drivers of the presence of pedestrians. The presence of adult crossing guards can lead to more parents feeling comfortable about their children walking or bicycling to school.
- The Child Safety Program in Austin, TX, was responsible for hiring and supervising more than 175 crossing guards at 154 locations near, or in front of 67 schools.
- The Columbia, SC, Police Department hires adult school crossing guards to staff locations that have been assigned by city council at school crossing locations. These locations are selected by conducting a survey of the area to determine the need for a crossing guard. The crossing guards are trained by police officers on how to safely manage the school crossing. The crossing guard unit is responsible for providing vehicular and pedestrian traffic control at and near schools to promote safe crossings for students to and from school.
- The Saratoga Springs, NY, Police Department employs 17 crossing guards who cover the public and private schools throughout the city. Crossing guards are issued reflective clothing (coats & vests) along with hand-held stop signs. Crossing guard posts are directly at the schools and additional posts within a one block radius of the schools. Many of the guards continue their employment as (civilian) Traffic Control Officers during the summer months, assigned to the Saratoga Race Course. These employees receive training during an annual orientation.
Collaboration with Other Departments
Addressing pedestrian safety is an interdisciplinary undertaking that will require communication among agencies. Strategies intended to address pedestrian safety concerns, can take several forms: operational and construction projects intended to fix specific problems; changes in design guidelines to help improve streets and intersections in future projects; and education and enforcement programs aimed at achieving changes in motorist and pedestrian behavior or attitude. Communities can offer the most comprehensive approaches to improving pedestrian safety when law enforcement partners with engineers, transit agencies, planners, school staff, and others.
- In Lee’s Summit, MO, the police department and city traffic engineers coordinate on strategic safety plans, development review, temporary traffic control conditions, special event evaluations, and customer service issues. They also lead the Crash Analysis Program, which provides a detailed review for high-crash locations on a three-year cycle.
- In Springfield, MO, police officers attend the “Traffic Advisory Board” a citizen Committee that meets with Public Works staff to discuss all matters of traffic. The police officers will also give enforcement updates and bring issues to the attention of the group. Police representatives and traffic engineering staff meet quarterly to discuss current crash numbers and monthly safety messages. Each year, traffic engineering compiles the “Annual Crash Book” and shares the report with the public and sends the top 20 high crash locations to the police. This report forms the basis of an annual in-depth crash remediation analysis.
- Sisters, OR, ensures multidisciplinary collaboration by including the Sheriff in the discussion of construction projects and analysis of traffic data. The Sheriff’s department also works with the city to conduct targeted pedestrian crossing operations, DUI checkpoints, and targeted speed enforcement at the city’s gateways.