September 13, 2010

Police Pledge Stricter Jaywalking Enforcement

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Though  jaywalking, crossing against the walk signal or stepping in front of cars has always been illegal, Cornell University Police are ramping up enforcement of pedestrian safety rules this year in the wake of widespread student violations.Last year, CUPD received numerous complaints about pedestrians ignoring walk signals and crossing streets when it endangered themselves and motorists, according to Mike Beeching, a CUPD dispatcher, who said that such “close calls” have become too frequent.In response, CUPD will use walking and biking patrols to spot jaywalkers and other violators.Major intersections near campus, such as College Avenue and Campus Road, are of special concern to CUPD, Beeching said. He added that they will step up enforcement between the hours of 3 p.m. and 11 p.m., when pedestrian traffic is heaviest.Beeching said that students caught breaking pedestrian rules are currently being warned that their actions are illegal, but later this year, offenders could be punished with a traffic ticket or referral to the judicial administrator.“We’ve already issued a decent amount of warnings,” Beeching said. “I’m certain that down the road, citations will be issued.”Breaking the law includes crossing when a traffic signal says “Don’t Walk” or stepping into a crosswalk in front of oncoming cars.Contrary to what many students may believe, Beeching emphasized that New York State law requires cars to stop only if a pedestrian is already in the crosswalk. Pedestrians waiting on the curb do not have the right of way, he said.“Pedestrians are not allowed to step into a crosswalk if it will endanger them or a driver,” he said.Pedestrian violators in Collegetown may be ticketed by Ithaca Police as well, said Sgt. Robert Brotherton of the Ithaca Police Department.“I think it’s a mentality in this country that pedestrians have the right of way,” he said.Many students who have already received warnings expressed surprise and skepticism about the stricter enforcement policy on campus.“I don’t think it really makes sense to enforce it when this is a college made up of so many walkers,” said Carolyn Entelisano, ’13, who was issued a warning by a walking police officer after crossing Thurston Avenue and Forest Home Drive intersection without waiting for the walk signal.Entelisano said that there were no cars in the street when she crossed and she was in a hurry, so she did not see the point of waiting for a signal. An officer gave her a pedestrian safety information sheet and a warning that in the future she could face more severe punishment.

Original Author: Eliza LaJoie