The streets of Fresno apparently are getting even more dangerous for pedestrians. The Police Department is trying to reverse that trend.
The Northwest Policing District last week announced the results of a one-day operation designed send a simple message to pedestrians: For your own safety, obey the law!
The operation began at 6 a.m. Jan. 17 and ended at 6 a.m. Jan. 18. All shifts participated.
The Northwest District news release said in part: “During the operation, Officers made contact with 47 traffic violators including pedestrians who were walking in the roadway causing vehicle traffic to slow or swerve and crossing the roadways against traffic signals. Some committing hazardous violations in motor vehicles and while riding bicycles wee also contacted by officers.”
Thirty-five violators were cited for committing hazardous violations. One of the pedestrians was found to have an outstanding felony warrant. He was arrested. Three misdemeanor warrant arrests were made. One suspect was arrested for drug possession.
“The Fresno Police Department is committed to lowering the amount of traffic related fatalities and will continue to educate and enforce pedestrian and vehicle laws throughout the year,” the news release said.
Why the big push? Because Fresno as a whole in 2017 had 51 traffic-related fatalities, 25 of them pedestrian-related. This compares to 30 traffic-related fatalities in 2015, 12 pedestrian-related. (The 2016 Police Department report says there were 33 traffic-related fatalities in that year; I couldn’t find anything in the report about pedestrian-related fatalities.)
A jump of 12 to 25 in pedestrian-related fatalities over a two-year period is cause for concern.
Police in the past have noted that many of the pedestrian fatalities involve walkers who were high on booze or drugs. I wish I knew how many of the 25 fatalities in 2017 fell into this category.
On one hand, it’s inevitable that a city the size of Fresno will pose a challenge to pedestrians. As the 2016 Police Department report states, Fresno covers more than 111 square miles. The city population is well over 500,000. There are 3,700 lane miles of roadway and 520 traffic signals. Four school districts serving in total tens of thousands of students are located at least in part within the city boundaries. Motorists are often in a hurry. So, too, are pedestrians.
A lot can go wrong. The police can’t be everywhere at all times.
Still, a 100% jump in pedestrian-related fatalities over a two-year span suggests a troubling change in Fresno’s motorist-pedestrian dynamic.
I close with two points.
First, Fresno motorists run a lot of red lights. I see it all the time on my walks. I also know from hard experience. I was driving my wife’s car near Fresno City College in June 2016 when a motorist ran a red light and T-boned me. My wife’s Camry was totaled. The other driver didn’t get a scratch.
Second, I was walking south on Cedar Avenue last week, headed toward Gettysburg. I was on the west side of Cedar. Up ahead, walking toward me, was a woman who appeared to be in her late 20s. She was holding the hand of a girl. The girl’s age might have been in the 10 to 12 range.
They might have been sisters or mother-daughter. I don’t know.
I do know that the woman dragged the girl into the inside lane of Cedar. The woman was laughing. The girl was screaming. There had been a lull in Cedar’s southbound traffic, but I could hear that the next cycle of cars was on its way. The woman (laughing) continued to drag the girl (screaming) toward the oncoming cars.
I stopped and stared. The woman saw me. She immediately dragged the girl to the sidewalk. We passed without comment. The cars zoomed by.
It can get crazy out there.