The Oakland Police Department issued a press release on Wednesday announcing a pedestrian safety enforcement operation on Monday, February 1st. The press release notes increasing rates of pedestrian collisions (876 total in Oakland over the past three years) and highlights key planned enforcement activities to promote pedestrian safety:
“Special attention will be directed toward drivers speeding, making illegal turns, failing to stop for signs and signals, failing to yield to pedestrians in cross walks or any other dangerous violation.
Additionally, enforcement will be taken for observed violations when pedestrians cross the street illegally or fail to yield to drivers who have the right of way. Pedestrians should cross the street only in marked crosswalks or intersections.”
Contrary to popular belief, the California Vehicle Code does not specifically prohibit crossing a street outside of a crosswalk or between intersections:
• CVC 21954 requires pedestrians who cross the street outside of a crosswalk to yield to vehicles that present an immediate danger, but does not stop pedestrians from crossing the street provided they use caution.
• CVC 21955 prohibits pedestrians from crossing outside of a crosswalk between two intersections controlled by traffic signals or police officers, but this section only applies between “adjacent” intersections that are not separated by unsignalized intersections.
However, CVC 21961 permits local jurisdictions to enact ordinances prohibiting pedestrian from crossing streets at locations other than crosswalks.
Jaywalking ordinances are rooted in car-first planning and are counterproductive to goals encouraging walking. They criminalize walking to visit your neighbor without enhancing pedestrian safety, and are often enforced inequitably. Instead of spending precious resources targeting jaywalkers at locations not required by the CVC, OPD should prioritize other more dangerous driver and pedestrian behaviors.
OPD’s press release also provides safety tips to drivers and pedestrians. Unfortunately, OPD’s pedestrian tips exhibit a windshield perspective, including some clichéd fashion tips for pedestrians:
“Wear bright clothing during the day and reflective materials (or use a flashlight) at night”
OPD’s fashion advice, is essentially a form of victim-blaming, rationalizing that pedestrians who do not wear bright and reflective clothing or use a flashlight are partially at-fault for getting hit by a car. It’s absolutely ridiculous to recommend special apparel for normal human behavior – walking on Oakland’s streets should not be a contact sport.
Hopefully OPD’s enforcement operation will be the beginning of a much-needed move toward Vision Zero in Oakland. With more than one pedestrian or bicycle collision every day, Oakland desperately needs targeted action to improve street safety.