St. Paul police crack down on drivers failing to yield to pedestrians

31 people have been hit by vehicles on campus since 2008.

Confusion on who has the right of way caused St. Paul police to focus some of its attention last week on drivers who do not yield to pedestrians. Nearly 400 pedestrians and bicyclists were hit by a vehicle from 2007 to 2008 in St. Paul alone, according to the St. Paul Police Department . In Minneapolis, approximately 1,069 bicyclists and pedestrians were struck by a vehicle in 2007 and 2008, according to the Minneapolis Police Department . Since 2008 there have been 17 pedestrians and 14 bicyclists hit by a vehicle on the University of Minnesota campus according to the University of Minnesota Police Department . With these significant numbers of pedestrian accidents, St. Paul Police focused on dangerous areas for pedestrians last week, such as Snelling Avenue near Midway, where they gave drivers citations for failing to yield to a pedestrian. Sergeant Paul Schnell of the St. Paul Police Department said the crackdown was to make sure drivers became more aware of pedestrians, but also to make pedestrians more cautious. âÄúWeâÄôre just not out there trying to ticket motorists,âÄù Schnell said. âÄúWeâÄôre helping people learn and understand the importance of this law and that is being done by a combination of education and enforcement.âÄù The law, Schnell said, is at any intersection, pedestrians have the right of way âÄî that includes both marked and unmarked crosswalks. The Campus Walking Guide, prepared by the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Parking and Transportation Services, says pedestrians must yield to all vehicles on roads without a marked crosswalk. Schnell emphasized that pedestrians need to give drivers enough time to stop, and that they cannot just start walking in front of oncoming traffic. Forty percent of undergraduate students walk to campus, according to PTS. Schnell said jaywalking can be a problem and can cause confusion for drivers. Jaywalking fines can be up to $112. Unlike pedestrians, Schnell said bicyclists do not always have the right of way. Bicyclists are not allowed to ride on campus sidewalks unless there is a designated bike lane , according to PTS. They are also supposed to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. Jacqueline Brudlos , PTS spokeswoman, said bicyclists and drivers need to be aware of pedestrians. âÄúWe encourage everyone to get along, to follow the rules, be courteous of others and be aware of your surroundings,âÄù she said. A study by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Center for Transportation Studies at the University showed that in a five-year period, Hennepin County had about twice as many pedestrian and bicycle crashes than Minnesota as a whole. The study said most crashes occur on a weekday on roads that have a speed limit of 30 miles per hour. At the Center for Transportation StudiesâÄô Transportation Research Conference held May 19-20 this year, researchers presented facts about pedestrian safety, among other topics. One presentation, Pedestrian Injuries in Minnesota 2000-2008 , found that the rate of pedestrian injuries, as well as the severity of injuries, in Minnesota has gone down. Nationally, a pedestrian is killed every two hours and is injured every eight minutes, according to the presentation. Howard Preston , an adjunct professor at the civil engineering school, also presented facts about pedestrian crashes and crosswalks at the conference. PrestonâÄôs presentation argued that marked crosswalks at un-signaled intersections are not safe and have the highest frequency of pedestrian crashes . The presentation suggested pedestrians have a low level of understanding laws . Schnell said the law of yielding to pedestrians has only been around for about six years. âÄúIf you go to the West Coast, where pedestrians had the right of way for a much longer period of time, itâÄôs more ingrained into their culture for drivers,âÄù Schnell said. âÄúBut here it doesnâÄôt happen as much because here people have not been as used to it.âÄù