Petaluma Police Officer Rob Hawkins on Friday watches for traffic violators along Petaluma Boulevard in downtown. Click to enlarge. Road Warrior photo











The results are in from Friday’s bicycle/pedestrian safety enforcement by Petaluma police.

The seven traffic officers who worked from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. made 115 traffic stops, with 83 ending in warnings and 32 in tickets.

Police Sgt. Ken Savano said that among the bicycle violations were riding without a helmet, riding on the wrong side of the road and running stop signs. For pedestrians, they included jay walking, pedestrians impeding traffic and not obeying a pedestrian crossing signal.

Drivers also got stopped, including for not yielding to pedestrians in a crosswalk, running red lights, cellphone use, texting, not wearing a seatbelt, unsafe speed, unsafe backing and open containers of alcohol. Three drivers were ticketed for driving on a suspended license, one for driving without a license and two arrested on warrants.

The crackdown, funded through a grant from the state Office of Traffic Safety, was the city’s first pedestrian/bicycle safety enforcement of the year. Savano said officers were emphasizing warnings and education on Friday but future operations may yield mostly tickets.

In a brief ride-along Friday morning with Officer Bert Walker, a 14-year veteran of the Petaluma police, it was clear that bicyclists and pedestrians easily can find themselves in dangerous situations.

Along Sonoma Mountain Parkway, he pointed out problems of bicyclists coming off of bike paths and riding into traffic lanes and pedestrians cutting across the four-lane road in mid-block with bushes in the median blocking their views of oncoming cars and vice versa.

Within five minutes and within two blocks in downtown Petaluma, Walker stopped two men who separately jaywalked, dodging cars as they did. He let them off with warnings, but both men acknowledged that they knew they had done wrong.

“I should’ve walked up to the crosswalk,” one humbly told Walker after cutting across Washington Street next to Bank of America.

Both said they jaywalked to save time.

That didn’t surprise Walker.

“Nine out of 10 times it’s impatience, not that they didn’t know,” he said.

Jay walking is legal, he said, if it’s between two intersections where at least one of those intersections doesn’t have a traffic light. But it’s safer to use the nearest crosswalk.

Petaluma Police Officer Bert Walker with his patrol vehicle, a Chevrolet Silverado pickup. In addition to traffic duties, Walker handles commercial truck inspections and violations for the city. Click to enlarge. Road Warrior photo











For drivers, Walker suggested watching for pedestrians and bicyclists who might be on the move when the light turns green and you turn right. And if you see a car stopped at a crosswalk, assume that there’s a pedestrian crossing and stop too.

For pedestrians, he said you’ve got to pay attention.Don’t assume drivers see you. Don’t text and cross a street at the same time. Heads up.

In 2009, the year for which the latest data is available, OTS’s ranking of cities by bicycle collisions put Petaluma at No. 8 out of 104 other cities with similar populations and total daily miles traveled by bicyclists. For cyclists younger than 15, Petaluma ranked as the second worst city based on daily miles traveled and third worst by population.

Petaluma police stats show that bicyclists overwhelmingly are to blame for most bicycle-car collisions while drivers are overwhelmingly responsible for pedestrian-car accidents.

To see charts on those bicycle and pedestrian stats, CLICK HERE.


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