Editorial: Street-crossing citations also cross common sense

By Staff Editorial

‘ ‘ ‘ If you’re crossing the street in Pennsylvania, looking both ways might not be enough… ‘ ‘ ‘ If you’re crossing the street in Pennsylvania, looking both ways might not be enough anymore, especially for Pitt students in Oakland. ‘ ‘ ‘ As a part of the Drive Safe PA program, police officers issued a total of 33 citations and 14 warnings to pedestrians and drivers yesterday for either failing to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk or for failure to cross properly. The operation lasted between the hours of 10 a.m. and noon yesterday, and while no future programs are planned, David Pritt, the safety press officer for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s District 11, said that similar operations will take place Downtown and in the South Side, as well as Oakland. ‘ ‘ ‘ This is rough for Pitt students especially. Oakland is an area dominated by pedestrian traffic, and certain patterns have evolved out of a need to get to and from academic buildings quickly. And while it may not be strictly legal for students to cross Forbes Avenue en masse outside David Lawrence Hall, it is far more efficient than going down to the Bigelow Boulevard crosswalk or across the bridge to the Towers. ‘ ‘ ‘ In a few cases the University and the city have recognized this and put extra crosswalks in, such as the one across Bigelow Boulevard from the William Pitt Union to the Cathedral. But these aren’t the only high-traffic areas in Oakland, and jaywalking has become something of a cultural standard around Pitt’s campus. ‘ ‘ ‘ That’s not to say that the police shouldn’t be enforcing the law. Like it or not, failing to cross in a crosswalk or crossing against a signal are illegal activities, not to mention dangerous ones. There have been several past incidents of pedestrians hit by cars or buses when crossing the street in Oakland. Enforcing public safety is part of the police department’s job, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’d crack down on jaywalkers. ‘ ‘ ‘ But somehow it still is surprising, probably because enforcement of jaywalking laws up to this point has been almost nonexistent. Pedestrians freely cross outside of crosswalks or against signals directly in front of police officers, and neither give it so much as a second thought. ‘ ‘ ‘ Again, this goes right back to jaywalking being part of the ingrained culture of Pitt’s campus. Students are so used to doing it that they don’t even think of it as a failure to cross the street properly, and the police are so used to seeing it that they don’t even bother to cite anyone. Until yesterday, at least. ‘ ‘ ‘ This isn’t to say that police shouldn’t enforce jaywalking laws in Oakland. But it does point to the idea that a single two-hour spree of citations isn’t the right way to enforce the laws in a place like Oakland. ‘ ‘ ‘ Campaigns like that might work in areas with a lower incidence of citation-worthy activity, but the sheer prevalence of it in Oakland assures that no two hours will ever be enough. ‘ ‘ ‘ Instead of sudden, unannounced crackdowns, the police and the University should be working on educating people where and when to cross, as well as studying how pedestrian and car traffic work together and how they can be made to endanger each other less. ‘ ‘ ‘ This could mean adding more crosswalks or signs that tell people not to cross at a certain place. Enforcing these laws is certainly a good thing, but the least they could do would be to enforce them in a way that makes people try to change their behavior, instead of just making them mad at the law.