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Pedestrian message seems to be slow to sink in

by: lee van der voo, 
Lake Oswego Police Lt. Doug Treat writes a ticket during a traffic stop. Treat and seven other officers nabbed 31 drivers Monday in the city’s second pedestrian sting, meant to educate local motorists about pedestrian safety and road rules around crosswalks.

Sadly, it took another 31 tickets.

But an effort to stop drivers from racing through Lake Oswego's crosswalks is well on its way to educating the masses, with nearly six dozen pocketbooks feeling the pinch.

Lake Oswego Police staged their second pedestrian sting since February on Monday, placing an undercover officer at A Avenue and Fifth Street to the main drag downtown for about four hours.

Police gave a pass to drivers who were already within a 204-foot radius of the crosswalk when Community Service Officer Julia Warren stepped off the curb. But those who sped into the area and didn't stop for Warren after the yellow-clad officer signaled and began crossing paid the price.

The minimum fine for failing to stop for a pedestrian is $242. Steeper fines were levied for drivers who whizzed through the crosswalk while other lanes stood still. Monday's event brings the total number of people ticketed in pedestrian stings to 63 this year. Some may opt to take a class in lieu of paying the fine.

Lt. Doug Treat says the operation's aim was educational, not punitive.

'The goal is not to generate tickets. The goal is to keep pedestrians from getting whacked. And we're not doing a very good job lately,' Treat said.

Since November 2007, seven pedestrians have been hit by cars in city crosswalks. All of the cars involved were taking turns at the time:

n In November 2007, a pedestrian was struck by a car at Fourth Street and B Avenue

n December 2007, another pedestrian was injured at Fifth Street and A Avenue

n December 2007, another person was hurt at Kingsgate Road and Crestfield Court

n December 2007, a pedestrian was injured at State Street and Foothills Road in the third incident of that month

n January 2008, a pedestrian was struck at on South Shore Boulevard at McVey Avenue

n January 2008, another pedestrian was hit at the intersection of Kruse Way and Kruse Oaks Boulevard

n And March 2008, the most recent incident, injured a jogger at Spring Lane and Boones Ferry Road

Among the seven people hurt, Treat said at least two continue to struggle with injuries. Though there have been no fatalities, he said the effort to educate drivers reduces future risks to pedestrians.

Drivers certainly felt schooled.

Those ticketed complained they never saw Warren in the crosswalk. In February, the same exercise also yielded 32 tickets and a lot of flak from locals who felt police simply duped them.

While some motorists balked at tickets again Monday, others simply shrugged them off. Treat said many motorists seemed aware of the recent focus on pedestrian safety, owing in part to publicity about the police operations.

Despite advance notice about Monday's sting in the Review and the city's e-newsletter, drivers blew past Warren in numbers far greater than those actually penalized.

Treat said most drivers are well intended but distracted and unprepared for pedestrians.

'They're looking for the big object with wheels and they're not looking for the pedestrian. They can be looking right at them and it doesn't register, which is why all the drivers in all the crashes said, 'I never saw them.''

Lake Oswego Police plan another pedestrian operation for Jean Road near Schalit Way in June.