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Berkeley PD Wants Pedestrians to Stay off the Phone, Wear Bright Clothing

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

So far this year, one pedestrian has been killed and 88 injured in crashes in the city of Berkeley, according to a post earlier this week from the Berkeley police. "September is Pedestrian Safety Month," writes the department in the post. "The Berkeley Police Department is working with law enforcement agencies across the state to promote safe behaviors that allow drivers and those on foot to get where they need to go safely."

Here's some of what they advise for pedestrians [Streetsblog added emphasis to a few of the items]:

    • Look left-right-left before crossing the street. Watch for cars turning and obey traffic signals.
    • Only cross the street in marked crosswalks, preferably crosswalks at stop signs or signals.
    • Avoid distractions. Stay off the phone while walking.
    • Make eye contact with drivers. Don’t assume drivers can see you.
    • Be seen. Wear bright clothing during the day and use a flashlight at night.
    • Always walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, walk on the shoulder, facing traffic and as far away from cars as possible.
    • Do not walk near traffic after drinking or using drugs that affect judgment and coordination.

"These violations include speeding, driving or walking distracted and/or impaired, failing to stop for signs and signals, and not yielding to drivers/pedestrians who have the right of way," continues the post.

Since when is it illegal to walk distracted?

There's a reason motorists are required, by law, to pay attention and have things such as working headlights and blinkers (oddly enough, it's okay to paint your car black, but now pedestrians have to wear bright clothing?). Speeding, distracted, scofflaw motorists frequently kill people. Pedestrians don't.

A hacked road sign tells the truth about what's killing people on Berkeley's street. Photo:
A hacked road sign tells the truth about what's killing people on Berkeley's streets. Photo: Robert Sanders

This is part of a trend that's been going on for decades but has been renewed recently, to blame "Jay Walkers" (or "distracted walking" as it's now called) for causing their own injuries and deaths at the hands of unsafe motorists.

As our sister site, Streetsblog NYC, points out, distracted walking is bullsh*t. “Cell phone use by pedestrians does not appear to be disproportionately contributing to fatal pedestrian crashes,” the NYC story quotes from a report. “In short, despite growing concerns, DOT found little concrete evidence that device-induced distracted walking contributes significantly to pedestrian fatalities and injuries.”

So what does BPD have to say about all this? "The notice was released as a condition of a grant we received from the Office of Traffic Safety," wrote Officer Byron White, public information officer, in an email to Streetsblog. "Other agencies that received the same grant sent the same release."

Fair enough, and Streetsblog has taken the OTS to task before for blaming victims of traffic violence. But word has it that BPD is also cracking down on scofflaw cyclists, diverting important enforcement time from stopping the real killer: distracted and unsafe motoring.

"In recent weeks, Walk Bike Berkeley and Bike East Bay members have reported that Berkeley police have ticketed people on bicycles for safely rolling through stop signs along key bikeways (for instance, Milvia St. and the Ohlone Greenway). We object to using Office of Traffic Safety grants, or other police resources, to fund this kind of enforcement activity," writes Ben Gerhardstein of Walk Bike Berkeley, in a draft of a letter to Berkeley's mayor and city councilmembers.

More on that in an upcoming post in Streetsblog California.

Meanwhile, regardless of where the language originated, advocates are fed up with the victim blaming and BPD's misguided priorities:

"I am walking in a crosswalk, on my phone typing this response," wrote Bike East Bay's Dave Campbell, about the BPD. "... kudos to the American traffic engineering profession for successfully brainwashing departments of public safety into believing that moving more cars is about safety."

Oh, and BPD--maybe you should get rid of those dark uniforms. They're hard to see. And that's not safe.

New BPD recruits, in their dangerously dark uniforms. Photo: City of Berkeley
New BPD recruits, in their dangerously dark uniforms. Photo: City of Berkeley

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