Instant Justice on the Streets of Sacramento

Here’s another installment in what could ideally become a series on how police departments are doing right by pedestrians and cyclists. We posted the Chicago bike video a couple of weeks back. We now present the Sacramento crosswalk sting. (Warning: Insufferable Geico commercial may precede video.)

Back in April, TV station KCRA filmed a plainclothes Sacramento officer busting motorists who couldn’t be bothered to yield the right of way. Notice how, though they cite the potential amount of the fine, neither the anchor nor the reporter ever intimate that the operation is a money-making scheme? Instead of sticking a mic in a driver’s face for a quick-and-dirty accusation of extortion — a near-must in most any mainstream media story about traffic enforcement — the reporter is completely sympathetic to the pedestrians in harm’s way, and rightly credits the officer for putting his life on the line.

Ben wrote earlier this year how similar measures could be effective here in New York. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all point to a law-breaking vehicle and have NYPD swoop in?

  • Clutch J

    Sacramento is no Portland, but we’re making progress. As indicated by the video (and our leadership on Complete Streets policies) we’re making progress institutionalizing walking and bicycling. Sacramento is the state capital, and people take government work seriously here. Walking and bicycling have achieved greater acceptance as areas that merit attention by transportation and law enforcement agencies.

    Bicycling is blessed here by the gentle topography and climate; one survey a few years back placed us second in the country (after Minneapoli0-St. Paul) in bicycling mode share. The 30+ mile trail along the American River is a jewel.

    Walking in the older neighborhoods with tree-lined sidewalks with Victorian or Craftsman homes can be delightful. Overall, the core of the city and the pre-WWII neighborhoods that surround it are quite attractive.

    Much of the metropolitan area consists of nondescript, post-WWII throwaway development. Big streets, inadequate connectivity, ugly buildings…but great ethnic food! Our regional transit systems struggle to serve the sprawl.

    Our regional transportation planning agency has rightfully earned accolades in recent years for integrating land use and transportation planning, and our success is serving as a blueprint for provisions in various versions of federal climate change and transportation legislation or advocacy platforms.

    Recent successes include numerous road diets and accelerated bike-ped project funding at the regional level.

    Key challenges ahead include adding bike lanes in the central business district and improving access over the two rivers that run through Sacramento.

    Y’all come visit soon!

  • Glenn

    I was thinking after I saw this that you would almost need to have a separate unit in the NYPD do something like this, ’cause most police officers would probably tell the pedestrian in question that he should watch where he’s walking.

    I’m thinking of the scene in the Untouchables where Sean Connery has to go down to the new recruits in the Police Academy to find someone uncorrupted to fight the mob. Each class of new academy graduates should have a certain portion that never sit behind a windshield or desk and just always walk, bike or take mass transit.

  • Fafacious

    Just today I was hoping NYC would implement something like this. I walk about half a mile to my gym in Queens and pass many stop signs on the way. I can honestly say not once I have I made it to the gym without seeing more than one car not stop. I’m so jealous of Sacramento. NYPD are you watching? Who can I forward this to?

  • ddartley

    I often stick up for jaywalking, but you know what? If NYC cops did ANYTHING even CLOSE to this, I’d probably be a lot more willing to follow the law when I’m walking, in exchange for this basic respect for pedestrians’ lives.

  • brian

    sacto drivers (for the most part) are pretty nice, but i always thought J was terrible, especially for biking. fortunately, we have a grid, so you can do K instead.

  • I \v/ NY

    Wow, go KCRA!!! I agree completely with Brad, it is very rare that the news media, especially local tv news, support pedestrians in anything involving pedestrians and motorists.

    Check out this video from the Portland Office of Transportation, this video needed to be made for a long time and I’m glad Portland did…

    Video: Every Corner is a Crosswalk,/a>

  • PaulCJr

    For one NYPD doesn’t enforce traffic laws. I wonder if the PD even knows what they are. And of course people would cry about why they’re getting caught even though they were braking the law. This has to be about the worst city in enforcing laws.

  • Moses Horwitz

    “Wouldn’t it be great if we could all point to a law-breaking vehicle and have NYPD swoop in?”

    You mean, like a bicycle riding through a red light and a cross-walk full of pedestrians? I am sorry, but I have little patience this morning for the endless double standard. No need to respond; the consensus opinion has been made perfectly clear in the past.

  • MKJ

    Great job Sacramento!

    The City of Chicago (CDOT and CPD) also have a “Crosswalk Awareness Initiative” that has been ongoing since April…

  • Streetsman

    I would have needed a full outfit of about 3 dozen cops on motorcycles to address all the offenses I witnessed on my 5 mile bike to work. To Moses point, the only traffic officer of any kind I witnessed enforcing any traffic laws in the entire 5 miles was the one on Adams Street at Johnson Street who’s job it is solely to stop bikes from running the red light while pedestrians are in the crosswalk. An effort I applaud for sure. I’m just wondering exactly where was the officer one block prior where a row of 15 consecutive cars were parked in the bike lane, or one block further at Adams Street where THREE cars ran the red left-turn light, and the pick up truck that behind me gunned it when our light turned green, swerved around a few inches from me and shouted something. It is the wild west out there and I would appreciate any kind of enforcement as long as it is balanced.

  • With all of the events going on in Manhattan, virtually every intersection I have ridden through over the past three days had a cop posted at it. I must say that a large percentage, perhaps most of them, don’t seem to understand traffic even when they are directing it. I’ve seen them jump into a traffic conflict and take an active role (including what struck me as some unwarranted screaming and threats) and then once the situation is resolved, simply walk away leaving everyone waiting to enter the intersection with no idea of whether to follow the light or wait for further directions from the officer. Other questionable practices include preferentially waving attractive female pedestrians through an intersection against the light with huge grins, and stopping to have discussions with other officers in the middle of an empty intersection and forgetting to wave any traffic through for one or even two cycles, even there is room for the traffic to clear the intersection and proceed. There were similar antics going on up near the television broadcast in Central Park at 5th Ave. and 97th Street last evening.

    One thing I will say: I wouldn’t think of taking a cab or bus in this traffic. I’ve been able to bike everywhere with only minimal delays. I got a laugh out of one cop directing traffic tis morning when I suggested, “wouldn’t this be easier if everyone was on a bike?”

  • I’ve stopped riding in the protected 8th Avenue northbound lane because of cars blowing the red left-turn light while I’m proceeding through my green.

    I thought this behavior would go away with time, but it hasn’t. So I still feel safer blasting up the middle.

  • Late to the party on this topic (been on a biking vacation all last week, Philly – Gettysburg – Philly).

    Here is one area that us Jersey folk have you city slickers across the Hudson beat. Just check out these stories about crosswalk stings in New Jersey-

    700 in S.J. warned or ticketed in crosswalk stings
    Courier-Post • Wednesday, September 2, 2009

    Police operation in Salem shows just how many drivers disregard peds in crosswalks
    Salem County News • Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    Vineland now yielding to pedestrians
    The News of Cumberland County • Friday, September 25, 2009

    Lawless pedestrians, you’re next
    (interesting comments, people give a good reason for walking in the street)
    Montclair Times • Thursday, September 17, 2009

    Sweep by (Hawthorne) police targets drivers
    (second half of article is about Yield to Pedestrian sting operation)
    The Gazette (Hawthorne Edition) • Thursday, September 17, 2009

    Cops use decoy to test crosswalk compliance in Medford
    The Central Record • Thursday September 10, 2009

    And this is just a few of them. There are dozens more stories from over the summer!



What Will It Take for Sacramento to Make Walking Safer in Poor Neighborhoods?

Police and city planners in Sacramento have come under scrutiny in the weeks since police were caught on tape assaulting Nandi Cain, Jr., a black man, during a jaywalking stop. Cain, who was legally using an unmarked crosswalk, has since filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city. Now, reporters are looking into why there are so few marked crosswalks in one of Sacramento's poorest areas.