CBS 2: Careless Pedestrians Walking Into Cars, Sinkholes, Hungry Bears

Ft. Lee police chief Thomas Ripoli has had it with people getting hit by cars. So he’s taken the logical step: ordering a crackdown on pedestrians.

“Pedestrians are now the new threat to street safety,” warns CBS 2’s Kristine Johnson, before segment reporter Derricke Dennis runs down the list of common misadventures the chronically distracted get into while walking — the kind of thing we’ve all seen at one time or another: people stumbling into fountains, falling into sinkholes, getting chased by bears.

This is not a parody.

Ripoli says he knows of 23 pedestrian-involved crashes in Ft. Lee in 2012, including three fatalities. From the chief’s point of view — if we’re to believe CBS 2’s take, at least — those people have no one to blame but themselves.

“They’re not alert and they’re not watching what they’re doing,” says Ripoli. “As of now, they are to give summonses to pedestrians who do not adhere to crosswalks and the lights.”

It appears Ripoli has also invented the offense of careless walking. Says a stern-faced Dennis: “Unlike careless driving, there’s no specific charge for being a careless pedestrian, but Chief Ripoli said his officers are watching — they’ll know it when they see it.”

Naturally, Dennis can’t leave well enough alone. Cut to Manhattan: “Imagine if New York did this,” he says. “Just about every pedestrian in Times Square would get a ticket.”

To back up their story, Dennis and his camera crew diligently track down and interrogate scofflaw pedestrians. The hazardous conditions they catch on film in Ft. Lee — wide roads designed for high speeds with no crosswalks in sight — get no mention. And if Dennis had done his research, he would have found that driver error is responsible for more than 78 percent of the thousands of crashes that kill or seriously injure New York City pedestrians each year, with failure to yield as a factor in 27 percent of those crashes. But why bother with actual journalism when you can simply point a camera at the street and let the anecdotal evidence pour in.

CBS 2 devotes one sentence to Ft. Lee’s reckless drivers, who are reportedly also subject to increased enforcement from Ripoli’s force. Befitting a footnote, the web video cuts out before Dennis can deliver the line.

  • Anonymous

    This is obviously nonsense. Police should be cracking down on people who endanger others lives.  That being said, if one more pedestrian walks out in front of my bike without bothering to look up and screams at me that I almost hit them I might well go crazy.

  • Mark Walker

    In theory, all street users should behave in a legally and ethically responsible manner — including pedestrians. It’s refreshing to walk in a place where universally good street etiquette is actually the norm (for example, Munich). But even factoring in less-than-perfect pedestrian behavior here at home, it’s not often that a three-ton pedestrian jumps off the curb and collides with a 150-pound car killing its occupants. On a practical level, law enforcement should concentrate on the street users with the greatest proven destructive potential — drivers and their huge fast-moving killing machines.

  • Anonymous

    For what it’s worth, I’ve seen the full footage of that sinkhole bit.  It has nothing to with being distracted.  The piece is real garbage journalism.  And the bear?  Are you out of your mind?  Clearly the pedestrian’s fault that there’s a bear there, CBS. 

  • Motordom

    My aunt lives in Ft. Lee. I visit all the time. The town’s “Main Street” and most of the other major streets around the “Downtown” have been utterly and totally engineered into motor-oriented oblivion. The entire place is designed for speeding cars. It is just a forbidding and hostile place to walk and bike, distracted or not.

  • Eric McClure

    On the bright side, at least “Ped Pestilence” has knocked “Bike Bedlam” out of the top spot on the list of gravest New York dangers.  Keep up the great work, CBS2!

  • CE Jr.

    For a law enforcement person to say this:

    “Unlike careless driving, there’s no specific charge for being a careless pedestrian, but Chief Ripoli said his officers are watching — they’ll know it when they see it.”

    …well it leaves everything up to interpretation,  That’s just great.

  • Anonymous

    Ugh, fuck this guy….how about drivers that run red lights and kill pedestrians?

  • Ken Southerland

    I think the real answer is to start licensing pedestrians.  Through classes, examines, and walking workshops people can become state-approved, card-carrying members of society to prove that are indeed capable of walking safely in the world.  Of course, given the different levels of facilities for pedestrians in different communities there might have to be local programs for tourists to take part in before being set free into what might be potential hostile waters.  These programs can be conducted at local airports and greyhound stations upon arrival.

  • Damn it Streetsblog!  Stop scooping stories from my side of the Hudson so I can cover them on WalkBikeJersey. 😉

    While I think there is quite a bit of “blame the victim” going on here, there is still quite a bit of truth behind the notion of “careless walking.”  I pay attention to pedestrian behavior all the time when I’m out and about in New Jersey, and I see a vast majority of pedestrians ignoring the basic safety rules and many others just simply zoned out with their smart phones in hand. 

    Last year while riding my bike, I nearly crashed into a pedestrian who was totally clueless of his surroundings because all of his attention was focused on his phone.  He was jaywalking against the red light and just walked out into the road while I was riding my bike at around 25mph.  I had to yell at him at full voice and I still just missed him by inches.

    While I agree that roadway design in Fort Lee is over engineered for automobiles and just about ignores the basic needs of pedestrian (forget bicyclists!) “careless pedestrianism” is real and dangerous.

  • Joe R.

    Sure, pedestrians absolutely should look before crossing a street and not have their heads buried in their electronic pacifiers, no arguing that. However, the response here by the police is just as nonsensical as the NYPD’s response to cyclists-the implicit assumption that disobeying traffic signals and/or crosswalks somehow makes things more dangerous. Sorry, that’s not the problem. Not paying attention to what you’re doing is, whether or not you’re technically following the law. Are the Ft. Lee police even going to ticket pedestrians crossing against the light on an empty street? My guess is if they do, this campaign won’t last very long. There are several states where pedestrian signals are only advisory. That should be the law of the land for all 50 states. Same thing with red lights for cyclists. Nothing keeps you safe more than common sense and vigilance. Mechanical devices are no substitute for these things.

  • Anonymous

    This is a result of the 20th & 21st century lifestyle around the automobile. Look at this 1900 video and count the number of “infractions” that exist today but not back then:

  • Hamlisch

    How about a “Best Headline” category in the next Streetsies Awards. I want to vote for
    Careless Pedestrians Walking Into Cars, Sinkholes, Hungry Bears

  • Station44025


    …is how it goes, right?

  • Andrew

    How do Chief Ripoli and Derricke Dennis get to work? When was the last time they were pedestrians?


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