Our View: Watch where you step off the curb
August 25, 2013
State and local law enforcement agencies, and in particular the Steamboat Springs Police Department and its community service officers, did an admirable job managing traffic during two days of the USA Pro Challenge this week. We commend them for that, but it makes all the more puzzling the department's approach to enforcing jaywalking laws at intersections on Lincoln Avenue this month.
We agree with Steamboat police Chief Joel Rae's decision that in the interest of public safety, his department needs to deter people from crossing at the uncontrolled Lincoln Avenue intersections with Sixth and 10th streets. However, we're concerned about the approach taken thus far, which has involved community service officers writing warnings for people on their way to the Mainstreet Farmers Market.
The officers, who were asking for IDs and handing out written warnings on the north side of Sixth and Lincoln at the Farmers Market, just as easily could have been standing on the opposite side of the street, greeting those same people and directing them to cross at Fifth or Seventh streets.
The problem with crossing Lincoln Avenue on foot at uncontrolled intersections is the heavy back-and-forth commuter traffic mixed with heavy trucks that have longer stopping distances. After all, it is U.S. Highway 40. But if the goal of the Steamboat Springs Police Department is to guard the safety of pedestrians, why were the community service officers directed to wait for pedestrians to cross the busy street before interacting with them?
The officers have a difficult job, and sometimes displeasing the public goes with the territory. We get that. The community service officers typically have shown the tact and judgment that reflects an understanding that they are working in a resort community. Their use of discretion is evident at free concerts throughout the summer, for example.
And we would be remiss if we failed to point out that the city has made significant progress a block away from Lincoln on Oak Street, where there now are bike lanes and painted crosswalks with fluorescent signs calling for motorists to yield to pedestrians.
However, we have observed that when the city has installed a new stop sign in the past, it has undertaken a teaching process with motorists, sometimes placing bright flags on the new stop sign and giving drivers the chance to get acclimated to the new sign. Perhaps stenciling "No pedestrian crossing" near the curb at the two uncontrolled intersections would be a way to help remind pedestrians of the constraints at Sixth and 10th streets.
We support the enforcement of jaywalking on Lincoln Avenue but urge a more patient approach to educating residents and visitors to the change.