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Good News: Endangering Pedestrians Really Is Illegal in Oakland

I complain occasionally (okay, all the time) about how dangerous our streets are for pedestrians, and how I wish that the Oakland Police Department would crack down on reckless drivers so that people can feel safe crossing the street. So you can imagine how pleased I was to read about a string operation in West Oakland this morning, in which 25 drivers were cited for failing to stop for an OPD staffer as she tried to cross a crosswalk:

Twenty-five motorists were cited this morning in a West Oakland police sting for not yielding to pedestrians crossing the street.

The operation, which went from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at the intersection of San Pablo Avenue and Brockhurst Street, was done in response to residents’ complaints about pedestrian safety, Officer Holly Joshi said.

While motorcycle officers observed from a distance, a civilian employee of the Police Department would walk in the marked crosswalk at the intersection. Motorists who failed to stop for her were stopped by officers and given a citation.

Joshi said that there were a few close calls for the decoy from some of the cars that did not stop but that she was not hurt.

Kudos to OPD. Now if we could get them to start citing reckless drivers as a matter of habit, then we’d be making real progress. I’m happy to report that even on that front I witnessed a promising event the other day. I arrived at a 4-way stop on my bike just before an Alameda County Sheriff’s deputy reached the intersection from another direction. After doing a quick computation of our respective masses and acceleration capabilities, I decided to wait for him to proceed, but he waved me ahead of him. That was refreshing enough, but what happened next was nothing short of miraculous: He turned onto my street, and we were waiting side by side at the next red light when an SUV sped through the intersection on the cross street, probably going about 40 mph in a 30 mph zone—definitely speeding somewhat dangerously, but nothing out of the ordinary on the streets of Oakland, and he hadn’t run a red light or a stop sign or anything like that. To my amazement, however, the sheriff’s deputy immediately turned the corner and pursued the SUV, clearly intending to pull it over.

I’m sure cars do get pulled over for speeding in Oakland sometimes, but I have literally never seen it happen before, and I spend a fair amount of time walking and biking around the city as cars speed by. Maybe that deputy was particularly enlightened, or maybe he never got the memo about how reckless driving is tolerated on the streets of Oakland, but either way, it was nice to see—I look forward to a day when it will no longer seem remarkable to see a speeding SUV get pulled over in our city.