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Here comes Matt

Matthew Artz Daily Planet Staff
Friday September 06, 2002

With a ballot initiative vote to improve pedestrian safety still two months away, the Berkeley Police Department Wednesday got a jump on dangerous drivers. 

Police dished out tickets to 34 drivers rolling through the intersection of Adeline and Fairview streets during a sting operation to protect the rights of pedestrians. 

Five officers on motorcycles crashed down cars that failed to yield to a pedestrian decoy during the one hour 45 minute operation. 

“I think it went pretty well,” said the operation’s supervisor, Officer Matt Meredith of the Berkeley Police Department Traffic Division. “When [drivers] see multiple officers patrolling an intersection it makes you think twice about racing through the crosswalk.” 

Pedestrian and cyclist safety is a growing concern in Berkeley. According to Meredith, one pedestrian and one cyclist have been killed on Berkeley streets this year, and the annual number hurt from collisions with cars is on the rise.  

To better protect nondrivers the BPD instituted the Pedestrian Right-Of-Way Enforcement Program in July 2001. Including Wednesday’s sting, the police have performed seven crosswalk operations throughout Berkeley, citing 223 drivers for not yielding to a pedestrian. Penalized drivers receive a $115 fine and one point on their license. 

Meredith said the program is being expanded to include two operations every month, and will address other blocks notorious for pedestrian injuries. So far police have patrolled the intersections of Addison Street and Martin Luther King Way, Telegraph Avenue and Oregon Street, Dwight Way and Acton Street and University Avenue and Grant Street. 

The start of UC Berkeley’s fall semester is the most dangerous time of year for pedestrians, said Officer Bob Rollins, who participated in Wednesday’s sting operation. 

A lot of students who just arrived from Southern California tend to be more lax about pedestrian right-of-way laws than locals, he said. “They move up here and they’re not used to the tight, cramped lanes and slower speed zones, so we end up teaching them the rules that have to be followed.” 

Rollins said that between February and May, he issued 400 pedestrian right-of-way tickets at the intersection of Oxford and Addison streets. 

Some residents, though, say the city still needs to do more to protect pedestrians and cyclists.