Public Comment

Commentary: Council, Police Must Enforce Traffic Laws

By Steve Douglas
Friday January 25, 2008

I’m sure most everyone has heard about the tragic deaths of pedestrians in our neighborhood. In less than seven months, four people have died within one mile of Thousand Oaks. Laurie Capitelli, our city councilmember, Betty Olds, and Dona Spring are gathering information to determine what kind of new safety measures the city can take to limit these horrendous accidents. In the Friday, Jan. 11 edition of the Berkeley Voice, Mr. Capitelli is quoted “We want to know if these deaths are a horrible coincidence or if there are some things going on that we need to address.” I have no doubt that all of our political leaders would like to improve the safety of our streets, but Mr. Capitelli also said in a recent e-mail to his constituents “After three years in the District 5 office, I can truthfully say the number one constituent complaint is about traffic; too much, too fast, too reckless.” It has been obvious to me and anyone who walks, rides, or rolls around Berkeley that the conditions for these “horrible coincidences” were all in place, even though alcohol and impaired visibility were a factor in two of these accidents. Over the last few years, traffic and related safety issues have been the number one topic of Thousand Oaks Neighborhood Association (TONA) meetings, and repeated requests to improve enforcement have fallen on deaf ears. Our previous Councilmember Mim Hawley, told a TONA meeting that police were reluctant to write tickets as the city only kept half of the fine, the other half going to the state. 

I agree with most everything Mr.Capitelli says in his e-mail. We do need to “change the culture of driving in Berkeley.” Most importantly, we need have the City Council direct the Police Department to enforce the existing laws. The driving habits and “the culture” will change if the City Council could think outside the box and campaign for safer streets by having no tolerance for “failure to yield”, rolling stops, and other careless driving. Start by setting up “sting operations” at various crosswalk locations on a regular basis, installing many, many more of the flashing lights in crosswalks, and putting up blunt signs such as In Less Than 7 Months, 4 People Were Struck And Killed Within 1 Mile Of This Location. Slow Down. Pay Attention. Pedestrians and bicyclists have their own responsibility to do the right thing. Use crosswalks. Don’t cross on red. Everyone please, Look left, look right, look left again. It’s all stuff we learned in grade school, but we’re all too distracted. If the city put up signs and banners on Ashby, University, and all the major streets announcing their new campaign, out-of-towners would understand that Berkeley can actually do something humanitarian and wise.  

If you are sick and tired of feeling in danger every time you cross the street, please take a moment to contact your councilmember, and pass the word. 


Steve Douglas lives in Berkeley’s  

Thousand Oaks neighborhood.