Of the Baker City Herald

Baker City Police want to help make the communitys streets safer for pedestrians.

Operation Crosswalk, an enforcement effort aimed at educating drivers about their responsibilities toward pedestrians, will begin this spring. The program is funded by an Oregon Department of Transportation grant that will pay for overtime, according to Sgt. Douglas Schrade.

Were just trying to make a safer community, Schrade said of the special project.

The department received a grant of up to $4,000 that will be used to fund five separate four-hour pedestrian safety enforcement operations using at least five officers.

The enforcement efforts are tentatively scheduled once a month April through September, Schrade said. They will be conducted in areas of the community that are of greatest concern.

We get lots of complaints from pedestrians, especially in the downtown area, he said. Weve had enough complaints to warrant trying something.

Tentative plans call for Operation Crosswalk to be conducted at the Baker Middle School in April, at Main Street and Court Avenue in May, at Campbell and Grove streets in June, on Campbell Street in July and again in the area of a school in September.

Heres how the program works:

Police will announce that they plan to conduct the operation. Then they will place a decoy pedestrian at a marked crosswalk. The decoy will work with a spotter who will radio ahead the vehicle license number and description to one or two vehicles that will pursue drivers who fail to respond to the decoy appropriately.

In order to avoid any claim of entrapment by the drivers, the decoy will not step out from the curb without giving them adequate time to stop, Schrade said. Cones will be used to mark a distance that would allow drivers to stop even if they are traveling 10 mph over the posted speed limit and allow an additional two-second reaction time. The decoy pedestrian will leave the curb only when the vehicle is that distance away.

We will give them the opportunity to stop legally, Schrade said.

The operations will be conducted in a marked crosswalk during daylight hours and in good weather and the decoy will wear visible clothing. Volunteers might be recruited to serve as decoys, Schrade said.

The department will videotape the enforcement effort, which should greatly reduce the number of cases in which officers have to appear in court, according to other cities that have conducted pedestrian safety operations.

The violators will be allowed to view the tapes prior to appearing in court to decide how they want to plea, Schrade said.

Officers will be trained before the enforcement effort begins and the department will invite Justice Court Judge Larry Cole and Keith Long, judge pro tem, to the trainings to gain their support for the effort.

Failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk is a Class B traffic infraction, which carries a $175 fine upon conviction, Schrade said.

Oregon law requires drivers to yield to pedestrians in a marked or unmarked crosswalk, which would be any corner where pedestrians usually cross, he added. Once the pedestrian steps off the curb, the driver is required to stop. It also is illegal to pass another vehicle stopped at a crosswalk for a pedestrian. Drivers also are required to yield to a blind person crossing the roadway at any point and to continue to yield until the person is off the road.