Officers watch busy crosswalk
Black Diamond: Near misses a cause for concern
Wednesday, Sep 20, 2017 06:00 am
Too many near misses in Black Diamond’s busiest crosswalk is costing some motorists a good chunk of change.
In response to complaints earlier this summer about pedestrians on the crosswalk at Centre Avenue at 1st Street SW almost getting struck by vehicles, despite the overhead flashing lights, peace officers in Black Diamond increased their presence at the intersection and in August issued 20 traffic tickets, said officer Jim Berry.
“I sat there on the holiday Monday for 40 minutes and I wrote four tickets,” he said. “Those were all close calls. If I sat there on a Saturday for an eight or nine hour period I would probably write 40 tickets. It’s part of our daily routine now to sit there and watch.”
In more than 10 years as a Black Diamond peace officer, Berry said this summer’s complaints are the most he’s had about this crosswalk.
Since the traffic lights replaced the four-way stop a block to the east last fall, vehicles heading west through the intersection on a green light are traveling faster, he said.
“I’m fearful that I’m going to see someone picked off,” he said, adding he’s had no reports of injuries involving pedestrians at that intersection. “This summer we really focused on that corner because of the complaints. Devon (Bartek, peace officer) and I have been trying to educate drivers and pedestrians on the proper way to use a crosswalk.”
Berry considers the crosswalk safe, but has witnessed a lot of human error.
In the case of motorists, many aren’t paying attention, he said.
“The excuses are outrageous,” he said, adding one woman he pulled over said she was focusing on a Glen Campbell song. “We are talking within a foot of the pedestrian being hit and she had no idea he was there. The excuse I had the other day was ‘My kid was yelling at me from the back (seat).’ Both of those are obviously distracted driving.”
Tickets for failing to yield to a pedestrian could set a motorist back $776, the largest fine in the traffic safety act besides speeding, Berry said.
Those distracted while committing the offense could pay more than $1,000, he said.
Drivers looking to dispute the charge won’t have an easy fight on their hands. The peace officers’ cars are equipped with cameras that capture the violation in action, Berry said.
“Devon and I have videos and documentation of some extremely close calls,” he said. “People just drive on and don’t care until they’re stopped by us.”
Black Diamond resident Samantha Janzen said she uses the crosswalk several times a day and has had some close calls.
“One time I was limping because I had a sore foot and they didn’t want to wait,” she said. “They kept inching slowly. I tried moving fast to hurry, but I couldn’t hurry fast enough.”
While the lights may offer some pedestrians a sense of security, Janzen said they don’t seem to make a difference.
“One time I pushed that button and two people went by,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going on with people. It’s frustrating. Very unsafe.”
Janzen said she waits until vehicles are a distance away from the intersection before pressing the button. Otherwise she just waves them by.
Beatrice Mason uses the intersection about once a week and also finds that motorists don’t always stop for her.
“You push it and some of them just whiz through,” she said. “When it’s pressed vehicles should stop.”
While patrolling the intersection, Berry notices pedestrians making errors as well.
“Some people don’t have a good understanding of how the light works,” he said, adding some press the button and immediately begin walking. “It doesn’t give a vehicle moving at 50 km/hr time to stop. The people that understand how to use a crosswalk will walk up, push the button and wait. We need to educate the pedestrians also on how to make this safe for themselves.”
Berry hopes increasing police presence will encourage both pedestrians and motorists to pay better attention.
“I want people to see me,” he said. “I want them to know I am here. The next time they will think, I probably should stop.”
Larry Porosky of Okotoks drives through Black Diamond regularly and finds it busy with both traffic and pedestrians.
With parking on both sides of the highway and some pedestrians jaywalking, Porosky said it can be a scary situation for motorists, but it is well policed.
“When you enter Black Diamond you better slow down because the police are watching,” he said.