The crackdown on jaywalking across Elm Street has reached a crossroads, though the origin of that crossroads is still unknown.
While Yale Police Department Assistant Chief Ronnell Higgins said he is not aware of the new crosswalks that have been drawn on Elm Street between College and High streets — as well as other frequently jaywalked areas — he did not contest their legitimacy or their use by students. Although neither he nor New Haven Safe Streets Coalition member Mark Abraham ’04 said they know the origin of the crosswalks, they may come to represent a compromise between student jaywalkers and YPD officers who have been issuing written warnings to jaywalkers as part of what Higgins called an “educational” effort.
For those who still choose not to walk along these new crosswalks — each of which feature a drawing of a person in stride — Higgins said enforcement through warnings will continue. And the YPD, he said, has not ruled out the possibility of eventually issuing fines.
The reason for the increased vigilance, Higgins said, was a lack of respect for safety on the part of both drivers and pedestrians.
“We noticed an increase not only in jaywalking, but also drivers not yielding to pedestrians and crosswalks,” he said.
The focus, he explained, is equally distributed between motor and foot traffic.
“We tried to educate the drivers and in some instances cite them,” he said. “[But] pedestrians also have a responsibility to cross safely.”
Officers have also been monitoring pedestrian traffic at other key intersections, such as the intersections of Trumbull and Hillhouse streets, North Frontage Road and York Street and across Tower Parkway. The police were not attempting a crackdown, Higgins said. He defended the warnings and said “ultimately, we’re trying to educate. We’ve found that over time, education has been very successful.”
Other education efforts include compiling safety tips onto bookmarks and “engaging” with pedestrians at heavily trafficked areas.
Pedestrians interviewed Wednesday, though, said they think these efforts are a waste of police effort. Higgins said while jaywalkers, including those on Elm Street, seem to appreciate when police cite unsafe drivers, they show little enthusiasm when the penal focus turns to unsafe pedestrians.
“They shouldn’t give out tickets,” said Stephanie Cousins ’12, just after jaywalking across Elm Street without any YPD officers in sight. “This is a major route, even without a crosswalk.”
Brian Hoefling ’12 insisted that pedestrians have earned the right to cross without interference from police.
“If you can survive crossing the street, you deserve not to be stopped,” he said after jaywalking across Elm Street.
Berkeley College Master Marvin Chun, whose college faces one of the prime areas for foot traffic on campus said the YPD should balance safety with fairness to students.
“I do think there are many ways to improve ‘walkability’ in heavy traffic areas,” he said. “But I think they should have given a warning before the citations.”
When reminded that no fines were levied with the warnings, he went on to say, “I guess without fines, the tickets are the warnings.”
In the meantime, the effectiveness of the new midway crosswalks remains to be determined. On Wednesday afternoon, even as a handful of people took note of and followed the new crosswalk on Elm Street, the majority of students opted to bypass the new crosswalk as well.
City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said Wednesday night she is not familiar with the new crosswalks, She deferred comment to the Office of Public Works and the Department of Transportation, neither of which could be reached for comment.