Police traffic enforcement program includes Summit-Cretin intersection

The corner of Summit and Cretin avenues is one of 17 busy St. Paul intersections where police are stepping up enforcement of traffic laws governing both motorists and pedestrians.

The Pedestrian Education Development Safety Traffic Enforcement Program, or PEDSTEP, started a week ago and will run to the end of the month. Police assigned to the project patrol the 17 intersections on a rotating basis, and last Thursday, Oct. 31, police visited the heavily used Summit and Cretin area. Additional police visits to the corner are likely throughout November.

St. Paul Police Sgt. Thomas Schmidt, coordinator of the safety program, said several tickets were issued last Thursday to both pedestrians and motorists. He said, however, that the goal of the program “isn’t to see how many tickets we can issue. The goal is to educate and promote safety and common sense.”

The tickets aren’t cheap. According to a spokesperson for Ramsey County District Court, the current fine to a pedestrian for jaywalking is $60. The fine to a motorist for failing to yield to a pedestrian at an intersection is $80.

To put it simply, pedestrians are supposed to obey traffic signals, stay in crosswalks and cross Summit at intersections — not jaywalk across the median between Cretin and Finn. Motorists, meanwhile, are required to stop for pedestrians crossing the street at intersections. A more detailed review of the laws can be found here: http://www.mnsafetycouncil.org/crosswalk.

“The issue is pedestrian safety,” Schmidt said. “Last year we had 61 pedestrians struck by motor vehicles in St. Paul, and in about 85 percent of those accidents, the pedestrians were in error.

“Common sense tells you to be extremely careful at busy intersections and obey the signs. And again, while our goal is not to harass pedestrians or to see how many tickets we can issue, common sense tells you not to blatantly disregard traffic laws when you see an officer patrolling an intersection,” Schmidt added.

“If there is absolutely no traffic in sight, and someone crosses the street in the middle of a quiet city block, are we going to issue that person a ticket? Well, probably not,” Schmidt said. “But there’s a difference between that, and someone darting into a congested street, stopping traffic, or otherwise violating laws at a busy intersection like Summit and Cretin.”

“Our goal is both enforcement and education. We want motorists to concentrate on their driving, and we want pedestrians to be aware of their surroundings,” he said.

Along those lines, Schmidt encouraged pedestrians and motorists to make eye contact, especially at unmarked intersections like Finn Street and Summit Avenue. “Pedestrians should gauge the speed and distance of approaching cars before crossing those unmarked intersections,” he said. “We want everyone to use huge measures of common sense.”

The university has been working on a plan to install a new sidewalk across Summit, just west of Finn, to address the jaywalking across Summit closer to Cretin. Under the plan, low-level fencing and shrubs would be placed at various locations to force pedestrians to use existing sidewalks, or to use the new sidewalk. Pedestrians no longer would be able to cut diagonally across the median.

Approval of the sidewalk and landscaping plan has been held up because of delays in an overall development plan for the south side of Summit between Cretin and Cleveland. It was hoped that the new sidewalk could have been installed this fall, but the hope now is that a sidewalk plan will be approved in time for construction to take place next summer.