Update: TPD will also be using plain-clothes officers and unmarked cars to find motorists who are violating the “three-foot law.” Read a little more about it here.
Starting today, Tucson Police Department officers will begin increased enforcement of bicycling and pedestrian violations.
According to a press release, TPD received a $44,000 grant from the Governors Office of Highway Safety. The grant is aimed at reducing collisions between cars, bikes and pedestrians.
TPD Sargent Jerry Skeenes said instead of focusing on stop-sign violations they will focus on wrong-way riders, sidewalk riding and cyclists riding without lights at night.
“We are not bicycling experts so we left it up to the bicycling community to tell us what they think are the hazardous ones and the ones they would like to see enforced,” Skeenes said. “We are not going to go out and try to pick some kind of duck pond just to get numbers. We are going to try to enforce something that will hopefully make a difference.”
Erik Ryberg, a Tucson lawyer who specializes in bicycle-related cases, said he was thrilled to hear TPD wouldn’t be focusing on stop signs, but instead on things he said might actually improve bicycle safety in Tucson.
“It is as if the universe has been turned inside out,” Ryberg said. “I can’t believe TPD is going finally going to focus on cycling habits that actually cause injuries. This is actually the first positive step I have seen the Tucson Police Department make in the several years now I have been following this. ”
Skeenes said in addition to ticketing cyclists they will be on the lookout for drivers who don’t give cyclists enough room or turn in front of bike riders.
So far the main areas that have been identified for the targeted enforcement are the University of Arizona, the Fourth Avenue area and downtown Tucson.
Skeenes said officers see cyclists and pedestrians violating the law often, but don’t have the time or resources to enforce them. He said the grant allows them to educate the community and hopefully make everyone safer.
“A lot of people get away with a lot of violations and they have never been hurt or it hasn’t made an impact on them,” Skeenes said. “This will, hopefully, be a time where they start saying, ‘I really need to pay attention to what I am doing and do the right thing to make me safer and make the community safer.’”
Ryberg said he hoped the officers would be able to give out warnings rather than write tickets.
“I hope they are going to give out more warnings than tickets because most of the people who ride their bikes on sidewalks or ride the wrong way think they are riding safely,” Ryberg said. “There is a whole population of people out there who were taught to ride against traffic. I hope those people aren’t going to penalized for doing what they think is the right thing.”
Skeenes said cyclists were fortunate because if they are ticketed they have the option of taking the free diversion class instead of paying the fine, which is not an option for pedestrians.
The increased enforcement begins today and wraps up at the end of September.