Police Drive Home Safety Issues

Eliza Guinn , Copy Editor

To curb traffic violations, the Oberlin Police Department started their Bike, Pedestrian and Drivers Safety Education and Enforcement Campaign Feb. 4 in response to numerous complaints.

The campaign has included the distribution of educational materials and an increased police presence, especially in Oberlin’s central business district.

A student walks past bikes locked to a rack outside the King Building. The Oberlin Police Department is launching a new safety initiative that aims to reduce the city’s traffic violations.
Ben Shepherd, Photo editor
A student walks past bikes locked to a rack outside the King Building. The Oberlin Police Department is launching a new safety initiative that aims to reduce the city’s traffic violations.

Chief of Police Juan Torres said that the initiative’s top priorities are education, information distribution and enforcement of the rights and duties of citizens. The additional officers downtown will log the warnings and tickets they issue so that the OPD can do a statistical review at the end of the month.

“The campaign is based on the recognition that bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists are equally responsible for road safety,” Lieutenant Mike McCloskey said in an email to the Review.

McCloskey said that after the first month the Police Department would review its collected data to identify any patterns in safety issues to better continue the initiative throughout the year.

In a document detailing the specifics of the campaign, the OPD emphasized that bikers need to observe traffic laws, that it is illegal to ride bikes on sidewalks in the business district and that motorists can only pass bikers when it is safe.

“There has been increasing concern voiced over bicycle and pedestrian safety, particularly in relation to the central business district,” McCloskey said. “Starting immediately, we will begin an increased presence in the CBD to enforce applicable violations and increase public safety awareness.”

As the effort is being made to address the concerns of citizens, the violation of local laws has been a recurring issue. These include safety concerns like traffic violations and pedestrians crossing at unsafe places or at unsafe times.

“We continued receiving complaints about cyclists riding on the sidewalk in the Downtown district, which is against city ordinance,” said Torres. “This is an ongoing complaint. There is also the complaint of the drivers who don’t yield to pedestrians, even to cyclists, and they might sometimes drive too fast for the road conditions or the traffic.”

Torres has contacted the Oberlin Bike Co-op with directions on how to make bikes more appropriately road safe. He recommended that bikers use a bell and reflectors or a light. He has also contacted members of the business district to inform them of the new campaign.

In order for this campaign to be successful, students and community members would have to be conscious of the road conditions as well as the safety of those around them, Torres said.

The document regarding the new initiative cautions bicyclists to ride in the same direction of traffic and encourages pedestrians to use crosswalks when possible and to exercise caution when crossing. Drivers were also reminded to yield to pedestrians and cyclists. The latter, according to Torres, has been an issue that has generated a number of complaints.

Torres added that because the College is such a large and integral part of the town, it is important for the College and the town to collaborate in developing and implementing safety strategies in town. However, because the roads and crosswalks are city property, Oberlin’s Safety and Security cannot enforce safety measures.

Though it is unclear whether the Police Department will increase the number of tickets issued for traffic violations, the OPD does plan to increase their vigilance over the next few weeks, which will likely cause an increase in written and verbal warnings.