Ohio State area jaywalking patrols back to normal
Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 29, 2012 00:11
The Columbus Division of Police is back to its normal patrol after a September crackdown on jaywalking in the Ohio State campus area.
Almost 470 jaywalking citations were issued over two weekends in September as police presence in the campus area was heightened. Columbus Police Precinct 4 Commander Chris Bowling said there were anywhere between 15 and 18 officers near campus on any given evening watching for jaywalking.
However, the officer count is back to the normal 11-man campus walking crew that Bowling said deal with the more “egregious offenders.”
“We’re still strictly enforcing. We just don’t have the resources dedicated to it that we were doing for a while,” Bowling said. “So there are still people getting citations for various issues, but not to the extent that it was over the course of a couple of weekends.”
Bowling said the number of citations was only tracked for a couple of weeks, and Columbus Police do not have current jaywalking citation statistics. Bowling does believe, however, that there have been fewer students jaywalking.
“It did seem to reduce it to some extent,” he said. “We’re not talking about 90 percent of it, we’re probably more talking like 15 or 20 percent.”
Sarah Wynn, a fourth-year in communications and women’s studies, disagreed.
“I can just watch people on campus and they just jaywalk all the time, and off campus they do too,” Wynn said.
Wynn received one of the 467 citations back in September when she was crossing 15th Avenue at High Street with friends. Wynn said there were no cars coming when they crossed the street, but the traffic light was red and a couple of officers on bicycles stopped and wrote them citations.
Jaywalking tickets cost $50 plus fees from the county clerk’s office and typically cost the violator about $90.
While Wynn said she felt the citation was unfair, it made her become “extreme” about noticing others violating the same law. She now goes out of her way to look for crosswalks and avoid jaywalking.
The OSU Traffic Safety Task Force, a committee created by university President E. Gordon Gee to address safety concerns on campus after a string of traffic-related accidents, published recommendations on Oct. 16 to help solve the issue from increased education safety to enforcement expectations.
The string of accidents include an Aug. 19 accident where first-year student Rachel Stump was stuck by a drunk driver near the South Campus Gateway. Stump, who was in a coma as a result of the accident, is recovering in her hometown of Troy, Ohio.
OSU first-year student James Daniel Hughes was involved in a Sept. 5 accident when he was hit by a dump truck while riding his bicycle on Woodruff Avenue. Hughes lost one of his legs as a result of that accident.
The following day OSU student Yifan Gu was hit by a bicyclist near Chumley’s on High Street.
Other bicycle accidents with less severe injuries were also reported on campus around the same time.
Lindsay Komlanc, spokeswoman for OSU Administration and Planning, said the task force recommendations were released in October, the task force has added additional support from different university departments and has created focus groups of students to gather input.
Komlanc said the task force began implementing its first recommendations the past two weeks by putting out additional warning and educational signs, as well as new pavement markings reminding people to be aware in priority locations. Those locations include on Woodruff Avenue by the Physics Research Building, the intersection of Woodruff Avenue and Curl Drive, College Road by the Wexner Center for the Arts and the intersection at 12th Avenue and College Road.
Continuing next semester with what Komlanc said is the education part of their plan, the university will work with University Police and Columbus Police to implement an “enforcement” stage once the weather begins to warm up.
“We are working very carefully to make sure that education is tied to the enforcement, it won’t just be a blast of enforcement without any warning,” Komlanc said.
Bowling said the university’s task force plan was part of the reason Columbus Police rolled back its enforcement, as it wanted to see if the recommendations would work once put into action.
Wynn said she has seen all the new signs, but that it is easy to not pay attention after passing so many. And while she said the September crackdown by Columbus Police had good intentions, a two-week crackdown followed by several months with relaxed enforcement will not help either.
“With so many students, to avoid jaywalking on a mass level like it happens every day, they would have to just write tickets all the time,” Wynn said.
With a break and then the new semester, Bowling said Columbus Police will be watching even closer to see if there is a need for another crackdown.
“What I can tell you is we are going to be watching, and if we start seeing an uptick in this stuff because we’re seeing people who aren’t paying attention, then we may start up again,” Bowling said.