School Zones Ahead!
With school starting next week, I thought this would be a great time to talk a bit more about bike and pedestrian safety. Last year, we experienced the unthinkable more than once—pedestrians hit in the crosswalk.
The city of Ukiah has been working hard to improve pedestrian safety by providing extra police enforcement, redesigning our pedestrian crosswalks, and making crosswalk improvements a priority in the future. Along with these improvements, city leaders are currently discussing ways to improve the traffic flow and pedestrian safety at the intersection of Low Gap Road and N. Bush Street, which is especially important given how many students travel through that intersection.
As summer comes to an end and people try to fit everything in, it feels like everyone is in an extra big hurry, which is why I thought now was a good time to remind drivers to keep a lookout for bikes and pedestrians.
- Allow extra space. If possible, give a bicyclist at least 3-4 feet of space when passing.
- Slow down. Reduce your speed when approaching and passing a bike.
- Keep your eyes open. Bikes can be hard to see, especially in your blind spots.
Be extra cautious around kids. Expect the unexpected when you see a kid on a bike.
If parents can share one thing with kids riding bikes to school, it is to take the advice of experienced cyclists and ride defensively! Because no matter how right bicyclists are, they can still be injured or killed by a motorist in the wrong. A great place for kids (and their parents) to learn more about bicycle safety is www.bicyclesafe.com.
And for kids walking to school, these tips are important:
- Watch Out. When crossing a street, look for cars and cross only when it is safe.
- Be Seen. Sometimes drivers can’t see you. The law requires cars to stop for a pedestrian in the crosswalk, but always make eye contact with drivers while you’re in a crosswalk to make sure they see you.
- Walk Defensively. Drivers can be distracted, their view may be blocked, or they may not see you. If you’re not sure you’ve been seen, stop and wait for the car to pass.
- Pay Attention. Please put your phone and ear buds away, so you can see and HEAR what’s happening around you. Your life may depend upon it!
If anything good can come from the terrible pedestrian accidents of late, I hope it is a reminder of how important it is for motorists to drive cautiously in school zones and for our kids to learn how to protect themselves in crosswalks. Parents, please take some time before school starts to review these tips with your kids.
This is also a good time to re-introduce one of our most important officers: our School Resource Officer (SRO) Officer Vince Morse. He and his police dog, Bugsy, work hard to keep local schools safe. Officer Morse has been with the Ukiah Police Department since 2006, and this is his fourth year as the department’s SRO. Bugsy has been with the department since 2010, and is a fully certified narcotics detection dog.
Officer Morse works with school administrators, performing searches based on suspicious activities and discouraging illegal behavior on campus. He and Bugsy are highly visible during breaks and lunch periods, and they patrol local neighborhoods before and after school to ensure people drive safely in school zones. In addition to patrolling Ukiah High School, Officer Morse responds to calls at Pomolita Middle School and Ukiah’s public elementary schools.
Along with Officer Morse, addition officers will be working to enforce crosswalk laws near local schools this school year. Please help us watch out for kids walking and biking to school—let’s work together to prevent further pedestrian and bike accidents.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cell phone and email notifications by clicking the Nixle button on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.
By: Chris Dewey – Chief of Police