Understanding the New Pedestrian Right Of Way Law - JuniperCivic.com
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Originally published in the March 2016 Juniper Berry Magazine

Understanding the New Pedestrian Right Of Way Law

Photo: Transportation Alternatives (inset photo) Capt Greg Mackie

In July of last year, the Police Department began enforcement of the new Pedestrian Right Of Way Law which was passed by the City Council. This law, which is carried under Administrative Code 19-190 (b), now makes it a civil offense for a Motorist to strike a pedestrian or cyclist who is proceeding with the Right of Way (i.e. Crossing with signal in the marked crosswalk, riding a bike in traffic and obeying all traffic regulations) and cause that pedestrian/cyclist to sustain a physical injury. The Police Department is currently enforcing these offenses.

If upon arrival to a collision scene, officers determine through inquiry, observation, independent witness information, or reconstruction of the collision, that the motorist was at fault, or failed to exercise due care, and struck a pedestrian/cyclist who had the Right of Way and caused Physical Injury to the pedestrian/bicyclist, the motorist will be issued a summons. This summons is returnable to the Environmental Control Board and carries a MINIMUM $250 penalty. Be advised, the officers do NOT need to witness the collision in order to establish the violation. This is a CIVIL penalty which carries a different standard of proof (Preponderance of the Evidence) as opposed to traffic violations/crimes which require Probable Cause.

Most traffic violations require the officer to actually observe the offense. This new law gives officers the ability to enforce (civilly) these instances where pedestrians and cyclists are struck and the officers rarely witness it because they are called to the scene after the fact.

This law does NOT protect pedestrians and cyclists who fail to exercise due care (i.e., cross in between parked cars, cross against the signal, cross midblock, or ride a bicycle against traffic, disobey a traffic control device or ride on the sidewalk). In those instances, the motorist will NOT be found in violation so long as they exercise due care while driving. If the pedestrian failed to exercise due care (i.e. Jaywalk), there is currently no provision for a civil penalty (the officer must observe the pedestrian jaywalk). If the cyclist failed to exercise due care, and caused physical injury to a pedestrian, they are subject to a pre-existing civil penalty for Reckless Operation of a Bicycle, which also carries the same monetary penalty.

If the motorist caused physical injury to the pedestrian /cyclist (regardless of who is at fault) and that motorist Leaves the Scene of the Accident, the motorist will still be treated as a criminal and will still be subject to arrest if apprehended.

The 104 Precinct commonly sees these kinds of accidents, and the primary causes are: failure to give right of way, excessive speed through turns, improper passing/sideswipe, (and for bicycles, following too close, fail to give right of way in turns, and opening car door in traffic). If we can prevent even one pedestrian or cyclist from being needlessly injured or save even one life by enforcing this new penalty, then us working together (police and community alike) can make a huge difference.

March 2016 Juniper Berry Magazine

March 2016 Table of Contents