Motorists looking to buzz through Forest Park may want to avoid Madison Street and all its crosswalks this winter. Beginning Dec. 1, police will be actively enforcing a local ordinance that demands drivers yield to pedestrians – and there will be no warnings, according to the police chief.
This “zero tolerance” enforcement effort will include the use of plain-clothes officers who will attempt to use the bustling corridor’s crosswalks. Drivers who zip by will be stopped and ticketed, Chief Jim Ryan said.
“We think this is fabulous,” Laurie Kokenes, executive director for the Chamber of Commerce and Development, said. “I feel like there’s not too many communities where you can go sit down with your police chief and have them say, ‘We’ll do it next week.'”
Business owners within the chamber have been discussing the dangers of unyielding traffic in an area where entrepreneurs and the municipality are encouraging more foot traffic. On several occasions the group has taken those conversations to village officials and the police chief directly, Kokenes said. With the holiday shopping season approaching, everyone agreed that now is the time for greater vigilance.
In the last two years, Forest Park has taken several steps to improve safety along Madison, which is lined with restaurants and shops and has become the foundation of the town’s appeal. Crosswalks on the street are noticed with permanent signs, multi-colored patterns and pavement stamping. Council members this summer ordered a raised crosswalk be installed near Constitution Court, hoping that the device would serve double-duty as a speed bump.
Since 2004, at least a dozen pedestrians have been struck by cars while crossing Madison, according to police. One of those incidents, a hit-and-run in January 2007, resulted in the death of 52-year-old Abderrahmane Lamrabet.
“I’d say more than half the time the cars just blow right by me,” resident Harry Jacknow said of trying to cross the street.
Jacknow is not a member of the chamber, but also spoke with the police chief about drivers failing to yield. Along certain portions of the roadway cars move more quickly, said Jacknow, and drivers seem to pay little attention to who might be trying to cross.
“I’m glad they’re going to do some enforcement up there,” Jacknow said.
The use of decoys on Madison by the police department will continue, according to Ryan, but those efforts will be randomized. Authorities are also issuing a reminder to pedestrians and cyclists to be cognizant of their responsibilities with respect to traffic patterns. “Running into traffic” and impeding the normal flow of traffic are also citable offenses.
Drivers cited for failing to yield the right of way may be fined $75, according to Ryan. Such an infraction would not appear on the driver’s state record because the violation is of a local ordinance only.