21950 and Vision Zero

California Vehicle Code 21950, failure to yield to pedestrians, is in my opinion the most important violation as it applies to implementing Vision Zero in Sacramento. The Vision Zero Sacramento Action Plan (draft) says “Launch high-visibility enforcement campaigns against speeding, failure to yield to pedestrians, distracted driving, and impaired driving. Campaigns will focus on HIN corridors.” The state code says:

  (a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.
(b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
(c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.
(d) Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

VEHICLE CODE – VEH, DIVISION 11. RULES OF THE ROAD,CHAPTER 5. Pedestrians’ Rights and Duties; http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=VEH&sectionNum=21950; retrieved 2018-12-15

So, how is the Sacramento Police Department doing on enforcing this code against drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk? Well, from the ‘Sacramento Police Vehicle Stop Data’ (http://data.cityofsacramento.org/datasets/sacramento-police-vehicle-stop-data) of the last two years, there were 101 violations of 21950 recorded, out of 61,151 violations. This is 0.17 percent, or, other violations were 582 times more common.

Anyone spending more than 10 minutes standing on the corner of any busy pedestrian intersection could count a hundred violations of this law. I know this because I do it. It is part of my job and it is also part of my advocacy. In two years the police only wrote 105 citations? I will also add that I have seen Sacramento Police Department officers in motor vehicles violating this very code hundreds of times, on myself and on others. Even the bicycle mounted officers are frequent violators. I will say that officers have yielded to me in the crosswalk, but it is much more common that they don’t. I’m not saying that they are trying to run me down, rather than they don’t wish to be slowed or inconvenienced, and so will cross through the crosswalk when I’m in it. They are, in this sense, just like other drivers.

So what is this disconnect between what is important and what officers do? I’m going to be blunt here. The police not partners in achieving Vision Zero, in fact they are the main impediment to Vision Zero. If they persist in their windshield perspective that pedestrians are the problems and drivers don’t mean to cause harm, pedestrians will continue to die, and drivers will continue to not face consequences for their violations, for their assaults, for their murders.

If you wish to reply that we all need to work together, and consider perspectives, well, please present evidence that this has worked in the part, or some construct that says it will work in the future. I’m not seeing it. In case you think I am picking on Sac PD, things are actually worse in other jurisdictions, but since this is where I live and observe the issue every day, it is the place I focus on.

By the way, thank you Don Kostelec @KostelecPlan for getting me fired up about all the ways in which our entire system is biased against pedestrians, and that those people whose job it is to consider and act on safety are mostly only concerned about drivers and traffic flow. I encourage you to follow his ‘The Twelve Days of Safety Myths‘ series.

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