ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Walking and biking in St. Petersburg can be risky business. That is why police there are kicking off a campaign with the goal of stopping deadly crashes.
It's timely, to say the least. So far in 2021, 14 pedestrians in St. Pete have been killed in traffic crashes. That's twice as many as the same time period in 2020. There were 2 bicyclists killed, both this year and last.
"Overall, this is a really high year. We're just not sure why," said Yolanda Fernandez, spokesperson for the St. Petersburg Police Department.
Wednesday night, SPPD officers were on the lookout along a section of 4th Street North. Now through May 2022, they're doing high visibility enforcement to keep drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians not only safe, but alive.
"If they're running red lights, if they're not stopping before they turn if they're speeding, if they're not looking out for pedestrians and bicyclists," Fernandez explained. "And for pedestrians, are they in a crosswalk? Are they going to an intersection to cross so that they can be visible, and they can cross with traffic and not against traffic? And for bicyclists, they have to follow the same rules of the road as motorists do."
Officers are also passing out bike lights to make sure those riding on two wheels are clearly visible to those on four wheels.
The department said that over the next several months, "education and enforcement efforts" will be conducted along the following roadways:
- 34th Street North and South
- 4th Street North
- 35th Street North and South
- 18th Avenue South
- 16th Street South
- 3rd Street North
- U.S. 19/5th Avenue North
- 49th Street North
The department announced the patrols as a partnership with the Institute for Police Technology and Management and The University of North Florida. The effort is funded by a $47,214 contract from FDOT, in cooperation with IPTM.
"In the past five years, I've seen four people get hit by cars and two were deaths, unfortunately," said Bryan Lynn who lives near 4th Street North. "It's just been horrible. They drag race at night."
St. Pete ranks in the top 25 Florida counties for crashes resulting in serious and fatal injuries to pedestrians and bicyclists. It's a ranking they hope to relinquish.
"This holds everyone accountable - motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians," said Fernandez. "If we get everybody to just follow the traffic rules, I think we could keep people safe. Unfortunately, bicyclists and pedestrians have the most to lose."