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Potsdam police step up pedestrian safety efforts

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POTSDAM — The village Police Department has been cracking down on drivers who fail to stop at crosswalks to safeguard pedestrians and soon will expand its efforts to protect bicyclists and skateboarders.

The department has issued 30 tickets since Aug. 1 to drivers failing to yield the right of way to pedestrians in a crosswalk as part of an awareness campaign that began when residents complained about unsafe village crosswalks.

The primary focus was on a crosswalk across the middle of Main Street, next to the Roxy movie theater, which residents noted as being particularly dangerous.

Drivers are required by law to stop at a crosswalk if pedestrians are attempting to cross. Police began by warning drivers seen violating these rules in July, then stepped up to ticketing in August.

“There have been a large number of tickets issued for failure to stop for pedestrians,” Police Chief Kevin A. Bates said.

Now, police are looking at stepping up efforts to increase bicycle safety as well. This is twofold: making sure motorists know how to behave around bicycles and making sure bicyclists know to obey the rules of the road.

“Bicyclists have rules, the same as drivers and pedestrians do,” Mr. Bates said.

Police will start issuing warnings to bicyclists who are seen violating the law by riding on sidewalks or ignoring traffic regulations. Most of the same rules apply to skateboarders, who are part of the campaign as well.

Once the warning period has ended, police will step up enforcement, ticketing bicyclists, skateboarders and motorists as needed.

“I think a public awareness campaign is the biggest way to do this,” Mr. Bates said.

Part of the village’s 10-year comprehensive plan, which likely will be adopted before the end of 2012, calls for streets to become more accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists. So far, the village has only one bike lane, on Clarkson Avenue, but that may change in the years to come. By focusing on safety now, Mr. Bates said, residents will be better prepared for any changes.

While police are able to enforce laws and regulations, it is even more important that people merely remain aware, according to Mr. Bates.

“The biggest thing is to let common sense prevail,” he said. “Everybody should be looking out for everybody else.”

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