While he has yet to conduct an analysis of the Ottawa Police Department’s month-long Street Smart campaign, which wrapped up Oct. 31, Butler said he is glad the department pushed forward with the combined educational and enforcement campaign.
“I am pleased about being proactive in trying to improve traffic safety in the downtown area,” Butler said. “Sometimes traffic safety and traffic enforcement take a back seat to other issues in the community that may seem more important, but I didn’t want to lose sight of the basics. Enforcement of traffic laws doesn’t always mean writing tickets. We wanted to raise awareness to improve traffic safety for everyone.”
Toward that end, volunteers — which consisted of five Ottawa University football players and four Volunteers in Police Service members — and patrol officers handed out Street Smart flyers that provided pedestrian, driver and cycling safety tips during the two-week educational portion of the campaign Oct. 5 through Oct. 19.
During that period, volunteers handed out 61 pedestrian tips, 50 driver tips and 15 cycling tips, Butler said.
And Ron Hughes, the police department’s VIPS coordinator, spent 10 hours re-stenciling the “Walk Your Bike” message on sidewalks downtown.
During the enforcement period Oct. 20 through Oct. 31, Ottawa police officers wrote four citations to people for riding bicycles on sidewalks. Officers also issued 14 various warning citations during the enforcement period, Butler said.
In Ottawa, as in most cities, it is not uncommon to see pedestrians cross the street against traffic signals or in the middle of the block. And sometimes motorists turning street corners forget to yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks — causing walkers to halt in mid-stride.
Street Smart is a public education, awareness and behavioral-change campaign, which is patterned after a program used in Washington, D.C., and some other metropolitan cities, Butler said.
The police department was in the midst of the campaign when CNN Money magazine listed Ottawa as one of the Top 25 best places to retire in the U.S. Though the timing was a coincidence, Butler said, traffic safety is important for seniors who are nearing retirement and want to get away from congested traffic conditions that can pose safety hazards. With pedestrian safety a growing concern on a national level, Butler said, the Street Smart program has been initiated as a preemptive effort to keep downtown streets safe for everyone to maintain a sustainable and livable community.
“We want people who come to Ottawa to feel safe when they are walking or riding their bicycles,” Butler said. “We want them to know we are committed to improving traffic safety.”