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Pedestrian Behavior Discussed at Block Watch Meeting

Hellertown Police Officer Jim DeLeone hosted the bimonthly meeting of the borough's block watch group on June 22.

Hellertown may seem like a quiet community to some, but there is a lot that goes on in its approximately 1.3 square miles, concerned residents told Officer Jim DeLeone at the police department's bimonthly block watch meeting June 22.

DeLeone, who has been leading block watch meetings since they resumed in the spring, was there as much to listen to the residents' concerns and answer questions as he was to disseminate information.

The majority of those in attendance were senior citizens, and one issue several attendees brought up was pedestrian responsibility.

Although there is often the perception that walkers are impacted by the high volume of traffic on Main Street more than motorists, several attendees at the meeting told DeLeone that they have observed pedestrians engage in behavior that is risky or against the law.

One man blamed the seemingly blase attitude of some pedestrians on the fact that schoolchildren are taught to expect traffic to come to a halt for them when they disembark school buses to cross a street.

"The kids are indoctrinated that they don't have to look because traffic's coming, because traffic's supposed to stop," he said.

Another man asked why motorists should have to stop for pedestrians waiting to cross Water or Walnut Street at .

DeLeone explained that the trail crossings on those roads function in the same manner as crosswalks on Main Street, and that motorists have a responsibility to yield to pedestrians who are standing in them, waiting to cross.

"When they step out in the crosswalk, by rights, that vehicle has to stop," he said.

Furthermore, he explained that pedestrians are not limited to crossing at points where there are painted white lines stretching from one side of a street to another.

"If you're crossing at a corner, just because there's no lines there doesn't mean you don't have to stop for that pedestrian," he said.

DeLeone said he does agree that pedestrians need to assume responsibility for their own safety and be aware of how their behavior impacts motorists.

"You can't just run out there and expect everybody to jump to it," he said of pedestrians.

"People need to know the law," he added.

In answer to DeLeone's statement, a woman in attendance at the meeting said more needs to be done in terms of pedestrian education.

"These people feel entitled," she said. "I think we need to educate pedestrians... And I think they need to be penalized for their indiscretions."

DeLeone responded by saying that the police will cite pedestrians for disobeying the law, but added that the department "can't be every place."

"When we see them, we cite them," he added.

DeLeone noted that educating adults about pedestrian safety could be costly, and said residents might balk if told, "your taxes are going to go up because now you're paying for a teacher to teach adults how to cross a street."

He added that if police observe a child or teenager crossing a street illegally or engaging in some other type of ill-advised behavior, they try to be proactive by giving them a warning and telling them, "If I catch you again, you get a ticket."

According to DeLeone, the Hellertown Police Department is currently fully staffed, with a total of 14 officers including part-time officers.

During the daytime and overnight hours there are typically two officers on duty at any given time, and during the evening hours there are three on duty, he said.

"Most of the time during the day it's ambulance calls, accidents, traffic citations that we're writing," DeLeone said. "Most of our stuff is happening at night."

In response to a question from a resident, DeLeone said he thinks a regional police department covering Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township would be a good thing for residents of both communities.

"Personally I'm hoping that it does (happen)," he said. "I think you're going to get better service by doing that."

A unified Hellertown-Lower Saucon Police Department could help ease the financial burden having two separate departments places on taxpayers, and there should be no significant difference in response times to calls if the departments are merged, he said.

Having a combined police department would also make it easier for local police to apply for grants, he said.

"Every department that's went to this has benefited in one way or another," DeLeone stated. "It's going to benefit everybody."

charles hampton July 07, 2011 at 12:53 PM
I wish I had attended this meeting. Those who question the rights of pedestrians are simply ignorant and provincial. Just because the law is rarely enforced in Hellertown, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. These un-educated people are as much of the problem as the cowboys in the jacked up pick-ups, muscle cars, ninja motorcycles, and other would be nascar driver types, who dominate Hell'town's roadways. I know who these people are. They will not make eye contact when I am attempting to cross the street, and I know not to challenge them. And yes, I witness ignorant pedestrians too, attempting to cross in the middle of the block, often within sight of the painted crosswalk.
Mary Anne Looby July 07, 2011 at 01:27 PM
Everyone should carry a big rubber ball and when these motor heads are ripping through the borough and township you should bounce the ball into the street. Eventuallly they will get the idea that there just might be a kid behind that ball and they all better slow down!!!
Mary Anne Looby July 07, 2011 at 01:28 PM
I know the above idea sounds idiotic, but when you are dealing with idiots it is often the only way to get their attention.
charles hampton July 07, 2011 at 02:14 PM
I only wish I could have seen the faces of those speaking, so I would know who to look out for when I am walking or biking!
Stephanie Brown July 07, 2011 at 02:33 PM
http://www.dot.state.pa.us/pedestrian/web/laws.htm
Stephanie Brown July 07, 2011 at 02:35 PM
To bad, Lee wasn't there!
Susan D. July 07, 2011 at 04:08 PM
I just don't understand what the big deal is for motorists. You're losing a few seconds of travel time versus a walker's safety? Personally I'm more concerned with motorists speeding and how THEY act entitled. I know it's unpopular but I wouldn't mind the speed limit on Main Street being lowered to 25.
Salisbury Resident July 07, 2011 at 05:01 PM
What's the problem with waiting until it is safe and clear to cross the street? This "law" is causing unnecessary problems and finger pointing.
Stephanie Brown July 07, 2011 at 05:03 PM
DeLeone noted that educating adults about pedestrian safety could be costly, and said residents might balk if told, "your taxes are going to go up because now you're paying for a teacher to teach adults how to cross a street." For a good six months to a year, prior to the opening of the rail trail I advocated for a pedestrian safety campaign at Lower Saucon Township meetings, SV Partnership meetings and rail trail meetings, but It was not considered important. Geting the trail open was the most important especially to township officals . Privacy fences were paid for with rail trail monies? I have spent 20 plus years walking in Lower Saucon and Hellertown in the area of the rail trail. I know the dangers and the problems and even spoke to the police about it citing the future open of the rail trail and they just blew me off. Now suddenly two months after the rail trails opens there still has been nothing done to address safety issues? There are many resources offered by the state for pedestrian and bicycle saftey, including brochures and pamphlets that are free of charge or can be orderd at a discount. Funds for a safety campaign could have be paid for through grants and maybe even through the casino grants that were applied for, for the rail trail. A combined regional police force will not happen until Hellertown can afford to pay the same salary as Lower Saucon. That will increase Hellertown's taxes, so that is why it has not been done and rejected by the Borough.
Stephanie Brown July 07, 2011 at 05:40 PM
Because it is 2011 and this isn't Mayberry.
Mary Anne Looby July 07, 2011 at 06:35 PM
I absolutely agree Susan. If they did that, we would see far less traffic on 412. Most of those people flying through are shortcutting through our area and cutting across a back road to get to 309 and south. They sure aren't locals
Mary Anne Looby July 07, 2011 at 06:38 PM
how about because it is almost never clear and safe!
charles hampton July 07, 2011 at 07:16 PM
"Because it is 2011 and this isn't Mayberry." It isn't Los Angeles either, where I have seen traffic come to a complete stop on Paramount Blvd. for a pedestrian. It is expected there, and enforced! It is part of the culture. It's as simple as that

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