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Crosswalk cads will land in cross hairs

Motorists cruising through crosswalks when pedestrians are trying to use them will be more likely to get socked in the wallet for $80 this year.

But don't laugh, you pedestrians who like to go as you please.

Stepped-up police enforcement is going to target you, too.

Jaywalking and scoffing at red lights or "don't walk" signals will be more likely to bring $26 citations as part of a city program to encourage safer streets.

The campaign won't start immediately.

Police say it likely won't begin in earnest until this spring, when electronic signals will be installed over 20 crosswalks (see related story).

But there is some crosswalk monitoring taking place now. Police are coordinating efforts with Michael Frederick, neighborhood transportation manager.

"What he's asked us to do is go out to locations (where signals will go up) and monitor speeds," said police Lt. Hope Crews, the traffic division supervisor.

"We're trying to attack it from the front by reducing the speed," she said.

Early on, the goal will be compliance through education rather than citation.

"What we try to do is educate motorists and pedestrians, especially when we're trying to start something new or when we haven't done something for a while," Crews said.

Tougher enforcement, when it starts, will take place at crosswalks at both intersections and midblock.

State law requires motorists to yield to pedestrians "when the pedestrian is on the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely ... as to be in danger."

St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Tampa compose a Tampa Bay triad that has had a longstanding reputation as one of the nation's most dangerous regions for pedestrians.

St. Petersburg alone has experienced several hundred pedestrian injuries in the past few years. A man died on 38th Avenue N last week when a truck struck him as he crossed the road.

Problem areas exist throughout the city, Crews said. Downtown, near malls and parks _ "anywhere you get a combination of lots of vehicles and pedestrians," Crews said.

"Major thoroughfares are a problem all the time."

Jaywalking happens a lot downtown. Sometimes police have run a "sting" operating in which a casually dressed officer watches for midstreet crossers. It's a technique not regularly used.

"We don't have anything planned," Crews said. "That's not to say it won't happen."

An operation conducted in 2002 at Fourth Street N and First Avenue resulted in numerous citations and dozens of warnings. Eight motorists also received tickets for violating crosswalk rules.

"It was pretty successful," Crews said.

Newly painted bicycle lanes, which are being added to busy roads to give cyclists and pedestrians a place to share space, also will win attention, Crews said.

"It's an issue we're going to have to educate people on," she said. "People don't really understand the markings. Even if you have have markings and a bicycle in the lane, people might not understand.'