Undercover police pedestrians part of new Philly campaign to prevent fatalities

Listen
Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel speaks at a safety event with a pedestrian warning notice in the background. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel speaks at a safety event with a pedestrian warning notice in the background. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians in Philadelphia, be warned. The city vows to enforce traffic laws more adamantly, especially for those disregarding their surroundings.

“Pick your head up, pay attention to what’s going on around you!” That’s a message Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler would like to seem emblazoned on T-shirts.

Instead, warning tickets will be issued through the new program for distracted drivers, bikers and pedestrians. And Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel said his officers will enforce the rule that pedestrians always have the right of way by going undercover, on foot.

“Some of my officers are going to act like pedestrians and walk across, and see if you turn in front of them. And if you do, you are going to be given a warning,” Bethel said. “And if you act crazy enough we are going to give you a ticket.”

Even pedestrians will be in line for a ticket — or at least a warning — if they are ignoring the flow of traffic while walking.

Pedestrians are the glue that holds the entire transportation system together, said Alex Doty of the  Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia

“We can’t bike without walking, you can’t transit for sure without walking, you can’t drive your car without walking — and yet walking is an activity that should be straightforward has become too dangerous,” Doty said. “Four in every 10 traffic fatalities in the city are pedestrians, and we can’t allow that to continue.”

In 2013, there were more than three dozen fatal pedestrian-vehicle accidents in Philadelphia.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.