For the past few months, walking or biking without following the rules of the road in downtown St. Pete could bring a verbal or even a written warning from a city police officer. But beginning Monday, April 4, pedestrians and cyclists are now subject to a fine and a ticket.
The change in policy comes after months of city police warning people in downtown St. Pete who were caught breaking the rules. It also comes after one of the deadliest years for the Tampa Bay Area in pedestrian and bicyclist accidents.
The region set records in 2015 for the number of cyclist and pedestrian deaths. There were 51 pedestrians killed in Hillsborough County last year. In Pinellas County, five pedestrians and one cyclist died in accidents. Another 12 pedestrians and cyclists were killed in crashes within St. Petersburg.
Right now, St. Petersburg Police Department is on a mission to educate the public about pedestrian and bicycle safety in hopes of preventing those tragedies.
"Many times, it's simply citizens not obeying the law," said Sgt. Terri Nagle of St. Pete Police.
Officers are using grant money to hit the street and hand out lots of brochures, talking to people about the rules of the road. Their main goal during the education campaign was to give both drivers and pedestrians a better view of the common mistakes they're making, all in hopes of saving lives.
"A lot of times, people just don't use crosswalks. We also have a lot of vehicles that don't yield to pedestrians who are legally crossing roadways," said Sgt. Nagle.
A lot of people also wear dark clothing, making them hard to see, especially at night. That's why officers are also giving out free bike lights. They hope their efforts will help everyone pay more attention and stay safe on the roads.
As a gauge, a jaywalking ticket under these new enforcements could run you about $60.