With the addition of a new mid-block crosswalk in downtown Anoka, drivers and pedestrians have had a few months to adjust their habits.
An estimated 20,000 vehicles a day travel East Main Street, according to Public Services Director Greg Lee.
And with the downtown being a popular walking destination with the number of shops and the Anoka County Government Center, the crosswalk was added to try to curb dangerous jaywalking in the middle of the block.
It is part of a number of recent improvements on East Main, many aimed at increasing pedestrian safety.
But drivers need to remember that they are required to stop and allow pedestrians to cross at the crosswalk, said Anoka Police Chief Phil Johanson.
So far there have been no serious incidents at the new crossing, he said.
“But every year we do have some accidents or close calls with pedestrians,” said Johanson. “Pedestrian safety is a huge issue in Anoka, especially between First and Fourth avenues.”
Most often those accidents involve drivers making a left-hand turn – particularly near the government center.
“They are concentrating on the oncoming traffic and don’t see someone in the crosswalk,” said Johanson.
The new crossing between Second and Third avenues has some unique features, including LED lighting embedded in the pavement and signage to help improve visibility.
While the lights are an added safety feature, motorists are still required to stop if a pedestrian is in the crosswalk, whether or not the flashers are activated.
Johanson said from what he has seen, about half of the pedestrians using the mid-block crossing are actually pushing the button to trigger the lights.
In upcoming months, police will be more closely monitoring drivers at the crosswalk.
According to Johanson, while officers have issued warnings, there will be increased enforcement coming and they will start issuing citations.
The fine for a misdemeanor citation could range from $100 to $300.
And for all of the talk about distracted driving, it is a problem for pedestrians as well, Johanson said.
Police have noticed an increase in the number of people getting hurt either falling or walking into things because they are engrossed in their cell phone while walking around town, he said.
“They’re walking right into danger,” said Johanson.
Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]