Pity the poor Brickell pedestrian.
Early Wednesday, a trio of uniformed Miami motorcycle cops on a special detail — ticketing motorists who fail to yield to crossing pedestrians — gamely tried to patrol the river of traffic that is Brickell Avenue’s Eighth Street intersection. They wrote tickets as fast as they could and still couldn’t keep up.
In just a bit over an hour, the officers handed out 47 tickets to surprised drivers, most of whom were turning onto Brickell off Eighth and in the process brushed by, cut off or pushed into people on foot who had the right of way in a crosswalk marked with big, fat zebra stripes.
Wednesday’s ticket tally underscored what activists and Brickell residents have long been saying: That the spine of Miami’s gleaming financial center, an avenue designed principally to speed cars along, has become a dangerous pedestrian flashpoint as thousands of new residents, visitors and office workers flock to the revitalized urban district and attempt to walk around.
The cops, who stood in the open in full uniform, could easily have handed out lots more tickets. Even the obvious police presence did not deter some violators. For every motorist stopped, two or three others blithely blasted by crossing pedestrians who were forced to cower, retreat or break into a jog to avoid getting hit.
The motorist obliviousness on display surprised even the seen-it-all cops: Two drivers were ticketed for turning left just a foot or two in front of Officer Horace Jones, who, decked out in shiny motorcycle boots and uniform, was crossing the intersection on foot after assisting a cyclist knocked down when a cab driver opened the car door in his path.
“I could stand here waving a flag announcing that we’re enforcing this and people still wouldn’t care,’’ said the squad’s supervisor, Sgt. Rufus Devane.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the ticketed motorists claimed not to know they must yield to people on foot. Devane laid out the law: Except when facing a red traffic light, pedestrians crossing an intersection have the right of way, even in the absence of a marked crosswalk. Motorists must stop and wait until pedestrians have safely crossed before proceeding through.
If they don’t, and there happens to be an alert cop on the scene, they risk a $179 moving violation and three points on their record.
“It’s really good to see them here,’’ said Brickell office worker Giseli Rocha, pausing to thank the officers as she walked to work. “It’s crazy here. The drivers don’t respect you. They don’t stop. It’s like you’re not in the U.S.’’
But you are, in a city with a pedestrian injury rate that studies consistently rank among the three highest in the nation.
Wednesday’s crosswalk detail, the second in two months, was prompted by a pair of videos sent to Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa by Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, whose district includes Brickell. Sarnoff has been trying, with some success, to get police to target speeders and other motorized scofflaws in the area, where he says pedestrians and cyclists are too often getting struck by cars.
The first video, by Craig Chester, a blogger and advocate at transitmiami.com, shows cars forcing their way through crossing pedestrians at the Eighth Street intersection, to a soundtrack mash-up of Rodney Dangerfield’s “I don’t get no respect’’ refrain and a singing Aretha Franklin asking for some.