Jaywalking a hot topic as Iowa City swells with activity

Police promise enforcement will be stepped up in areas around UI campus

Pedestrians cross Clinton Street at Iowa Avenue in Iowa City in November 2000. (Gazette file photo)
Pedestrians cross Clinton Street at Iowa Avenue in Iowa City in November 2000. (Gazette file photo)

Every fall, when the student presence in Iowa City increases, so does the jaywalking.

That can be a real problem at night near downtown, when any number of jaywalkers – and even some drivers – are under the influence of alcohol.

It also can add to the stress of maintaining public safety when, say, the President of the United States decides to visit on the same weekend that the Hawkeyes take on Iowa State in town, the community puts on its annual FryFest, and the UI kicks off the weekend with Hawkapolooza, featuring a concert by rapper TPain.

“You are going to see enforcement stepped up,” Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton said about the natural rise in jaywalking tickets and warnings issued when UI students for the fall semester.

Several UI students reported to The Gazette seeing campus officers doling out jaywalking tickets near busy intersections on campus this week. One person saw a UI officer writing tickets near Hubbard Park, at the intersection of Madison and Jefferson streets.

UI senior Jordan Fries, 21, said he saw an officer writing jaywalking tickets on Wednesday near the intersection of Clinton and Jefferson streets – across from the John Pappajohn Business Building.  The students he saw ticketed were at a crosswalk but were going without a walk sign.

And, a week ago, Fries said, his roommate got a jaywalk ticket for crossing Dubuque Street outside the crosswalk at night.

“He was frustrated and kind of shocked that he got a ticket for jaywalking,” Fries said. “We didn’t think that actually happened.”

Fries conceded that UI officials and city leaders remind students every year that jaywalking will be enforced.

“They tell you they’re looking for that, but it’s just natural to do when you’re walking on campus and in a hurry,” he said. “I kind of understand if it’s a safety issue, but if no one’s around, it’s common sense to just cross the street.”

UI sophomore Tammy Glowienke, 19, said she and her friends were “crossing everywhere” during the first week of school.

“Then we heard, ‘Oh wait, they’re giving out tickets for this,’” Glowienke said, adding that she has stopped her illegal crossing and supports the police enforcement as far as safety goes.

“Some streets are not as big of a deal,” she said, “but I’ve seen cops in front of the Pentacrest, and that intersection is more dangerous than others.”

UI spokesman Tom Moore said there is no specific effort this fall to increase jaywalking enforcement, but he said, “The health and well-being of our students is a top priority, and emphasizing the importance of pedestrian safety is an important element of maintaining the health and wellness of our students.”

Iowa City police Sgt. Brotherton said officers are especially vigilant at night because there is a greater chance that jaywalking pedestrians are not sober, increasing the safety risks.

“It’s not going to be uncommon for an officer to stop someone,” she said.

At least during President Barack Obama’s 5:30 p.m. visit to the Pentacrest today, the chances of car-pedestrian collisions will be lessened. The city is closing at least five streets surrounding the area for much of the day – some will be closed starting at 8:30 a.m. until the event is over.

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