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Golombek seeking police action on pedestrians strolling in streets

The motorist was driving down Esser Avenue in Riverside the other day when he spotted the woman pushing a baby carriage.

She was walking in the street, recalled the driver, who happened to be North District Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr.

"It was terribly unsafe," he said. "It's bad enough when an adult walks in the street, but a woman with a baby carriage?"

Many block clubs have long complained about pedestrians who use streets as their personal pathways, Golombek said. That's why he's asking police officials to appear before the Common Council to discuss the possibility of cracking down on offenders.

Police in Niagara Falls recently started issuing warnings to people that they could face prosecution if they walk in the streets. Golombek thinks Buffalo should consider the same strategy.

A block club leader in the Grant-Amherst neighborhood would like to see such a crackdown, noting that he has experienced a couple of "close calls" with people who walk in the streets.

"It's a real hazard," said Timothy Lyman of the Grant/Amherst Block Watchers. "If you hit someone it's your fault. It's your insurance that will be affected, and there could be a lawsuit."

The offenders are often young people who walk in groups, Lyman and Golombek said. And it's not just happening on side streets that accommodate fewer vehicles.

It's one thing during the winter months when sidewalks that are encased in snow and ice force pedestrians to walk in the streets, Lyman said. But now that weather has taken a more pleasant turn, the Police Department is being asked to take a more vigilant stand.

Why do so many people choose to walk in the streets? Some believe younger people do it as a mild form of rebellion. Others suspect that some pedestrians feel safer in the street, where they're not as close to buildings, bushes or alleys where people could be lurking.

The City Charter has provisions that would allow police to fine people who walk in the street. For example, one provision states that individuals cannot willfully obstruct any public street or crosswalk. But Golombek said he has not heard of any efforts in Buffalo to prod pedestrians to stay on sidewalks.

Mayor Byron W. Brown's administration did not respond to a reporter's inquiry about whether the Police Department would be receptive to beginning such an initiative.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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