louie the lookerAfter several months of giving warnings to jaywalkers at five intersections around the city, the Louisville Metro Police Department soon is expected to begin issuing citations with fines of up to $100 to pedestrians — which LMPD says it has not done in recent memory.

The new initiative of LMPD and Metro Public Works — called Look Alive Louisville, featuring its “Louie the Looker” mascot — was made possible by a $307,000 federal grant and will last for three years, along with an educational program. Louisville ranks high in pedestrian fatalities — having 18 in 2014 and 11 so far this year — and the initiative hopes to lower those numbers.

The “compliance through education” program began in April, with a combination of plain-clothed and uniformed officers giving a warning and educational pamphlets to jaywalkers at five intersections: Fourth and Market, Fourth and Broadway, Second and Broadway, Bardstown Road and Goldsmith Lane, and Preston Highway and Gilmore Lane.

Lt. Joe Seeyle, who head’s LMPD’s Traffic Unit, tells Insider Louisville that early this week, officers observed over 1,000 pedestrians crossing the two Fourth Street intersections, saying 13 percent had violated traffic laws in some way. While he has seen an improvement in the five targeted intersections since the educational program began in April, “if we get to the point where we don’t see any improvement, that’s when we’ll start handing out the citations to pedestrians,” though he declined to give a set date for when that might begin.

Up until this point, Seeyle said the LMPD has made a practice of only giving verbal warnings to jaywalkers. “In my career, I’ve never known anybody to ever receive a citation for not using a crosswalk,” he said. “I’ve never seen it.”

Some have criticized the new initiative as an ineffective waste of LMPD’s time and resources that could be focused on more important crime, or warned that it could be used as a revenue-generating tactic that also targets racial minorities, as has been alleged in other cities. Seelye dismissed that this would be a revenue generator for the city — saying the fines would go to the state and they are no different than speeding tickets — and said pedestrian safety is a worthy goal that the city now has a chance to address due to the federal grant.

“Within the parameters of everything we focus on, sometimes pedestrians crossing may be low-hanging fruit, but we were very blessed to receive this grant, and we have an opportunity to educate and hopefully at the end of the day improve traffic and pedestrian safety,” said Seeyle. “Because the reason we received the grant is we have one of the worst records in the country in regards to accident data with pedestrians.”

The five intersections were chosen due to their data showing they are especially dangerous and accident prone, Seeyle said.

Insider Louisville examined data from the Kentucky State Police on injury and fatality-inducing collisions of pedestrians with vehicles in Jefferson County over the last several years to see which are the most problematic areas. The data showed that while the area around the three targeted downtown intersections has an especially high rate of accidents, none of the LMPD’s five targeted intersections have been the site of any of Louisville’s 92 pedestrian fatalities since the beginning of 2010. Additionally, some of the most dangerous stretches of roads for pedestrians — particularly Dixie Highway — are not included.

The following map points out the 618 places where pedestrians have been injured by vehicles since the beginning of 2014, which features a large cluster within the area of LMPD’s three targeted downtown intersections.

The 618 sites where pedestrians where injured by a vehicle in Louisville since the beginning of 2014
The 618 sites where pedestrians were injured by a vehicle in Louisville since the beginning of 2014, with the five intersections targeted by the LMPD circled in green

According to figures provided by the Louisville Downtown Partnership on downtown pedestrian traffic during 2014 (see map below), the targeted intersection of Fourth and Market is easily the most dense, having nearly 9,000 pedestrians cross there in a 12-hour period. Of the intersections studied, Fourth and Broadway was only the 13th busiest, with 3,172 pedestrians crossing — and while it wasn’t studied, based on adjacent intersections, Second and Broadway is likely considerably lower.

pedestrians downtown

While the Bardstown and Goldsmith area has seen a cluster of pedestrian injuries, the area around Preston and Gilmore has seen very few — both paling in comparison to the enormous amount of injuries on the notoriously dangerous Dixie Highway.

The maps below of pedestrian fatalities since the beginning of 2010 and 2014 show no fatalities in the five targeted intersections, but they do show that a 5-mile stretch of Dixie Highway — from just north of the Watterson Expressway to just north of the Gene Snyder Expressway — is the most dangerous roadway for pedestrians in the city.

pedestrian fatalities 2014
The 29 sites where pedestrians were killed by a vehicle in Louisville since the beginning of 2014, with the five intersections targeted by the LMPD circled in green
pedestrian fatalities since 2010
The 90 sites where pedestrians were killed by a vehicle in Louisville since the beginning of 2010, with the five intersections targeted by the LMPD circled in green

This stretch of Dixie Highway has had four pedestrian fatalities since 2014, and 10 since 2010. Dixie Highway as a whole has been the site of 16 fatalities since 2010.

Though no fatalities occurred at the Preston and Gilmore intersection, since 2010 there have been two nearby, and six fatalities on Preston Highway in total. The area around the Bardstown and Goldsmith intersection — very near the Economy Inn — has seen no fatalities, though a stretch of Bardstown 2 miles southeast of it has been the site of three fatalities since 2014 and five since 2010. Fatalities within Louisville’s downtown business district have been very rare.

Seeyle acknowledged that Dixie Highway is notoriously dangerous for pedestrians, but said the length of the road is why it was not included in the jaywalking initiative.

“Dixie Highway – as you’re well aware if you live in this community – has always been a challenge,” said Seeyle. “But the problem with Dixie Highway is, it’s very tough to focus on one specific area based on the size of it. That’s why we really focused in on those five locations. Preston Highway is a very long area, and that’s why we focused on Preston and Gilmore. We’re trying to crunch the data down to some of the more problematic areas.”

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]