Mountain View Voice

Opinion - July 30, 2010

It's time to protect the crosswalks

Sadly, nothing can be done to bring back 80-year-old Manuel Enos, the pedestrian who died when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver in the crosswalk at California and Franklin streets a couple of weeks ago.

But we hope this tragic accident will spur the city to commission a thorough investigation of all its high-traffic, unsignaled intersections. It is time to make sure everything possible is being done to protect pedestrians from motorists who cannot or do not see them when they are simply trying to walk across the street.

Mike Fuller, the city's public works director, told the Voice that there is no record of accidents involving pedestrians at the California and Franklin intersection since at least 2001, and that several steps have been taken to make motorists more aware of the crosswalk there. A warning sign picturing a human figure using a crosswalk has been installed near the intersection, as well as a high visibility crosswalk painted to look like a giant white ladder, he said.

But some residents who live near the intersection have brought up several reasons that could have contributed to the accident. The first is poor visibility for drivers on California Street due to cars parked on California Street up to the Franklin Street intersection. Residents in the area say there often are near-misses when a pedestrian steps out beyond the protection of the parked cars.

And given that the accident happened about 7:40 p.m., the setting sun could have blinded the driver enough that she might not have seen the victim in the crosswalk.

Whatever factors led to the accident, it is certainly worthwhile for the city to consider all the options for improving pedestrian safety at California and Franklin streets. Here are some suggestions the city might consider:

• A stop sign or traffic light. Either would almost immediately improve the intersection's safety.

• Paint additional red curbs at the corners to increase visibility so drivers can see pedestrians preparing to cross.

• Install pedestrian-activated LED lights that are embedded in the pavement to warn drivers that there is someone in the crosswalk. Some installations include portable flags that can be waved by pedestrians as they cross to make themselves more visible.

The state vehicle code requires drivers to stop when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk, but also makes clear that pedestrians must give cars some distance to stop. But if drivers cannot see a pedestrian until they are 10 feet or more into an intersection, and if pedestrians cannot see oncoming traffic until they are committed in a crosswalk, accidents are bound to happen.

The best memorial the city could give to Mr. Enos is to improve the visibility in all the city's crosswalks as soon as possible.

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