Mountain View Voice

Opinion - March 22, 2013

Stop sign overdue on Phyllis Avenue

More than 10 years ago, 115 Cuesta neighborhood residents signed a petition asking the city to install a stop sign and reduce the speed limit on Phyllis Avenue, where 59-year-old Ruifan Ma lost her life on March 4. She was hit by a car while crossing Phyllis at Hans Avenue in a crosswalk, but evidently the driver didn't see her in the fading sunlight at 6:30 p.m.

After the petition was presented in 2001, the city did narrow Phyllis from four lanes to three by adding a turn lane in each direction, but it was not until five years later that the speed limit was reduced from 35 to 30 miles per hour. At the time, two residents again asked for a stop sign at Hans and Phyllis avenues, but were turned down.

As described in the minutes of a 2001 meeting of the City Council's Transportation Committee, then-council member Sally Lieber said, "It seems unsafe for pedestrians to cross the street" when discussing Phyllis Avenue. She asked if placing reflective markers on the street at the crosswalks would be possible. Unfortunately, her request went nowhere due to the thinking of a traffic engineer, who "stated the street does not meet the requirements for stop signs or lights" and that neighbors complain about the noise caused by the markers.

But now, the Transportation Committee and the City Council should not hesitate to move ahead and put in stop signs in each direction on Phyllis Avenue. It would be a minor inconvenience for drivers, but it could save resident Chuck Zissman the worry every time he hears the sounds of a collision, like he did on March 4. "Frankly, it sounded more like a vehicle collision than a vehicle hitting a pedestrian," he told the Voice. He said he thought it was a bicyclist and was shocked to see it was a pedestrian who was run down by a motorist.

The Hans/Phyllis intersection is in a neighborhood that is choked with traffic during some times of day. "On a typical morning, you'll see as many as six, seven, eight cars back upon Hans," mostly leaving Bubb school, Zissman said. They are trying to turn left onto Phyllis, where "there is a literally an endless stream of traffic," he said.

We hope the death of Ruifan Ma and the three other pedestrians this year will move transportation officials to not only look at improving safety at the Phyllis and Hans intersection, but in other areas where neighborhood streets have become short-cuts for drivers who are trying to escape the increasing gridlock on major thoroughfares like El Camino Real. Residents are much more prone to walk or bike on these streets, which during much of day are perfectly safe. But when the traffic count grows and speeds increase during commute hours, it is time for the city to step in and erect stop signs, flashing lights or other traffic calming devices to make sure motorists are aware that they must slow down and be alert for pedestrians and cyclists. It would be a fitting tribute to Ma, who was simply trying to cross the street in what should have been a safe crosswalk.

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