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Commentary: Critical Crossings
Lisa LaScola Martin | 12th Street

12th Street. Photo illustration Lisa LaScola Martin.
Click to enlarge.


My husband, two teenagers and I moved to Del Mar two and a half years ago. Although our two teenagers are old enough to use a crosswalk, I have two rules when they are out and about in the community: first, no walking on the train tracks; second, no crossing over Camino Del Mar (CDM) unless at the 9th or 15th Street crosswalks where there are traffic lights. Crossing at the Bully’s, 14th, or 12th streets crosswalks–where there are only blinking lights—is not safe. The existing markings and lights give pedestrians a false sense of security but the reality is that unless the drivers can see the actual pedestrian, they seldom stop for the crossing signal. Our experience is that my 6’2” tall husband who often goes to the UPS store on 12th and CDM has almost been hit a half-dozen times by cars driving ahead into that crosswalk. He frequently has to wave his hat or shout to get their attention.

Ed note: The Streetscape Plan going to City Council for approval this month includes “pedestrian bulbouts which allow for better visibility of pedestrians and reduced vehicular travel speeds. Median widening would occur at several locations in order to create pedestrian refuge areas. The project would provide pedestrian crosswalks in all four directions at all intersections...which prioritize pedestrian crossing in the downtown area. Decorative concrete or concrete pavers would be provided at crosswalks to contrast with the adjacent asphalt road to help highlight these area as cross walks and pedestrian zones in order to further slow vehicular traffic.” Source: . The clip is from the City’s Streetscape Plan at 12th Street.

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Not only are drivers in a hurry to get through town, possibly distracted by the ocean view, or texting, but they often cannot see the pedestrian because shrubs block their line of sight. Even the compliant 30” high shrubs can obscure the outline of a pedestrian from most sedan-sized cars. My daughter is 5 feet tall. If the drivers can’t see my 6’2” husband, how will they see my daughter?
As a community we should rethink and invest in making our crosswalks safer for walkers to use. Median shrubs can be lowered to allow visibility from across the street. Another improvement that would be helpful for drivers is painting the crosswalks stripes yellow. Yellow makes the area stand out. Yellow stands for “slow down” or “caution.” And add extra in-street pedestrian crosswalk signs in the center median of the lanes with full stop signs (13th and 11th Street). It often happens that when drivers come to a stop they use the opportunity to check their phone. Maybe seeing a sign right in front of them will alert drivers look for a pedestrian.

Crosswalks seem even more important as we remodel the downtown and direct even more foot traffic to the businesses. The cost of investing in safer solutions to bring attention to our crosswalks would be substantially less than the cost of a tragedy.


 

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