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Dangerous and Unacceptable El Camino Crosswalk Situation

Original post made by Concerned Citzen on Jul 13, 2007

For years, many residents in Evergreen Park and College Terrace have advocated for a signal crossing light at the intersection of El Camino Real and College Ave.

This intersection is exceedingly hazardous to pedestrians who want to make their way across El Camino to access JJ&F Market, and other destinations (including churches, laundromats, office buildings, etc.).

Signal lights at Stanford Ave. and Cambridge Ave. (as they intersect with El Camino) have within the last year been timed so that their is no break in traffic at the El Camino and College intersection to make a safe crossing.

Thus, pedestrians are forced to wait on a flimsy median in the middle of El Camino - with cars racing by them only a foot or two away.

Why can't the state move the Cambridge and El Camino signal to College and El Camino? There are many, many more residents on College than there are on Cambridge.

One other frustrating thing is that their is NO enforcement at the El Camino and College Avenue crosswalk.

I have seen countless numbers of senior citzens, children (many on their way to or from Escondido Elementary School), and others either stranded on the flimsy median as cars zoom by within a foot or two, or outright stranded in the middle of the street IN A CROSSWALK as one violater after another drives past, ignoring California law that requires drivers to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.

This intersection is an accident waiting to happen. In fact, there was a fatality or near-fatality there some years ago.

Last, why on earth was a signal light placed at Cambridge and El Camino, instead of College and El Camino? There are probably a few thousand people that live on both sides of College Avenue, and only a a few doxen residents on Cambridge. Further, why are there two consecutive intersections (Cambridge and California) with signal lights? Why not move the Cambridge signal to College?

I am near outrage at this situation, which has existed for years, with no solutions forthcoming from CalTrans

In the meantime, we need more-than-occasional police enforcement to nail the irresponsible scofflaws that drive past senior citizens and others stranded in that crosswalk.

Comments (35)

Posted by Ollie, a resident of Stanford
on Jul 13, 2007 at 11:55 am

I was in that exact crosswalk and a cop sailed past within 2 feet of me.

Posted by qq, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 13, 2007 at 11:59 am

This problem is not just limited to College Ave. Every crosswalk on El Camino is like this. I recommend going on eBay and buying a paddle stop sign and fluorescent vest, as shown here...

Web Link

I've often run into the situation where a kind soul will stop for the crosswalk only to have the other two lanes of traffic keep whizzing by. Folks in cars start packing up behind the kind driver only to start going around them and honking, oblivious to why the driver has stopped.

Best of luck,


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2007 at 12:19 pm

I do agree. Although, seeing it from the drivers' perspective, many of these crosswalks are badly marked. Something like the system on Fabian where the crosswalk stripes have lights which blink after the button has been pressed may be a good solution. In fact the system should be on many other crosswalks, by schools, on San Antonio by whichever road has only a crosswalk.

Crosswalks need to be marked much better, they need to be seen by drivers, thick yellow parrallel lines, or something. Most drivers do not see what is really just another road marking and a sign on the side of the street which is often hidden by a tall vehicle in the next lane. Make them more visible and drivers will notice them much better.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 13, 2007 at 2:15 pm

Wasn't there a pedestrian underpass somewhere along there to accomodate the school that used to be there?

Posted by k, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 13, 2007 at 4:16 pm

I think it's wise to have bold, visible crosswalk markings (even though that's no excuse for drivers whizzing by when pedestrians are trying to cross). Someone wrote that some of the intersections in question are poorly marked - maybe an authority can be alerted to request a paint job. I have had the experience of slowing down and stopping on ECR for pedestrians to cross (not sure at which intersections)-- I mean, they have the right of way --, only to have furious motorists behind me come close, often swerving their SUVs suddenly since they weren't paying attention. The same thing can happen when one is trying to make a legal left turn at many intersections in this city.

Posted by Concerned Citzen, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 13, 2007 at 5:50 pm

I have called CalTrans (for the nth time). They have promised a report from a traffic analyst "soon".

In the meantime, CalTrans and the State Police Highway Patrol have told me that local police enforcement of violaters on El Camino is appropriate.

I will be noting this to our public safety officials early next week. I would encourage anyone concerned about this to call our local police authorties and request their more-than-occasional presence at this, and other problematic El Camino intersectons. Perhaps a few rush hour "stings" would help get the message across, and raise much-needed funds.

State Police have promised that they will put this intersection on their radar (so to speak).

Posted by Pedestrian, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2007 at 12:32 am

Yes Walter you are right there used to be an underpass right there, it is still there but has been blocked off for years. I don't know why anyone would want to cross the El Camino to get to JJ & F because I thought JJ & F was closing.

Posted by Driver, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 14, 2007 at 6:33 am

I am sure that College Terrace will get the traffic light. College Terrace seems to get everything it demands from the City Council. They have traffic calming and about a year or so ago they demanded even more traffic calming measures and got it. there are lights on California, Cambridge and Stanford Avenues already, but since there is no light on College, College Terrace feels they are being cheated. How many other ares in Palo Alto have extreme traffic calming measures and traffic lights on 3 of 4 corners?
Next the residents of College Terrcae will be demanding traffic calming on El Camino.
It is time to say "enough" to the residents of College Terrace and focus on traffic problems in other parts of the city.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 14, 2007 at 7:04 pm

I like the new zebra crossings with flashing yellow lights and such.

Posted by Concerned Citzen, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 14, 2007 at 7:27 pm


Perhaps you would like to try negotiating the intersection in question - on foot, or by auto. It is _impossible_ to cross el Camino during a good part of the day without considerable risk to oneself, or others (if one is driving.

There has already been one fatality in that crosswalk, some years ago. Why would you not want to make that intersection safer - along with EVERY OTHER dangerous intersection in PA?

As for traffic calming in CT, it is WORKING in College Terrace. Why would you not want something like that to work - especially when the Terrace is filled with kids on bicycles, and there is an elementary school nearby?

The speed bumps on Stanford Ave, and thropughout the rest of CT have REALLY made a difference.

As for traffic calmingi on El Camino, there was an effort some years ago to do just that. Very good studies were done to show that by reducing El Camino from 6 ;anes to 4 lanes - from San Antonio to Sand Hill, the average speed between those two points would INCREASE from the current 15 mph, to something near 23 mph. This would have permitted wider sidewalks, turning El Camino into more a walking boulevard - inviting more substantial retail and on street housing. Why would anyone be against that?

Posted by Driver, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 14, 2007 at 7:46 pm

Concerned citizen--I am not against traffic lights or traffic calming--however I think that College Terrcae has gotten more than it's fair share of both. It is now time to turn to other parts of the city--there are plenty of intersections in other areas that are hard to cross due to heavy traffic. there are also many other neighborhoods with kids on bicycles and schools nearby.
i think these areas (many of them in the neglected south PA area)should be accomodated first and then if there are resources left we can address the latest whining coming from College Terrace.
(BTW remember how some residents in College Terrace opposed the soccer fields at El Camino and Page Mill? Too bad there wasn't the concern you show now for kids on bicycles and schools)

Posted by Millie, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 14, 2007 at 9:50 pm

Driver, I suggest you purchase some nice sweet red grapes - they're in the market, rather the the sour grapes that you've been consuming lately. :)

Posted by Pedestrian, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2007 at 10:20 am

Driver, the reason College Terrace gets all this traffic calming is because one of their neighborhood leaders is now working in the Traffic Department - it's cronyism!!

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2007 at 10:45 am

I have a suggestion.

How about putting a traffic barrier across College Ave. so that cars will have to use a different route to access or egress. This would make a lot of sense. It would make College Ave. safer for residents as there would be less through traffic on the street. Also, for pedestrian safety, how about a "no crossing zone" sign which would make pedestrians walk to the next light to cross.

What we do not need is another light here on El Camino. There are so many lights along this stretch that it is already confusing to drivers. Just look at the lights on Middlefield by the Mitchell Park library, that double set of lights is really confusing and many drivers ignore the first because they look on it as being one intersection not too. This is not deliberate on their part, just confusing.

There is no reason why a major artery like El Camino needs to have a light at every intersection. We just need to re-route pedestrians and local traffic to use the ones already there.

So, please do not put another light on El Camino. It isn't that we don't want to stop because we are in such a hurry, it is because all these lights are just confusing!!

Posted by Another driver, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 15, 2007 at 11:10 am

Especially at the noon hour, traffic making left turns from eastbound California onto northbound El Camino sometimes really gets backed up and stuck in the intersection because of the traffic signal at Cambridge. That signal should be eliminated for all the reasons previously stated. It's not too bad turning into College Ave. because the Stanford Ave. signal usually provides some good opportunities for autos to cross. For pedestrians, I vote for a signal at College instead of Cambridge.

Posted by evergreen pk family, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 15, 2007 at 11:14 am

Let's move the light at Cambridge to College and El Camino. Why should a few thousand people in Evergreen Park and College Terrace have to risk their lives to cross the street. There are only a few dozen residents on Cambridge Ave. I've never understood the purpose of having a light there.

Posted by Jon, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 15, 2007 at 12:13 pm

Would it be too much of a hardship to walk over to Stanford or Cambridge, where there are traffic lights, to cross El Camino Real?

Posted by Concerned Citzen, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 15, 2007 at 12:25 pm

Yes, for many seniors and people with small kids that live in College Terrace and Evergreen Park, it is.

Also, from the CT side, seniors and small lkids would have to traverse dangerous sidewalk areas n front of Palo Alto Shell (on El Camino) and Taco Bell (Cambridge) where there is constant cross-sdewalk entry by autos.

The easy and safe solution is to move the light. Why was it placed at Cambride to begin with? Even the CalTrans engineers I've spoken with question the signal light's current placement; they say it serves no good purpose. It doesn't even serve traffic control on El Camino very well.

Posted by Jon, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 15, 2007 at 12:37 pm

OK, so maybe we should have traffic lights on El Camino Real at Kendall, Curtner, Barron, Ventura, and Vista, so that students and us seniors in Barron Park and Ventura have a myriad of places to cross. Be happy that there are grocery stores on both sides of El Camino Real in your neighborhood that people can easily reach on foot.

Posted by Millie, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 15, 2007 at 12:59 pm

"OK, so maybe we should have traffic lights on El Camino Real at Kendall, Curtner, Barron, Ventura, and Vista, so that students and us seniors in Barron Park and Ventura have a myriad of places to cross."

...good idea!!

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 15, 2007 at 3:55 pm

How about a shuttle service or jitney through College Terrace and Evergreen over to California Avenue businesses?

Posted by Curious Observer, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 16, 2007 at 8:49 am

Curious Observer is a registered user.

I lived in the College Terrace neighborhood for many years. When I moved there in the mid-80s, some of the traffic calming measures were already in place (sounds like more have been added since I left 10 years later). I didn't mind them as many people who worked in the businesses off of California Ave had no regard for the fact that they worked in a residential area with many of them speeding in and out of their parking lots. I can't imagine what it would have been like if the streets had through access.

As for the intersection at College and El Camino, I do remember a lady was killed many years ago on Christmas Eve when she and her family were coming home from church.

My guess for the having a light at Cambridge and not College is because Cambridge leads to the business district while College goes into another neighborhood. Makes more sense to me to have the light where it is. And if it takes a long time to cross safely at College, why not just walk to one of the lights...seems like it will take the same amount of time and you'll get a little more exercise.

Posted by Mille, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 16, 2007 at 9:53 am

So, why a light to the miniscule Cambridge business district, when that district is already fed by California Avenue traffic?

Someone else pointed out above that even CalTrans officials doubt the placement of that light.

Posted by Driver, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 16, 2007 at 9:58 am

Thanks, Pedestrian. I figured there had to be a reason why there was so much traffic calming in College Terrace and it is also too bad that certain posters attempt to denigrate people's opinions with snide comments about grapes.

Posted by Beth, a resident of Southgate
on Jul 16, 2007 at 10:37 am

Driver, the only that we're working on the roads is because City Council and City staff members drive on them? :))))))))) That's an example of the non-logic that you just bought into. How are the grapes, today?

Posted by Driver, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 16, 2007 at 10:38 am

Beth--sorry your post makes no sense?
Please refrain from snide comments.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2007 at 12:02 pm

I have refrained from commenting on the College Terrace road blocks, but I have always considered them illegal. Land that was dedicated as a public thoroghfare suddenly made into a private driveway.
The way to reduce traffic through residential areas is to give trafic a better way. Traffic control by constipation, the folly of our last, unmissed traffic "engineer" is a denial of the mobility that allows us to exist.

Posted by eric, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 16, 2007 at 12:39 pm

Well said, Walt (and in about 90% of the circumstances I'd agree with you. I think, for example, some actions taken strictly to mitigate speed as opposed to aggressively comtrolling access MAY be appropriate)

City traffic engineers are basically pollsters with a title

Posted by Curious Observer, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 16, 2007 at 12:48 pm

Curious Observer is a registered user.

Didn't they add the light at Cambridge and El Camino sometime after 1986?

Another point, unless there have been other fatalities at this spot, the one fatality that happened there was after midnight, not at a time with lots of traffic speeding by.

I say if you want to cross at Cambridge and El Camino then that's the risk you take. Otherwise, go to a corner that has a light.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2007 at 1:20 pm

We can't just keeping adding lights and expect traffic to flow. If pedestrians need to cross El Camino where there are no lights, then re-opening the tunnel and/or building a pedestrian overpass are possible solutions. Pedestrians may need longer to cross than the light allows or perhaps need to wait in the center verge before crossing the second part, but their need is no greater than the need of traffic movement as a whole.

The lights on El Camino must be timed so that a vehicle once stopped at a light should then be able to drive at the limit with green lights all the way until such time as they exit. This makes traffic flow sense. If traffic is heavy, or if there is any other impediment, it destroys the flow. The more lights, the more likelihood of stopping the flow.

Traffic engineers know this. If we have to put in another light, it will make problems for all of El Camino.

Pedestrians must use caution and find a place to cross that is suitable. That may mean walking a hundred yards down El Camino to the next light. It is the same for cars. If they are unable to turn where they need to, then they should find a different intersection to use.

El Camino is not a local residential street. It is a major artery and should be treated with caution.

Posted by Anonymous Coward, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 16, 2007 at 1:38 pm

Walt, In your inimitable way, are you in an ever-so-subtle way suggesting a CT overpass - with a cloverleaf, perhaps? Sometimes, efficiency is the bane of "getting things done". I wish most engineers would leave the design phase of traffic and other projects to someone else - like a desgn expert - don't you?

Curious, I wonder if this is the way you would feel if your had been in any way related to the fatality at that intersecton. The fact is that cars build up a head of steam from the Stanford Ave. intersection - why not move the light one block north, to prevent that.

Resident makes an excellent point about the appropriate timing of traffic lights. However, we disagree about "walking the extra hundred yards" to Cambridge. CT is loaded with seniors and small kids - why shuold they be burdened for a CalTrans mistake that is easily corrected?

My questions to all who have been writing divisive comments and put downs of CT are "what is the big deal about moving that light?"; "who would be hurt by moving it?"; "might we not prevent a serious pedestrian accident, and better control El Camino speeds?"; and, "why should this be seen as zero sum - winners and losers - safety should not be a zero sum game?".

It's really surprising and disappointing to see neighborhood factionalism enter a question that has _purely_ to do with public safety. It doesn't bode well for our city.

Posted by Sue Dremann, a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2007 at 1:45 pm

Concerned Citizen and others, please get in touch with me at 326-8210 ext. 206. I'm working on a story about this subject.

Posted by Curious Observer, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 16, 2007 at 2:15 pm

Curious Observer is a registered user.

Can someone please provide a statistic as to the number of fatalities at this location?

Does anyone remember what the area was like before the light was installed at Cambridge? Hasn't the light at Cambridge made it easier for people to cross at College? Can anyone predict what the traffic flow will be like coming out of the business district if the light is moved from Cambridge to College?

Posted by PA Citizen, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 16, 2007 at 2:38 pm

There has been one fatality at this location. That should be enough. Local evidence that would be hard to collect can vouch for dozens and dozens of close calls. I've been there.

Traffic coming out of Cambridge without a light present would find itself with the safety buffer of a light on *either side* (College and California), so oncoming El Camino traffic would not have an opportunity to build up a head of steam.

As it stands right now, crossing at College puts one at risk from oncoming autos who have built up speed over at almomst a half mile, trying to beat the Cambridge and California lights. It's just plain dangerous, and in fact, the placement of the signal at Cambridge encourages the recklessness. That's what CalTrans people have suggested.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2007 at 9:36 pm

I believe I gave several ideas that did not incorporate major construction. I believe a reopened tunnel with continous video monitoring, a jitney and a zebra are all reasonable solutions. I would suggest also that the islands need better pedestrian protection.

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