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Woman and child hit by vehicle on El Camino

Original post made on Jul 19, 2007

A woman pushing a child in a stroller across El Camino Real at Ventura Avenue in Palo Alto Wednesday night was struck by a northbound motorist at 7:45 p.m., Officer Brian Philip said.

This story contains 67 words.

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Comments (22)

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2007 at 10:11 am

As there are two other threads on this, can't they all be put together with the article?

Is there any kind of crosswalk at Ventura? Were they trying to cross at an unmarked intersection?

I have great sympathy for the mother and child, but I know plenty of people run across roads at stupid places including major ones like El Camino and I would like to know the facts of this one. It is very easy to always blame the motorist and fix no blame to a pedestrian doing something stupid.

Please let us have the facts as soon as they are available.

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Posted by Poor reporting
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 19, 2007 at 10:19 am

The article by the PA Weekly (Don Kazak is the writer) is a really poor example of reporting.
Mr Kazak writes--"No charges have been filed against the motorist as the investigation is not yet complete.". Is Mr Kazak privy to information that he is not making public that would make one think that the driver is to blame?
Or this another example of the PA rush to judgement when it comes to traffic issues--i.e. the drivers are always to blame. Is Mr Kazak trying to fan the flames of outrage against people who drive?

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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 19, 2007 at 10:25 am

Apparently a light was supposed to put up at that exact intersection. There is a crosswalk there, and pedistrians DO have the right of way, but it is a poor place for a crosswalk when people are speeding up to 45-50 mph. Somehow the deal with the contractor feel through (ask the city of PA), and now it's not slated to be put in for at least another year. How many more injuries at that corner do we need? The light should go up immediately since that is a MAIN CROSSING for people who live on Ventura Street to get across to stores, cleaners, donut shop, restaurants, etc. There is a fair amount of people who live on that street who use walking as their main transportation to get to local areas.

Anyhow, there is a crosswalk there... nobody stops for pedistrians in crosswalks on El Camino anymore (without a light). Try it sometime and see how long it takes for all 6 lanes to stop for you.

I hope they are doing ok. My heart goes out to them and I hope the city will take action to put in a signal PRONTO!

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2007 at 10:37 am

Personally, I wouldn't be stupid enough to try and cross El Camino without a stoplight.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2007 at 10:44 am

Crosswalks, in my opinion, are not clearly marked. I do not know about this particular area, but a sign on the side of a road like El Camino where visibility is often obscured by a bigger vehicle or truck and a line across the road, is not enough. We need broad orange stripes and lights that are attached to the roadbed similar to Fabian.

For those of you not familiar with Fabian, go to where the Sun building used to be and drive along to Bayshore. There are several crossings there, all with buttons that make lights in the roadbed flash to give pedestrians safety while crossing.

This type of crossing is ideal and should be outside all schools and other places where pedestrians are inclined to cross busy roads. They are much better than what is over the rest of the city and I would really like to know the story as to why they are at Fabian and nowhere else around town. What makes Fabian so special that they have high tech facilities? Is is possibly because they are high tech pedestrians and have designed them themselves?

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Posted by concerned
a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2007 at 11:47 am

The LED imbedded crosswalks I believe cost about 40-50K per crosswalk. It's probably even more for a multi-lane crossing. Many cities have installed these around schools. I can't think of any lighted crossings along ECR. As someone suggested above - you would be risking life & limb crossing ECR without a traffic light.

In response to the reporting done by this paper... I suspect that the reporter was not at the scene last evening. The information was probably culled from the preliminary police report or the PA PIO.

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Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2007 at 12:42 pm

Lighted crosswalks are expensive and they do not make pedestrians safe. Only good drivers can make pedestrians safe. Lighted crosswalks can help get driver's attention, but that is of limited benefit if the drivers don't actually yield. There are other lighted crosswalks in Palo Alto, at crossings where drivers have no stop sign or traffic light. In general this kind of crossing is discouraged because there is just no way to get drivers to pay attention and yield in those circumstances. Putting them at school crossings would just give people a false sense of security. Crossing guards are used instead.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2007 at 12:47 pm


I disagree. I think very few drivers refuse to yield, more often they just do not see a crosswalk. There are often many reasons why they do not see a crosswalk and making it more visible can only assist not give a false sense of security.

As for school crossings, there is no crossing guard outside Palo Verde, just a crosswalk. Cars tend not to stop there when there is someone waiting to cross and that goes for school district vehicles also.

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Posted by enough already
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 19, 2007 at 1:11 pm

"I think very few drivers refuse to yield, more often they just do not see a crosswalk."
Try crossing Churchill by the back entrance to Paly. It's very well marked, complete with a sign in the *middle* of the road that says something to the effect of "State Law, stop for pedestrians in crosswalks". Most cars don't stop. It's not that they're going too fast, that their view of the crosswalk is obstructed by multiple lanes, or even that the paint and signage is inadequate. There's no excuse other than poor driving habits.

I agree with the person who said that the lighted crosswalks would give a false sense of security, although I do like the idea.

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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2007 at 1:16 pm

It is a nightmare to get out of Paly on Churchill whether you are a pedestrian or a driver (remember a lot of these drivers are only permit holders or newly licensed). This is a prime location for a 4 way stop sign. Normally I hate them and there are too many on roads like Churchill and its surrounds, but here is a very sensible place to install one and I have never seen it even discussed.

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Posted by enough already
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 19, 2007 at 1:26 pm

Paly Parent,
A 4-way stop at Castilleja/Churchill will never happen, for the same reason there's no left turn allowed from Churchill to Mariposa. It's a safety issue because of the potential for traffic backing up on the Caltrain tracks. Imagine driving north on Alma and making a left turn on a green arrow onto Churchill. You get through most of the intersection and suddenly must stop on the tracks. The 2 or 4 or however many cars behind you are unaware of the traffic backup until it's too late for them, too. Then a train comes. The cars behind panic because they're in the middle of the Alma intersection so they're not going to back up for you, and the traffic in front is barely moving because of a 4-way stop and pedestrians. What are your options?

Gridlock near train tracks should be avoided at all costs.

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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2007 at 1:37 pm

Fair Point

However, it is still a very bad intersection. There are times I have been driving along there and the whole track team seems to be crossing and I have had to wait for a long stream of kids running across Churchill.

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Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 19, 2007 at 1:49 pm

stop light 600 ft away

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Posted by enough already
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 19, 2007 at 2:20 pm

Sure, there's a time & place for stop lights, lighted walkways, tunnels, etc. but I think we're using them as a crutch. They allow us to continue with our poor driving habits. We'll stop for a stop light. Most of us make complete stops at stop signs. Some of us stop for pedestrians in well-marked walkways, when it doesn't inconvenience us too much and we're not going too fast. Most of us don't stop for pedestrians along El Camino Real.

What's the proposed solution? Stick in another traffic signal and force us to stop, because we won't otherwise. What's really needed is behavior modification. It would save us a heap of money -- and a few lives.

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Posted by Frequent walker
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 19, 2007 at 3:24 pm

The law says that drivers must stop for pedestrians using crosswalks, whether the crosswalks are marked or not.

Research indicates that unmarked crosswalks are safer because the paint gives pedestrians a false sense of security. As most of us know, drivers will do everything possible to avoid slowing down or stopping for a pedestrian. Heaven forfend they should get to their destination ten seconds later than they would if they didn't stop.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2007 at 3:58 pm

I knew someone would say that it was down to getting ahead by 10 seconds. That is just not the case.

What we need is synchronisation of lights so that if you stop once, you can proceed at the limit until such time as you exit the road. This is common sense. All this stopping at countless red lights is unnecessary. The more lights that are there, the more it puts the timing of lights harder to regulate.

And don't forget, all this idling cars do at stop signs is a waste of resources and bad for everyone. I walk a lot, but there are times when walking is just not an option. And for those who think that drivers are always in too much of a hurry, pedestrians are often in the same hurry and make rash decisions not to wait for the walk signal. It works both ways.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 19, 2007 at 4:31 pm

Resident, Traffic systems should err on the side of doing the least harm, given a misuse of the street "interface".

Put in the stop signs and traffic lights, and time the lights better. What we have on El Camino currently is a mish-mash of ill-times lights, and dangerous intersections.

Maybe we should bring CalTrans officials here and force them to cross the stree 100 times; then we might get some action.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 19, 2007 at 4:44 pm

Web Link

Looks like the driver was "at fault" in this unfortunate incident.

there is good research indicating that crosswalk visibility by drivers is poor. I can also understand that well-designed crosswalks might bring about pedestrian overconfidence.

The best approach is to drive and walk and bike "defensively".

That said, we neeed to be sure that "fail-safe" favors the pedestrian and biker. It's about saving lives, whch is far more important than speed and convenience.

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Posted by David Woodbury
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 19, 2007 at 6:33 pm

First, there is a legal, marked crosswalk at Ventura and El Camino. It's true that people can walk a block up, or a block down the street to get to a light, but if the crosswalk is that dangerous, they should remove the white stripes that invite people to cross. The simple fact is that, for one reason or another, drivers simply disregard the law at certain crosswalks along El Camino, even when there are people -- often children -- stranded at the island in the middle.

The installation of a street light there isn't just a wish list item -- it's already been APPROVED by the city and CalTrans. It was supposed to have been done already, and the city even mailed a check for its portion of the costs. It was delayed because of a problem with the accepted bid, reportedly having to do with the contractor not having the necessary percentage of disabled veterans on staff. This has caused the bid to go back out -- supposedly a decision will be made by the end of the year, and construction will start in the spring.

Coincidentally, the new issue of the Palo Alto Weekly, released on Wednesday (yesterday) had an article about the dangers of this very intersection, including anecdotes about close calls by mothers with children. See page 7. These aren't the first pedestrians hit in a crosswalk there.

So you can argue that the crosswalk should be removed altogether (take it up with CalTrans), and you can argue that CalTrans shouldn't install a light (but they've already gone through a torturously long process to affirm the fact that one is needed there), but it's pretty silly to argue that pedestrians should waive their right-of-way just because some drivers are inconsiderate, or ignorant.

It seems hard to believe that this sort of situation would be tolerated for long in some more affluent neighborhoods of Palo Alto, where one might expect to see police ticketing violators, or a crossing guard, or a portable stop sign.

The Ventura Neighborhood is home to a multitude of apartment buildings, with a largely transient population of students and corporate transfers. Many new residents don't have a "history" with that intersection, and assume the big white stripes mean something. There's no warning sign for newcomers, such as one might see at a beach regarding a riptide: "Caution, 50% of passing vehicles will not stop for pedestrians in this crosswalk."

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Posted by local resident
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 19, 2007 at 6:44 pm

The Wednesday PA Weekly article on the Ventura/El Camino intersection can be read online here:

Web Link

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Posted by sohill
a resident of another community
on Jul 20, 2007 at 6:19 am

What the law says:
" you must stop for pedestrians who have entered a crosswalk. Pedestrians have the right of way at uncontrolled pedestrian crosswalks (i.e. those without traffic lights), but (and this is somewhat new), pedestrians can not legally just cross whenever they want -- they must wait for a safe time to try to cross. In California (as in most of the rest of the U.S.A.), a pedestrian crosswalk can be either explicit or implicit; quoting from the Department of Motor Vehicle's handbook, "Every intersection where streets meet at right angles has a crosswalk for pedestrians to cross the street. [...] Many pedestrian crosswalks are marked by solid white lines. Some crosswalks, especially in residential areas, are not marked."

In other words, pedestrians have the right of wasy If and only If they are already on the crosswalk. If not they must wait for the cars to go. Many times the pedestrian steps on the crosswalk when a car is already started begining to cross . I witness an instance years ago when this had happened and the driver was neither charged nor found liable.
I don't know the specifics of this case.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2007 at 6:23 am

I have often not stopped when someone is trying to cross if there is a huge amount of traffic zinging by. Not because i am selfish, but because I don't want the unintended consequence of CAUSING the ped to get hit.

It is like this..I stop, the ped starts to cross, thinking it is safe because the lane closest has a stopped car, then crosses into the lane next to me and gets hit because the lane OVER doesn't stop. I simply don't trust peds to be watchful and safe.

I will only stop if I look behind me and the closest car is quite far away, and can see my blinking brake lights.

The only safe way on a street like El Cam is a light. Period. Otherwise, may as well put up a crosswalk and no light on Alma.

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