Fatalities prompt Atherton to look at El Camino safety


Plans are under way to try to improve the safety of El Camino Real as it passes through Atherton between Selby Lane and Valparaiso Avenue, a stretch of road that has seen two fatalities in the last three weeks.

Honofre Mendoza, a 55-year-old transient, died Friday (Oct. 15) after being struck by a car while crossing the road just north of the intersection of Watkins Avenue at 6:15 a.m., police said. The area where Mendoza was struck has no crosswalk.

A block away on Sept. 30, bicyclist Christopher Chandler was riding in an uncontrolled crosswalk -- not associated with a stop sign or traffic light -- when he was struck and killed where El Camino Real intersects with Isabella Avenue.

Atherton's police and public works departments and city manager's office are talking with the state Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over El Camino Real, "to identify any factors ... that need to be addressed in order to improve traffic safety," Lt. Joe Wade said in an Atherton Police Department bulletin on Oct. 16.

For its part, starting Monday (Oct. 18), the police department is boosting traffic patrols in the area and will have officers visiting Atherton schools to talk about pedestrian and bicycle safety, Wade said.

Mendoza, though homeless, was a familiar presence in Atherton and known to the police. "It was not out of place for him to be there," Wade said, adding that the roadsides of El Camino are popular with homeless people traveling between Redwood City and Menlo Park.

Mendoza's companion crossing the street with him was not injured and, as the only witness, was interviewed by police, Wade said.

The driver of the Toyota Camry that struck Mendoza is a 44-year-old man and Atherton resident who had been traveling alone and who volunteered to be tested for drug or alcohol abuse, Wade said. Test results were negative, he said.

Police closed traffic on El Camino for four hours in the southbound direction and three hours northbound while investigating and recording evidence at what had been designated as a crime scene.

"That's what we classify it as when we have a fatality," Wade said. "Just to make sure that all the evidence is preserved as best as possible."

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Like this comment
Posted by Christine
a resident of Woodside
on Oct 19, 2010 at 8:15 am

the speed limit should be lowered, esp between Celia's restaurant and 5th Avenue--I notice that people tend to drive a lot faster on that span

Like this comment
Posted by Driver
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2010 at 8:55 am

Improve lighting, cut back trees from lights and signs, keep the side of the street safe from debris and overhangs, make sure the road markings are easy to see. El Camino at this stretch looks like a road in the middle of nowhere expecting very little traffic instead of a major thoroughfare.

Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 19, 2010 at 10:24 am

Are there sidewalks along El Camino? If not, that would be a big safety improvement.

Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 19, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Maybe it would be a big help reducing incidents if people were to work at not be in violation of traffic laws-a cyclist is not a pedestrian, and should never be crossing on their bike in the crosswalk. I saw a woman tossed 8 feet in the air on El Camino doing this because she darted out in front of a car. It didn't get a chance to see her.

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