Last Friday, Tish Loeb's husband was driving behind a white sedan that had stopped at the intersection of Barron and La Donna avenues in Palo Alto. When the sedan started moving again, Loeb's husband suddenly saw a girl fly through the air.
"She was fully in the intersection. The sedan had T-boned her back (bicycle) wheel," Loeb's husband told her.
The sedan driver did not stop to help but instead sped off, Loeb said. Fortunately, the child was not injured, according to Palo Alto police Agent Marianna Villaescusa.
The April 20 incident is just the latest in a string of hit-and-run collisions and near misses along streets and crosswalks in the Barron Park neighborhood, which lies west of El Camino Real and north of Arastradero Road. Now the residents' Barron Park Association has convened a traffic subcommittee to try to address the dangers.
The subcommittee is first directing its efforts to problems that are "actionable" in the very near term, association President Jon Affeld said. Four streets and certain intersections are particularly dangerous: Maybell Avenue from Baker Avenue to Coloumbe Drive; Matadero Avenue from Whitsell Avenue to El Camino Real; Kendall, La Donna and Whitsell avenues' intersections with Barron Avenue; and the Los Robles Avenue cul-de-sac.
"Maybell is the No. 1 danger zone," Affeld said, noting that people have been hit by the side-view mirrors of passing cars and at least a dozen parked cars have been damaged.
On Matadero, people come off a speed bump meant to slow traffic and race toward El Camino to catch the traffic light while it's green, he said.
Affeld said residents have communicated their strong support to him for the reconvened committee. Loeb, who has seen too many incidents, said the speeding from cut-through traffic trying to avoid the major streets and from parents bringing their kids to school has gotten out of hand.
"I know of two other families whose kids were hit and where the people didn't stop (to help)," she said. "It's amazing — amazing — how fast people drive."
She also witnessed a car hit a bicyclist on Barron Avenue.
Traffic is especially dangerous during the morning commute, she said. She and her children were in a crosswalk last year near Barron Park Elementary School and another child was walking in front of them when they were all nearly struck by a speeding car. Loeb said she heard the car engine speed up to get through the crosswalk before they could all get across.
People aren't the only hit-and-run victims: Garret Sinks and his wife recently nearly lost their cat. When his wife came home from work, she found the feline under a bush in their yard, unable to walk.
"The biggest part of this is even though it cost me $5,200, which I didn't have, the thing that bothers me is that whoever did it just kept driving. They don't realize what pain and suffering not only the animal but the owners of the pet go through," he wrote in an email this week.
"I think the issue now is to deal with the speeding," he said.
Affeld said his son was also hit at Arastradero Road and Donald Drive, another location residents say is dangerous because of changes the city of Palo Alto has made to Arastradero to slow traffic. The city added a "bike box" for cyclists at Donald and Arastradero to wait in, but the box is too narrow and is at an intersection with visibility problems, residents have said. Cars on Arastradero frequently run the light at high speed, they claim.
Speeding isn't the only issue. Cars parked along the neighborhood's curbs occupy the bike lanes and cause bicyclists to ride in the traffic lane. Construction companies have fences, debris and workers' cars extending into the bike lanes. And bicyclists create danger by wearing headphones, riding several abreast or not observing traffic laws, he said.
To address the hazards in the four hot spots, the traffic subcommittee has already put together a list of nearly 20 problems and potential solutions. Affeld said they have identified which group can be responsible for correcting the problem — schools, the city or homeowners.
Schools can give kids a grace period if they are late to prevent rushing to school and use a combination of education and traffic enforcement to teach about bicycle laws.
Homeowners can be alerted to overgrown vegetation that interferes with roadway visibility, and a city code-enforcement officer can notify residents or construction companies of illegally placed fencing. The city can expand no-parking zones around corners, adjust traffic lights, add markings, adjust speed bumps and move poles and obstacles that obstruct views or contribute to collisions.
Subcommittee members have taken photographs and videos of notorious intersections, Affeld said. They have reached out to the Palo Alto Unified School District and to city Chief Transportation Official Joshuah Mello's office. The next steps will be to follow up with the schools and city and to invite representatives from both to join the subcommittee, he said.