Palo Alto parents and bike advocates are calling for more traffic-safety measures after two children were hit by cars in separate collisions, including a crash on East Meadow Drive that left a middle-school student in critical condition.
The two accidents occurred on Sept. 8 and on Sept. 14, according to the Police Department. The first one took place at the intersection of Stanford Avenue and Escondido Road, a signalized intersection with a pedestrian signal. The incident occurred at 2:47 p.m., shortly after school got out.
The boy was reportedly riding a skateboard southbound on Escondido Road when he entered the intersection of Stanford Avenue. An Acura sedan operated by a woman in her 40s was traveling eastbound on Stanford and struck him at the Escondido intersection.
Police said the boy reportedly received minor visible injuries to his back and knees and was taken to the hospital for evaluation.
Drugs and alcohol were not a factor, police said, and no one was cited or arrested after the accident.
A more serious collision took place on Sept. 14, when a boy on a bicycle was riding westbound on East Meadow Drive at about 5:27 p.m. and making a left turn on South Court. According to the police, a Lexus SUV operated by a man in his 60s was traveling east on East Meadow and was passing another eastbound car, which was looking to turn left on South Court, on its right side.
Police said the SUV struck the bicyclist, a middle-school aged male, near the intersection. The boy repeatedly received major injuries and was transported to a local hospital, where he remained in critical condition as of Sept. 19, according to the police. The department's Specialized Traffic Accident Reconstruction (STAR) team is continuing to investigate this incident, he said.
The two incidents sparked renewed calls from parents for more traffic-safety measures, including crossing guards and additional traffic signals. Melissa and Joe Oliveira, whose son was hit near Escondido, submitted a letter to the council urging a special meeting involving the city, the Palo Alto Unified School District and Stanford University to address safety concerns.
"He is alive, which is truly a miracle," Melissa and Joe Oliveira wrote in the letter. "As you can imagine, this accident has shaken our family to its core and moreover, propelled us into action -- to create a safe environment for children to commute to/from school.
"This never should have happened in the first place; and the next child who gets hit, might not be as fortunate as our child."
Others joined the call for installing crossing guards at Escondido. Rachaell Mondino, who has children in kindergarten and second grade, said that due to the timing of Escondido's dismissal, many students and parents watched the accident and its aftermath. She requested that the city put crossing guards at Stanford's intersections with Escondido and Hanover at all times that children are likely to be present before and after school. She also requested that the city audit the crossing signals at the Stanford and Escondido intersection to "eliminate variable behavior."
"Thankfully, the child survived," Mondino said. "We cannot let this happen again to another child or family and change needs to happen."
Mayor Lydia Kou and Police Chief Andrew Binder alluded to the two collisions in a statement that they issued on Sept. 15. Kou and Binder noted that since the start of the school year, overtime traffic enforcement has been focused around schools and will remain so. The city is also working to "review traffic controls around schools, including deployment of our 30 crossing guards."
Kou and Binder said they are "greatly concerned" about the two traffic collisions which resulted in injuries to young people.
"Community safety is our number one priority. With schools back in session, we must all heighten our awareness and support the safety of our streets," the statement read.
City Manager Ed Shikada offered the same message at the Sept. 18 council meeting and noted that the city will discuss its traffic-control measures with the school district as well as with individual schools. This will include discussion of how crossing guards are deployed. The goal is to "ensure the environment is as safe as we can make it."
"The key message here is an acknowledgment that all of us have a responsibility for ensuring a safe environment for all community members in our public rights of way," Shikada said.