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Pedestrian hit by car in Atherton, killed

Original post made on Oct 15, 2010

A person was killed in Atherton this morning when a vehicle apparently hit a pedestrian, police said. The crash was reported at about 6:15 a.m. on El Camino Real, according to John Mattes, communications supervisor for the Atherton Police Department.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, October 15, 2010, 8:20 AM

Comments (29)

Posted by Sherry
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 15, 2010 at 10:11 am

When will San Mateo County figure out how to protect its pedestrians on city streets.
How many more tragic deaths will it take?
My mother in 2004, Chris Chandler two weeks ago and now this.

Posted by Pedestrian
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 15, 2010 at 10:14 am

I decided to walk to Bed Bath and Beyond one day for some exercise. I started on Middlefield Road from Atherton. The first thing I noticed (I have lived here 52 years) was that you can't cross the railroad tracks on foot between 5th Avenue and Woodside Road (I tried to take back streets). The next thing I discovered is you can't cross Woodside Road easily, and you aren't allowed to walk on any part of it. It's really hard to find the footbridge too. On my way back I started out on El Camino. You can't easily take side streets to avoid El Camino and there are no sidewalks... in fact, there are spots where you are practically in the road because of overgrown bushes. It was late afternoon and a bright sunny day and I was walking facing traffic. I could not believe how close the cars came to me nor how fast they were travelling in the 'slow' lane. It was really scarey! I was very lucky I wasn't hit. I walked as fast as I could and was happy when I finally found sidewalk or at least a foot path that was not directly next to the road. I feel really sorry for the person who died. I felt lucky to get off El Camino with my life. It's incredible how rude people are once they are in their vehicles.

Posted by lawman
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 15, 2010 at 10:53 am

El Camino has not been safe for pedestrians or bicyclists for many years, except at many stop-lighted cross walks. Police do not enforce speed limits or yield to pedestrians at other market cross walks. Their misguided priority is to go after bicyclists who don't come to a full stop before making a right turn from one bike lane to another bike lane, and similar trivial "offenses".

Posted by Sherry
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 15, 2010 at 11:03 am

It's not just ECR, but seems most unincorporated pockets of San Mateo County that is patrolled by the CHP.
I lost my mother in a marked crosswalk on Santa Cruz Avenue.
Pedestrians and Cyclists step out at their own risk, when all these various agencies are at play and consequently no one is in charge.

Posted by Ron Wolf
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 15, 2010 at 11:13 am

Sherry, my heart goes out to you and to the family & friends of today's victim.

Again, to the fine editors of the Palo Alto Weekly & Online, please start reporting these tragedies in a way that puts the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the driver. Writing "Pedestrian hit by car.... " or "... a vehicle apparently hit a pedestrian ...." may be factual, but it is the driver (and possibly the pedestrian) who made the decisions that led to the impact with the pedestrian.

My headline suggestion - Driver hits and kills pedestrian.

And the body text should always include the fact that over 1 out of 5 California traffic deaths is a pedestrian or bicyclist. Its far from time that government and society stopped this carnage. And very sad that one more pedestrian has paid the price.

________Ron Wolf

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2010 at 12:04 pm

This is another very sad story.

I found the story written by poster "pedestrian" of Menlo Park, very true. Many of the roads here are not designed for people to walk along. El Camino, along a large part of it, has poorly designed pedestrian access. Whether we are talking about the business areas or the more urban areas such as where this accident occurred, it is not a particularly safe place to walk - let alone ride a bike.

This road and many others in the Bay Area are only safe if you are in a car. Many times I have parked one side to run an errand and needed to cross the street for a second errand and found that trying to cross is too dangerous. I once parked at Bed, Bath and Beyond on Charleston and walked to Michael's, a big mistake, much too dangerous.

We need better pedestrian safety design if we want people to walk or bike.

And don't just blame drivers by saying they are speeding or on their cell phones. We have poor highway lighting in the dark, strong sunlight which blinds drivers and lots of trees which cause dark shadows in daylight. Sidewalks need to be free of over encroaching vegetation, street lights need to be kept free of overhanging trees, and pedestrian crossings need to be well lit - not just signed. Pedestrian crossings need to be free of "right turn traffic" so that when the cross now signal comes on the right turn traffic also gets a green light - a deathly combination.

Design better pedestrian safety into our roadways, please.

Posted by pedestrian too
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 15, 2010 at 12:05 pm

I'm echoing Pedestrian. I too walked from Redwood city station to keplers on El Camino one time recently and the scary part was when Redwood city ended and Atherton began-no sidewalks in Atherton at all, and cars close to me. I took to the back roads on a circular fashion through Atherton station and avoided some of it, but after a certain point , there were no back streets to go into and I was forced to run in between "safer "spots while no cars/ big trucks were coming and waited behind the bushes , near walls until I could run. For me, coming from the East Coast the Bay area is a little uncivilized- you can't walk at all freely and safely. I am really tired of being cooped up in a car in order to stay alive.
I want sidewalks NOW.

Posted by Sherry
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 15, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Appreciate your sentiments Ron Wolf.

These are all daylight incidents. 11 am, 10:30 am, 6:30 am.
Sad, sad stuff. What happens when we have highways running through our towns.

Posted by Ok, Just Have to Say
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 15, 2010 at 12:19 pm

California is the only state I know of in which pedestrians just walk out in front of cars, assuming the cars will stop. And conversely, I can't count the number of times I've waited by the row of parked cars waiting to sprint, only to have all the cars come to a screeching halt with drivers giving me that annoyed "hand wave" to make me cross. People! When crossing a busy street it is the responsibility of the pedestrian to make sure he/she is safe! Do NOT expect cars to come to a stop for you! I'm amazed at pedestrians who step out into a crosswalk without even looking upstream. And don't cite "the law". Out on SF Bay if you're in a small sailboat and insist on enforcing your "right of way" against an oil tanker, you will be the loser.

Posted by Response
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 15, 2010 at 12:27 pm

"Ok, Just Have to Say" - it's apparent you've never lived in New York! If you're driving in New York City, you'd better know that pedestrians always have the right of way. It may not be the law, but that's the way it is. :)

Ron Wolf, we don't know who is at fault. If a pedestrian darts out in front of a car, it can't always be the driver's fault. Give the driver the benefit of the doubt before you charge and convict him or her!

Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 15, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I drive this section of El Camino at once or twice a day, and drove by shortly after the fatality today and on Sept 30. I have also walked along this section of El Camino a few times. I will never do that again. This simply is an extremely dangerous stretch for pedestrians and cyclists, even more so at night - at 6:15 am, it is still completely dark. It's dangerous even for cars trying to do a left turn onto or off of El Camino via Watkins and other side streets. Unless there is a major re-design or buildout of a wider shoulder, bike lane or sidewalk, it will remain so. It shouldn't be a huge cost for the county or city of Atherton to at least post a sign to watch for pedestrians, add a speed limit sign, or paint the pedestrian cross walk with reflective paint. But this will not remove the danger for pedestrians and cylists.

Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 15, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Don't expect the privileged citizens of Atherton to do anything for safety, especially for the safety of non-Athertonians.
Several years ago the city decided to place "bots" dots and striping on numerous streets to better define the two traffic lanes (one in each direction). Unfortunately the aristocracy of Atherton complained that they impinged upon the Atherton aesthetics and the city removed all of them.
In any case El Camino is under state of Calif control. How about a traffic signal at Watkins? Call your local state senator and assemblperson(s).

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 15, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I don't fully agree w/Ron's statements, but I think the use of the term transient in the headline is disrespectful. A life was lost & the term transient is one used to describe a person's lot in life & their social station, for lack of a profession. I am deeply disappointed in The Weekly for using this headline - it's demeaning and lacks compassion. How about changing the headline to something like one of the ones below:

"Senior Citizen Struck by Car, Killed in Atherton"

"Elderly Pedestrian Killed While Crossing El Camino in Atherton"

"Pedestrian Killed by Car on El Camino"

I also feel for the driver; I can't imagine anyone accidentally killing another & feeling ok about it.

Posted by Jane
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 15, 2010 at 1:48 pm

It might help if the Atherton police stayed in Atherton instead of spending time, en masse, at places like Starbucks and Luttickens on Alameda in MENLO PARK, where they have no business.

Posted by Pedestrian entitlement is dangerous
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 15, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Quick bounce for 'Ok, Just Have to Say'.

People, use some common sense. We're talking about a busy transit corridor

Darting from the side of a street and expecting cars to stop is generally not going to end well, especially when you're looking for those cars to stop quicker than the laws of physics will allow.

For the majority of Europe, cars have the right of way; pedestrians take explicit care to cross when it's safe.

Also, if it looks dangerous, it probably is. Don't walk down a section of road where the lack of protection and relative speed of traffic makes you uncomfortable.

Posted by pedestrian too,
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 15, 2010 at 2:45 pm

If Pedestrian entitlement is dangerous what to say about those whose common sense is
pedestrians get out of the way, you have no business being a pedestrian.
It's not true that california is the only state where pedestrian walk in front of cars expecting them to stop- I am at this moment visiting the East coast and here in one of the country largest cities, pedestrians do too, and cars stop.

Pedestrian entitlement refers that in the great majority of europe car have the right of way. I don't really know which part of europe he is talking about because in my 23 years in europeI didn't see it, neither legally nor factually, with exceptions made for same "crazy" driver countries where pedestrian fatalities used to be very high. Does he want this here? Alas, just recently I spent a month in europe and can assure pedestrian entitlement that the norm seems to be pedestrians have the right of way.

I wasn't complaining about El Camino- it is the city of Atherton which doesn't spot sidewalks. Are people's feet made to press pedals only?
What about driver entitlement? Is that all right?

Posted by Pedestrian
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 15, 2010 at 3:01 pm

@Pedestrian entitlement is dangerous: I am the first Pedestrian to post. I was just trying to use less gas and get more exercise. Something a lot more of us should do! I can tell you I won't ever walk along El Camino again. I learned my lesson. There were times where the bushes and tree branches hanging over the scant footpath made it necessary for me to lean over in the street to get around them. (This also occurs on Middlefield Road when you walk across the creek.... when I try to walk to the library.)

I didn't know exactly who to call about trimming things back from footpaths and figured nobody would do anything anyway, because most people use their cars. I tried taking alternate routes but they really meander and are dangerous themselves.

I have to tell you I was pleasantly surprised to see how wonderful the Mexican American neighborhoods of Redwood City are for walking. Folks are outside enjoying the evening and friendly. You get to Atherton and walking is scarey and there's not a soul out. It was really eye-opening.

I am extremely cautious and know better than to dart out into traffic. I was just trying to walk rather than drive and found there were no safe footpaths for large stretches through Atherton along El Camino. I don't care if they don't have sidewalks. Just please clear the footpaths and keep them away from the highway. Something like Middlefield Road with its Linden trees between you and traffic would be nice.

I am so sorry for Sherry's loss and the family of the other victims too. I think it should be a wakeup call for Atherton, their police and whoever oversees El Camino Real. Shame on Atherton for removing safety features. They certainly don't come out of their houses at night... and probably don't step out of their cars either.

Posted by Transient
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 15, 2010 at 3:08 pm

I too am offended by the use of 'Transient' to describe the victim in this article. It seems to make it all OK and make us 'upstanding' pedestrians feel like he was inferior to us, so somehow deserved it.

HE DID NOT DESERVE TO DIE. When you're 65 it's hard to move quickly. I think the fault lies with El Camino Real's lack of safe places for crossing and walking.

What a tragedy. And how callous to describe him that way.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2010 at 3:58 pm

As someone who has lived in two european countries, and even learned to drive there, I can vouch that pedestrians always know that cars have right of way. From the time young children are taken to walk rather than ride in a stroller, they are told that they are small and vulnerable and can't stop as quickly as a car, therefore they must always wait at the side of the street until there are no cars coming before they cross. There are commercials teaching children to wait until it is safe to cross.

If you step out in front of a car in europe you are likely to have horns blown at you and irate drivers doing other things to let you know that you are in the wrong.

Of course, jay walking is prevalent too, but usually by people realising that they have to move out of the way of cars rather than expecting cars to stop.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Here is a psa commercial from the 80s teaching children how to cross the road safely. You will find loads more on Youtube.

Web Link

Posted by Concerned Driver
a resident of another community
on Oct 15, 2010 at 4:45 pm

I drive on this section of El Camino every day, twice per day, and I knew Chris Chandler. This is the second death on ECR in Atherton in two weeks. This stretch of ECR is *extremely* dangerous and something needs to be done to slow the traffic down. People routinely get up to 50 mph in this stretch. Redwood City managed to get it together to install flashing lights on the pedestrian crosswalks on Middlefield between 5th Ave and Woodside Road, and now drivers there are actually *paying attention*. Surely Atherton could find the funds to do this, and make ECR just a little bit slower and safer for pedestrians and cyclists. There is a crosswalk at Isabella, where Chris was killed, and one at Alejandra, a little further south. But actually trying to use them now as a law-abiding pedestrian is a Dance With Death......

Posted by pedestrian too,
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 15, 2010 at 5:52 pm

resident, I too have an european driver's license (british) and learned to drive in the Uk . It was always impressed upon me that pedestrians have the right of way precisely because they are vulnerable. In any case el camino in atherton should have sidewalks for those of us who haven't forgotten how to walk.

Posted by Commander McBragg
a resident of another community
on Oct 15, 2010 at 5:53 pm

I checked out the scene of the accident in which the bicyclist was killed on El Camino in Atherton not long ago, on Google Earth. You
can adjust the time to coincide with the time of the accident. The driver in that accident was looking into the sun. If your shadow is
pointing directly at the driver of the vehicle, you just might be invisible to them.

The latest accident happened before sunrise. There is a good chance that the victim was wearing dark clothing. The right-of-way doesn't come into play if the vehicle driver doesn't see you. If they don't see you, they won't stop. Drivers don't hit peds in the crosswalk because they're rude, they do it because they didn't see them.

Because of all the times as a driver that I almost creamed someone in the crosswalk or on a bike, because for various reasons I didn't see them until the last instant, I never walk out in front of moving cars just because I have the right-of-way, and I don't ride my bike in vehicle traffic. I have to be depending on strangers to be looking out for me, and that's a bad gamble. You have to look out for yourself.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Pedestrian too

Yes, I agree that European drivers are always taught that they have to give way to pedestrians in europe.

What I was also pointing out is that pedestrians are never taught they have the right of way. Pedestrians always know they have to give way to vehicles.

It is down to perspective. European drivers expect pedestrians to behave in a certain way and generally they do. European drivers also are not afraid to use their horn when pedestrians step out, mainly because they know that they are expected to give way even if there is very little time to do so.

Likewise, European pedestrians do not expect cars to stop for them the way American pedestrians do. Even having lived in both the US and Europe, I find myself acting more American when I am in Europe nowadays and do things which cause drivers and other pedestrians to stare at me in amazement.

Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2010 at 7:18 am

There is no question that streets like El Camino were built for cars only, but help is on the way for non-motorized traffic. The recently passed "Complete Streets" legislation will require that all cities in the future implement "routine accommodation" of all users of the road. Every major project will need to include pedestrian and bike facilities as a routine matter unless the city can justify leaving them out, instead of considering sidewalks and bike lanes to be fancy accessories to include only if you feel like it. For some towns, like Palo Alto, this will have minimal impact but for Atherton and Woodside it will mean a big change in the way they do business. They have until 2014 to prepare themselves for this.

Posted by pedestrian too
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 16, 2010 at 9:04 am

. I didn't know of the project. Thank you Donald.

Posted by MV resident
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 16, 2010 at 10:34 am


It is dark at 6:15am right now. Sunrise was not until 7:18am on Friday. This was **NOT** a daylight incident.

That said, my condolences to the victim's family, friends, and other loved ones.

Posted by elcaminoregular
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 16, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Several articles have pointed out that the gentleman was coming out of the bushes post camping for the night.
Please get the city of Atherton to prune their trees in the islands in front of the Bonsai restaurant. Currently they are like a KOA for homeless, who must put earplugs in to stifle the car noise while they sleep.

Posted by mel
a resident of another community
on Oct 30, 2010 at 5:22 pm

I drive ECR from Redwood City to Palo Alto two to four times a day.
I see how pedestrians and/or byciclist are an easy target to be hit and killed by a car along the Atherton corridor. I blame the City of Atherton for not making safer traffic conditions for people who bike and walk along ECR.
I always noted the two man pushing their carts with their meager belongings along the road. They were taking care of each other and inseperatable. I am deeply saddened by this tragic ending of a human life. My hart goes out to the partner of Mendoza.

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