City Officials Address Pedestrian Safety

Sarah Mourra of The Daily Californian staff contributed to this report.





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After a recent study revealed Berkeley has a high rate of pedestrian accidents, city officials said yesterday they are taking steps to make the city's crosswalks safer.

Transportation Planner Nathan Landau said the city plans to install new traffic signals at the busy intersections of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Center Street as well as Hearst Avenue and Arch Street.

To further increase pedestrian safety, the city has also recently installed Santa Rosa lights at the intersections of Claremont and Brookside avenues, Landau said. The lights are grounded into the pavement, and they illuminate when a pedestrian enters the intersection.

"(Santa Rosa lights) are very dramatic," Landau said. "One of the big problems is drivers nowadays simply don't stop despite the fact that it's California law. The Santa Rosa lights work pretty well and we may put them in other places."

Responding to a recent study showing that Berkeley has a high number of accidents involving pedestrians, Landau attributed the large number of accidents to the fact that Berkeley simply has more pedestrians than most cities of comparable size.

"In a place like Berkeley where people actually walk around there are a certain number of accidents and injuries," Landau said. "Pleasanton, for example, would probably have very safe crosswalks because nobody ever uses them."

Concerns about pedestrian safety reached new heights last October after a disabled woman was killed while crossing an Ashby Avenue crosswalk.

After the accident, the City Council responded by increasing the number of traffic officers in Berkeley from four to seven, Landau said.

He added that in an effort to crack down on reckless drivers, police are sending pedestrians into crosswalks and ticketing motorists who fail to yield.

"The traffic division is doing a sting to get the message across that you're supposed to stop," Landau said. "That's something that other cities have done that seems to be useful. We want to be a walkable city - and we are a walkable city - but we want to be a safer walkable city."

The crosswalk at the intersection of Shattuck and University avenues has an especially high number of pedestrian accidents, Landau added.

One UC Berkeley sophomore who uses the intersection daily said it poses significant risks.

"There are a lot of cars out there and it seems like a pretty wide street to cross," said Rashmi Basava, who crosses the intersection on her way to campus. "Most of the time you have to be really careful and pay attention, and I do see a lot of people not yielding to pedestrians."

Basava said that like most students, she jaywalks at times. But, she added, the streets are dangerous for pedestrians regardless of whether they jaywalk.

Another Berkeley resident, however, said pedestrians are to blame for jeopardizing their own safety.

"I feel safe because I obey the traffic lights, and when people don't obey, that's when accidents happen," said Millicent Morris Chaney. "I just witnessed someone almost get hit who was crossing against the red."

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