By Mitch Ikuta
I am concerned about pedestrian safety at the crosswalks on San Pablo Avenue in front of the El Cerrito main post office. The crosswalks are on both sides of the post office at the corners of Carlos and Madison.
The danger of crossing at Madison was highlighted in a Stanley Roberts segment of People Behaving Badly. The segment showed the El Cerrito police using a decoy pedestrian to determine if people would stop. Those who did not were cited.
At the Madison crosswalk, the city of El Cerrito has installed flashing pedestrian signs on the sidewalks, flashing lights that line the crosswalk, and overhead flashing signs that read, "Yield to Peds," and a lot of paint on the street that marks the crosswalk.
At approximately 3:15 on a recent afternoon (Oct. 17, 2011), I sat in my truck in front of the post office and watched people cross the avenue. When people activated the sensor to cross the avenue, I was appalled by the fact that the lights lining the crosswalk were not flashing, the pedestrian sign on the side walk was not flashing—only the overhead sign was flashing. The overhead sign in front of the post office is not very visible; it is obscured by tree branches but people still manage to see it.
I saw a young woman who was walking from the Bank of the West side of street take a shortcut and not activate the sensor that causes the lights to flash. She stood in the middle of the avenue until cars stopped. I have seen a postal worker take a short cut to the crosswalk and not activate the sensor. I have seen cars drive through the crosswalk when the lights were flashing. The greatest hazard to pedestrians at this crosswalk are from cars driving south toward Moeser Lane. Those driving north toward Potrero have a clear view.
The other crosswalk at Carlos is nearly as bad. There are no flashing signs or lights in the street and it looks like an early alert to be cautious for the Madison crosswalk. It is obvious that the landscape architect and the traffic control people do not talk to each other. It is especially hazardous if a pedestrian, especially for a student who is crossing from the St. Johns Elementary side of the avenue.
A driver heading south toward the post office cannot see anyone in the crosswalk because of the tall flax plants on the median strip. The plants are getting taller and thicker and are growing right up to the edge of the crosswalk. The pedestrian only becomes visible when s/he is right in front of median strip—there is no time to slow down or stop. View of this crosswalk is not a problem when driving north.
The attempt to solve this problem is not good at best. The way the signs, lights, paint and landscape are used create a visual nightmare. To say "we tried" is not acceptable. It is obvious that both pedestrians and drivers need to become more aware of each other, and the only answer may be to install a traffic signal that is activated by pedestrians.