Follow-up on Mission Street crosswalk

Dear Street Smarts, Q: In your January 11th column, Jennifer Cherk presented an astute analysis of the dysfunction of the pedestrian signals on Mission Street. In response, you quote Caltrans traffic engineer Dario Senor as saying, "It is very important to understand that the flashing light is yellow, not red." As Ms. Cherk points out, there is no feedback to pedestrians. If they can't see whether the lights are even lit, how do you expect them to know they are yellow? Some will assume that when a car stops, the light has turned red. The main function of these odd, ineffectual lights is to confuse out-of-town motorists and to give pedestrians a false sense of security. They encourage children to start across the street against traffic, rather than to walk to another intersection or to wait for a gap and scurry across. Why not convert these expensive rigs into standard red, yellow and green systems that would signal when cars should slow and stop, and when pedestrians can safely walk? Stephan Bianchi, Santa Cruz A: The crosswalk lights aren’t meant to give pedestrians feedback; rather, they are to alert motorists that a pedestrian may be in the crosswalk, according to Caltrans. “They are warning lights only and vehicles are not required to stop, regardless of whether the lights are off or on,” said Susana Cruz, public information officer. “When pedestrians are crossing at these locations, they must take responsibility for each lane of traffic being clear, and not trust the light to provide a safe crossing. The fact that no feedback is provided, is by design.” If a pedestrian does not feel safe crossing at this crosswalk, he or she should cross at nearby signalized intersections, in which vehicles must stop at the red light, Cruz said. As for having red lights guard the crosswalk, “due to the spacing, and for capacity reasons, these warning lights could not be converted into standard red, yellow, and green signals,” she said, while noting that standard spacing for traffic signals is a minimum of 1000 feet. “If vehicles were required to stop at all of these intersections it would greatly decrease the capacity of Route 1.” Cruz went on to say that “these crossing locations and the warning systems were requested, and are fully supported by, the City of Santa Cruz.” Modifications or removal of the lights would require the city’s support, she said.
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2 Responses to Follow-up on Mission Street crosswalk

  1. Tara Neier says:

    Susanna Cruz is quoted as saying that vehicles are not required to stop for pedestrians in the controversial Mission street crosswalks.

    Are these crosswalks somehow different or excluded from the DMV code
    (linked and quoted below) which says that drivers shall yield right-of-way to pedestrians in marked crosswalks.

    Please advise Ms. Cruz’s statement is very confusing.

    Best regards,

    Tara

    Begin DMV quote—–

    21950. (a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.

    (b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

    (c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.

    (d) Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

  2. Dear Tara,

    Mrs. Cruz’s comment was not in regard to stopping at crosswalks. Rather, she was commenting on a reader’s concern about vehicles that do not stop for the flashing yellow lights over crosswalks on Mission Street.

    In regard to the yellow crosswalk lights, she said, “They are warning lights only and vehicles are not required to stop, regardless of whether the lights are off or on. When pedestrians are crossing at these locations, they must take responsibility for each lane of traffic being clear, and not trust the light to provide a safe crossing. The fact that no feedback is provided, is by design.”

    As Cruz stated, the purpose of the yellow crosswalk lights is to warn motorists that a pedestrian may be in the crosswalk and to drive accordingly. However, as the vehicle code says, motorists must stop for people in the crosswalk. There’s also a provision that pedestrians must take accountability for their own safety and not step out into traffic unless it is safe to do so.

    I hope this clears up any confusion you may have had on this topic. Thank you for reading Street Smarts and have a great day.

    Ramona

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