A traffic accident in June that killed a 92-year-old woman has inspired neighbors living on or near Arlington Boulevard in El Cerrito to push for changes to traffic rules and conditions in a key section of the street.
The city's Public Works Department has responded by suggesting some modifications to the intersection of Arlington and Brewster Drive near where the accident occurred.
The proposed changes were presented at a Tuesday evening meeting at the Arlington Park clubhouse before about 60 concerned residents. Many expressed frustration about speeding and dangerous conditions for pedestrians on Arlington, a two-lane road through the East Bay hills that is often used by through traffic to avoid San Pablo Avenue and Interstate 80.
Public Works Director Jerry Bradshaw told the gathering that the city is considering moving a crosswalk in the middle of the block north to the Brewster intersection so pedestrians can better see traffic north of where the road turns sharply to the right above Brewster.
Doing that will require installing a sidewalk with a curb and railing along the west side of the street from the current crosswalk north to Brewster, Bradshaw said.
The current crosswalk was installed in the middle of the block because it is in the same location as a flight of stairs that gives the neighborhood below Arlington access to the street.
"Pedestrians avoid using crosswalks in the middle of a block and where they
The city is also proposing to limit some of the space that drivers can use to make a right turn off Brewster onto Arlington to create a "pedestrian refuge" on the southwest corner of the intersection.
Other ideas to make the intersection safer include installing raised markers in the center line on the street to help drivers stay in their lanes and placing signs warning of the sharp curve in the road.
Some residents suggested placing stop signs at the intersection, but traffic planners are reluctant for a couple of reasons, Bradshaw said.
Stop signs actually tend to increase average speed as drivers accelerate out of intersections to make up for lost time, he said, and they also tend to cause rear-end accidents at blind intersections when motorists see them and stop suddenly.
Some in the audience suggested lowering the speed limit on Arlington, but Bradshaw cited problems with that idea, too.
State law prevents law enforcement agencies from using radar, a key tool in enforcing speed limits, to measure speeds when the limit is lower than 85 percent of the average speed of traffic measured by a speed survey.
Residents also suggested installing speed bumps on Arlington and flashing lights to warn drivers that they are approaching the intersection with Brewster.
In the June 6 accident, 92-year-old Jean Smith of El Cerrito was killed when she was struck by a cyclist while crossing Arlington near the intersection with Brewster, according to El Cerrito Police Chief Sylvia Moir. The case is still under investigation.
Although the accident involved a cyclist, Sgt. Shawn Maples, the police department's chief traffic officer, said the overwhelming percentage of traffic problems and speeding citations involve motor vehicles.
Bradshaw said his department would refine its plans further and schedule another meeting, to be announced via email and on the city website, to present the results.