An epidemic of serious pedestrian injuries outside of a Fremont hospital has prompted an East Bay legislator to introduce legislation that she hopes will make crossing the street to visit the hospital a little safer.
Civic Center Drive in Fremont, CA bisecting parking and transit stops from Washington Hospital has long been a trouble spot for employees, patients and visitors of the hospital. Civic Center Drive is one of the main access roads for the 2000+ parking spaces at the Fremont BART station located just north of Washington Hospital. The 85th percentile speed on this 30 MPH speed limit road is 34 MPH, according to city of Fremont traffic surveys. With 1900 employees at the hospital and a constant flow of visitors and patients crossing Civic Center Drive on a constant basis, even 30 MPH is likely too high. In 2005, the city of Fremont reluctantly installed a crosswalk at hospital expense, but the problems continued as you can see from this 2007 video by KRON’s Stanely Roberts.
From August 2012 to September 2013, five people have been injured, four of them seriously, in this crosswalk. Two of those collisions involved hospital employees. The state nursing union notes that “It is unacceptable to have a person seek our care because they were injured just outside that very door!”
Hospital leaders submitted a petition to the Fremont city council last October, asking the city to install a traffic signal to protect pedestrians at this crosswalk. As far as I can figure out, the city so far as not responded.
California Senator Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) has now introduced SB 1287, which would allow Washington Hospital to employ crossing guards to protect people who just want to cross the road.
It’s apparently unclear under current state law if health districts can employ crossing guards. This bill explicitly authorizes Washington Hospital to use crossing guards. People who disregard the directions of a crossing guard a guilty of an infraction, which can result in a fine of at least $50 for a first offense up to $500 for subsequent convictions.
The Streetview screenshot up there shows a driver on his cell phone zooming through the crosswalk on Civic Center Drive.
What happens with the crossing guard gets hit and nobody wants to be the new crossing guard.
The problem is not that the 85th percentile is 34 MPH, but that the 95th percentile may be 44 MPH, and the 98th percentile may be 54 MPH. Its the highest end of the distribution that correlates with reduced yielding and higher risk due to reduce reaction times, but we never get those speed percentiles.
What is proven effective are raised crosswalks. The bevel can be designed to be a minimum disturbance to 45 MPH. It also fixes the location of the crosswalk in the memory of the drivers, so they automatically become aware as they are approaching it. This alone has been shown to improve yielding from 10% to 55%.
If yielding is improved, people will use the crosswalk. If pedestrians don’t see any yielding difference between using or not using the crosswalk, then they don’t see the point in using it.
One issue with cross guards is that it may send a message to drivers that they only need to yield when a crossing guard is present, resulting in a reduction in yielding when the cross guards are not present over the previous level before crossing guards where introduced. I don’t know if this has ever been studied.
If Ellen Corbett really wants to make a difference, introduce a bill to tie the measured yielding percentage to an escalating series of crosswalk improvements, which continue until the yielding percentage meets some minimum requirement.
Can’t believe Roberts even has to ask the question of why people don’t want to take a two-minute detour to walk across a street. If you asked a car driver to travel enough of a distance to add two minutes to his journey there would be uproar.
Stanley Roberts does good work highlighting traffic safety issues for all road uses, but he does fundamentally have a windshield perspective.