Letter: Filbert St. crosswalk in the crosshairs

Letter to the editor

Posted by on Sat, July 28, 2007

Frank Long
Frank Long

The pedestrian crosswalk at Filbert St. and Route 1 may become a thing of the past as plans to resurface the highway there force the city to re-evaluate the walkway there. In speaking with Deputy City Manager Paul Nagangast about the crosswalk at Filbert St. this last week, he pointed out that the crosswalk was giving some people a false sense of security.

Appropriately enough, a few days earlier, while prudently waiting at the western end of the crosswalk with my bicycle for a break in the traffic, I watched in amazement as one male pedestrian walked defiantly past me, and without even a pause, took off across the highway amid the oncoming cars. Almost with a death wish, he stuck his palm in the air and proceeded on, undeterred, as one car swerved around him and the others behind it were forced to abruptly reduce speed.

Nagagast indicated that a number of options were on the table, but since any traffic light at that location was not in the immediate future, it would be safer to remove the crosswalk. Since many pedestrians and cyclists use that crossing, they would still be allowed to cross there and also further south at Poplar; there just wouldn’t be a crosswalk. This author would like to see at least the cabling for a pedestrian light put down before the road is resurfaced.

The public is invited to provide written or verbal comments by
August 1st to the City Engineer at 726-8260 or by writing:
Paul T. Nagangast
Deputy City Manager
501 Main St.
Half Moon Bay CA 94019

Frank Long

I spoke to Paul Nagengast about this as well. I have mixed feelings about it. I agree that unprotected crosswalks like this can be a safety hazard. On the other hand, if people are going to cross there anyways (and they will), wouldn’t it be better to give them whatever little help a crosswalk can provide?

I do not think a traffic light at the end of Filbert is going to happen. The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) would show that a light there would routinely create a southbound traffic backup all the way to Kelly Ave.

If there is to be a light, it should go at Poplar Street to direct beach traffic directly. But the EIR for that would also show it would screw up traffic big time.

My opinion: we don’t need anymore traffic lights anywhere.

People are more in a hurry these days; they’re increasing self-absorbed with their own “stuff”, while they should be paying attention to the road, ...... and they all want the crosswalks in someone else’s neighborhood.

Pedestrians are sometimes just as self-absorbed. Instead of expeditiously crossing the street with a degree of courtesy for the drivers on the road, one can often see them lollygagging across the streets in town without a clue that there’s a line of vehicles that they are tying up in at least two directions.

The chance for accidents to occur is going to increase as people, no matter what side of the bumper they’re on, choose to ignore the basic tenets of traffic. It’s really about common courtesy.

Anyway, I bring all this up because if both the drivers and the pedestrians continue to feel like each is more “entitled” to the road, and that the errand each one is on at the time is more important than the next person’s, it won’t be long before Big Brother mandates that something be done to remedy the problem, particularly as the population density increases.

Personally, I’d like to keep the crosswalk in place, although I think it needs to be relocated to the south side of the intersection.  There seem to be far fewer vehicles accessing or egressing Filbert from/to points south than the north. A number of the current logistical issues with the crosswalk could be dealt with that way.

I tend to agree with the previous comment. Removal of an established crosswalk that serves a large neighborhood is not the solution.

Well, here it is, the 29th. I wonder if Mr. Nagangast can consider this online dialogue as legitimate entries against its removal. If not, get your letters in. The deadline approaches.

What is Caltrans’s responsibility for pedestrian safety in towns split by state highways?

That’s a good question for Paul. You’d think they (CalTrans) would have input into that issue.

CalTrans is basically more interested in maintaining good traffic flow and vehicular safety for state highways.  They will on occasion make concessions for pedestrian safety as they did allow the construction of the bike path on their land next to Highway 1.

And its not just a pedestrian problem - all access to the Highway from the western side is very, very difficult - particularly during school and tourist periods.

I hate to bring Wavecrest up here - but when that is built (even in a much reduced format since the annual discing of the eastern part of North Wavecrest is eliminating the wildlife habitat) there will certainly be a signal put in for its main access road (whatever that turns out to be).  And no one will argue about it because it will be paid for by the developers.

There is $1M in traffic mitigation fees to be paid by the Carnoustie Development.  It would be interesting to think about how that could be used to make the Filbert/Grove/Poplar sequence of intersections safer as Carnoustie is just going to throw more cars into the lack-of-safety equation.

Besides pedestrian overcrossings [expensive]lighted crosswalks are also available where the crosser pushes a button on a post & embedded [led]lights in the crosswalk would light up or flash to warn traffic that someone is crossing. How much are our lives worth? Wife & I spent many a hairy moment crossing 1 @ Kehoe before lights were put in now we walk south to light to cross.

Sam, I guess one question to ask is, who is the culpable party when a pedestrian walkway is not fully designed for pedestrian safety and an incident occurs?

Years ago, it was illegal for more than two vehicles to occupy the same position within a lane. Motorcycles somehow squeaked through the net of acceptability, but even that has become a nightmare as the tolerance of “white-lining” increases.

Back to Filbert, I think a warning light would be nice, but when the lights are flashing, will it do any good unless impatient drivers are required to actually stop and not be allowed to roll through the crosswalk at 45mph while swerving around pedestrians as they do now? I don’t have the answer.

This morning, some clown in a Mercedes, latte in hand, pulled right onto the crosswalk as I was crossing on my bicycle and heading right for his driver’s door. He was so busy looking for the “hole” in the traffic and forgot the minor detail that someone was already in the crosswalk.

It’s decades-old news that removing painted crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections improves pedestrian safety.  It should be intuitively obvious why this is:  without the painted crosswalk lines, pedestrians are more likely to realize that they have to take responsibility themselves for their safety when crossing, and not just jump into traffic expecting cars to come to a screeching stop simply because that’s the law in California.  (Actually, that’s an oversimplification—pedestrians are not allowed to cross when vehicles can’t <u>safely</u> stop for them.  Put another way, if you get rear-ended because you were forced to make a sudden stop because a pedestrian stepped in front of your vehicle, it’s easily arguable that such an accident is the pedestrian’s fault.)

A significant part of the problem with crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections has to do with view angle.  To a pedestrian, the 2-foot-wide crosswalk lines are glaring, giving a false sense of security.  To a car driver from a distance away, that line is a barely visible thread.

All that said, cities need to be made much more pedestrian friendly than they are.  Ever try to walk down North Main Street into the Strawflower shopping center, say to McDonald’s?  It’s virtually impossible to enter Strawflower on foot.  That’s inexcusable.

HMB is finally building (part of?) their parallel trail, giving pedestrians a safe place to walk next to the highway.  When is the County going to do so in the unincorporated Midcoast?  And of course this still leaves the safe crossing issue, which is basically what started this discussion.  Personally, I’d like to see highway crossings which aren’t signals and aren’t at grade, meaning overcrossings/undercrossings.  In a few places where the highway is close to the ocean (notably El Granada), there are view issues with placing overcrossings.  I do not believe this to be an issue at the location in HMB under discussion.  It’s been stated that a signal installation costs $1M.  How much does a pedestrian bridge cost to build?

Pedestrian bridges are a safe solution, as long as people will use them.  I’ve heard view issues raised, but I’ve seen many pedestrian bridges and they don’t seem to impact views as much as some people seem to imagine.  (Just my opinion, from what I’ve seen, and I do like nice views.)

Here’s a grand idea: drop the stretch of Hwy 1 between Kelly and Filbert into a trench, and roof it over in between the two school properties.  It would create expanded playing field areas, and it would enable those living on the west side easy walking access to downtown, and those in town easy walking access to the beaches and bluffs.

I have a raft of ideas like this for up and down the coastside, if long term visionary thinking is desired.  Ideas like this have to be talked about for a long time, but sometimes, the powers that be finally adopt them.  Today, they may seem impossible.  But they are drilling the tunnels soon, and certainly we’ve seen clever and grand highway constructions in many places, both in the US and abroad.  If Hwy 1 is really a treasure for the people of all of California, as the Coastal Act suggests, then who know what the limits of possibility might be?

Hal M. Bogner
Half Moon Bay
(writing from Ventnor, NJ, tonight)

Comment 12
Wed, August 1, 2007 11:45pm
Carl May
All my comments

Highway 1 in a trench, even with pedestrian and vehicle overcrossings, has still been a moderate disaster for the communities in the northern half of Pacifica. The freeway trench represents a noisy barrier, an inconvenience, that the crossings can’t overcome, harming community cohesion and business on both sides.

The details in HMB are different, of course. But be careful of the powers that take over ideas and turn them into self-benefitting messes, like the monsterpiece the twin-tunnel project has become.

Carl May