Tuesday, February 9 , 2016, 4:06 am | Fair 50º

Letter to the Editor: The Danger of Crossing Hollister — Socks, French Fries and Inevitability

By Greg Janée |

Driving through Old Town Goleta the other night, I came up to a crosswalk with the flashing pedestrian lights activated. Was anybody crossing? I could hardly tell. In the glare of the opposing headlights, the pedestrians crossing the street were all but invisible save for a vague movement of shadows. What a dangerous situation, I thought to myself.

That foreboding sadly came to fruition on my return trip a few minutes later. There, at the very same crosswalk, was a knot of people surrounding an unresponsive form. There, sticking out from the crowd, were two feet, clad only in socks, the shoes apparently having been knocked off somehow and somewhere — the socks both signifying and magnifying the vulnerability of the fragile human versus the unyielding machine stopped to the side.

There, incongruously strewn across the pavement, was a bag of French fries, a poignant reminder of the small, commonplace joy this pedestrian was presumably looking forward to. I read later that the injured was a 14-year-old girl.

I didn’t witness the accident itself, so can’t address cause or fault. Perhaps the pedestrian was a little hasty or foolish; perhaps the driver was not fully attentive; perhaps some combination of the two. I argue, though, that it doesn’t matter.

Given the large number of people who cross Hollister Avenue in Old Town Goleta, and the larger number of cars passing through, it is inevitable that such collisions will happen. Indeed, per the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, a dozen pedestrian collisions have occurred on that stretch of road in as many years. It is simply inevitable, and will remain inevitable, unless something is done to change the situation.

And this is where the City of Goleta is failing its residents, for the city has known of this situation in Old Town Goleta but has done nothing to address it. Meanwhile, pedestrians are left to fend for themselves, and woe the pedestrian who loses focus or picks an inopportune time to cross.

We insulate the wiring in our homes so we don’t have to rely on constant personal vigilance to avoid being electrocuted. So, too, must our streets be designed so that the less-than-fully-cautious pedestrian and the less-than-fully-attentive driver can coexist.

Residents have pushed the city for improvements to make Hollister safer for pedestrians, with nothing to show for it. And there are numerous ways the existing crosswalks could be improved. Better lighting, for starters. Or curb extensions. Or mid-street pedestrian refuges. Or all of the above. Yet the city, by giving priority to preserving maximum traffic throughput on Hollister and to preserving the entirety of the center lane for left turns, has essentially declared that no changes are possible.

Will the city ever act to improve the safety of Old Town Goleta residents? Or are we all just supposed to inure ourselves to the inevitable, to the socks and French fries lying in the roadway?

Greg Janée
Santa Barbara

» on 02.22.13 @ 12:57 PM

In this letter the author states that it is not neccessary to determine the cause of pedestrian accidents, just change the street. This is the kind of thinking that predominates government- act out of emotion, not reason or facts. I wonder if Mr.Janee supports the construction of a $40 million dollar pedestrian bridge over the 101 freeway in El Encanto Heights as a solution to people getting killed running across the freeway. It seems easier to simply tell people not to run onto the freeway. In Old Town Goleta it seems a better solution to tell 14 year olds not to step in front of moving cars.

» on 02.22.13 @ 02:38 PM

Good point 12345. The problem with the lighted crosswalk is that it is designed to kill pedestrians. The thinking that went into this is exactly why it kills and maims. “oh people need to cross so lets cross them at a non controlled intersection where lighting is minimal and where drivers who are watching for other vehicles won’t notice a pedestrian.

People, if you put up a traffic light and stop all vehicles, then a pedestrian has a chance, this is my biggest argument against urban roundabouts, those notorious pedestrian killers, no lights, no stoppy. Even still there are those drivers, yakking on a cell phone, inebriated or emotionally crippled by the fight they just had with their wife who will run a red light. In those cases, flashing lights, stop lights, metal signs and all the paint in the world will not stop that 2 ton hurling hunk of metal.

At some point folks you have got to be responsible for your own safety. This is the biggest failure of pro government, nanny state, we know better than you, meddlers and lawyers; they strip people of their natural sense of self preservation and get them to believe someone else will protect them from harm. Safety begins with YOU, not government, not signs, not lights, not lawyers or laws, not committees, not bridges, crosswalks or fancy technology, just YOU.

What many a pedestrian has discovered, often to their own demise is none of these idiotic schemes put forth by do gooder meddlers can change the laws of physics.

» on 02.22.13 @ 03:19 PM

I happen to believe that the midblock flashing lights do add to pedestrian safety if used properly. However, even with the flashing lights pedestrians should wait until vehicle traffic is completely clear before crossing the street. If the 14 year old girl mentioned in this commentary had waited until no cars were coming at her she would not have been hit. Our government, schools, law enforcement and “community leaders” are instead telling people to step out in front of moving cars because they have “the right of way”. they are like Taliban leaders telling children to commit suicide attacks for Allah.

» on 02.22.13 @ 08:17 PM

The lighted crosswalks would be better suited at intersections where drivers are already looking for stop signals, like the stop lights at a controlled intersection. Drivers are already conditioned to stop when they see a red light on their lane. The flashing yellow lights we are conditioned to see as a warnings but not necessarily stopping requiring stopping. This is counter to what we as drivers are conditioned to both in practice and in law. That is why I believe these crosswalks with yellow flashers are death traps for pedestrians. If I can figure this out why can’t the traffic engineers or were they not consulted in the matter?

Anyway glad someone else sees the folly of our nanny state practicing negligent homicide on children by teaching them that human law supersedes the laws of physics. Oh the unintended consequence of allowing our giant egos to run rampant in the halls of government.

» on 02.24.13 @ 07:37 PM

Great, heart-felt essay. Every Noozhawk reader should think about it, a lot, no
matter whether they’re a daily driver, a pedestrian, or a bicyclist, then share it
with family members.

It’s funny, that a judge would put someone who walked down a Goleta street firing a loaded gun at people into state prison.

But those same judges and law enforcement folk are reluctant to give equal time
and equal penalties to folks who drive through crosswalks, or CA-Turn red lightswithout looking, while people are in their path.

Noozhawk readers know that this isn’t the first serious injury in this part of Old
Town Goleta. Far from it, if prior news stories are to be believed.

We were once told that when Goleta became a “city”, that all that under-service
from the bad old County government would be replaced by safer, prettier roads
and better lighting and paving.

Were told, is the phrase.

Now that a reasonably well-paid city manager is in place, and a next generation
city council is running things, those ten year-old promises don’t often get talked
about anymore.

And people are still getting mowed down just trying to cross the street.

Noozhawk should require Goleta’s mayor, streets director, city manager, and the
Sheriff’s officer in charge of Goleta patrol, to respond to this essay, not only in
Noozhawk, but at the next meeting of the Goleta City Council.

It doesn’t really matter who (if anyone) was at “fault”.

What matters is that this is a major street, that’s repeatedly proven that it’s unsafe to cross.

Something must be done.

» on 02.24.13 @ 08:25 PM

People are not being “mowed down”. They are stepping in front of moving cars on their own free will.

» on 02.25.13 @ 02:25 PM

Those crosswalks have flashing yellow lights in the roadway. What if those lights were engineered to actually cast light upon the pedestrian as well, so that drivers would see the person in the crosswalk?
AN50 and 12345 are right that too many people regard these and other crosswalks as some kind of magic barrier, and ignore their own responsibility to cross when traffic permits, or at least be vigilant while crossing.

» on 02.25.13 @ 05:32 PM

Noleta I like where you’re going with this. If the flashing lights were red, rather than yellow, meaning STOP, not just look while slowing down, plus some illumination of the crosswalk it would help. Drivers are conditioned to stop for red, so seeing red would definitely have an impact. But yes, nothing will save an individual who believes lights, paint and thin metal signs will stop a 2 ton hurling hunk of metal. Also I noticed while reading through pedestrian accident reports that an inordinate number of them involved pedestrians where dark clothing. Nothing says hit me like no being seen.

Publius the only thing out city is doing is copying the idiotic BS the city of SB is doing.

» on 02.28.13 @ 09:10 PM

first of all i would just like to let everybody know that i am a personal friend of the girl who was hit, her name is Gabby. and i would like to let whoever said she might have been acting hastily or foolish that this is 100% incorrect. she was crossing the intersection with 2 other people,they weren’t doing anything inappropriate to have caused this to happen. they did everything they could have done correctly to cross the road safely, having pushed a button to signal drivers that pedestrians were crossing the street, they then proceeded to do so. this button when pushed turns on a flashing light on either side of the crosswalk. if the driver had been paying attention as he was supposed to this accident could have been prevented 100%, i understand that human error does occur, however driving is one part of life that has no room for human error, as many of us are aware of. having been apart of two car accidents myself i can say that these things are 100% preventable. i hope that this makes the city of goleta reflect on what changes can be made to the roads of the city that really need to be changed and modified to be safer than they currently are. other innocent people could have been seriously injured or killed in this incident. my intention in writing this is not to offend anybody, but to point out the reality of what happened as told to me by Gabby and those who were 2 steps behind her at the time of this incident.

» on 03.04.13 @ 03:07 PM

Ummm, that is why your friend was hit, because she made the insane error in thinking that a flashing light or sign or a stripe of paint would stop a 2 ton hurling hunk of metal. She did not do everything to ensure her safety because if she had she would not have been hit. She would have noticed that a driver was bearing down on her and would not be able to stop in time and would have not crossed.

Yes doing what she was supposed to do was the legal right she had. And yes the driver, if found, would be legally responsible if they failed to stop. But there is a huge and dangerous trend in our society where people actually believe laws are responsible for how things happen. The only laws that are anywhere close to absolute are the laws of physics. Your friend found that out the hard way and was lucky she wasn’t killed experimenting with the superficiality of social law compared with the awful finality of the laws of physics.

To make the incredibly stupid assumption that drivers should be 100% error free is why you may be the next victim (the fact that you have already been involved in collisions says a lot about your failure here). My suggestion is that instead of flaunting your “rights” under the law to cross a street you instead yield to the law of inertia. You may actually survive to your next birthday. I don’t mean to be harsh, but you are a walking death sentence with this attitude, for the sake of your own life wise up and please don’t consult with your friend because she may have learned where you obviously have not.

» on 03.14.13 @ 12:50 AM

Publius: No judge would put anyone in prison for shooting someone who walked in front of them on a firing range, a better analogy.

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