Santa Barbara residents in the area of Arroyo Burro Beach Park are raising safety concerns about a marked crosswalk at Alan Road and Cliff Drive where a pedestrian sustained serious injuries and a dog died after being struck by a vehicle last month.
At 5:10 p.m. on Sept. 16, emergency personnel were dispatched to the scene of the collision at Alan Road and Cliff Drive, according to Anthony Wagner, a Santa Barbara Police Department spokesman. He said a pedestrian and a dog were walking south in the marked crosswalk when they were hit by a vehicle traveling west on Cliff Drive.
The victim was transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital’s emergency room by AMR ambulance, Wagner said, adding that her injuries included multiple broken and fractured bones. The dog died from injuries.
“The driver of the involved vehicle was interviewed and was released from the scene,” Wagner said. “The cause of the collision is still under investigation, and several witnesses have been interviewed.”
No further details were available.
After the incident, about 70 neighbors who live in the Alan Road and Arroyo Burro Beach Park area submitted a letter to the Santa Barbara City Council to bring attention to the crosswalk.
“As residents of this area, we use the crosswalk frequently, and have all observed that the crossing is a treacherous one,” the letter stated. “Automobiles travel fast on Cliff Drive in this area, and too often do not heed the existing crosswalk or small marker indicating that state law requires vehicles to yield to pedestrians.
“In part, this may be exacerbated by the fact that many visitors to the beach area are from out of town, and are not familiar with the traffic patterns in this area. In addition, during certain parts of the day, the ambient light at the crosswalk is poor, and given the orientation of Cliff Drive at the location, in both early morning and late afternoon, the effects of sunlight can affect driver and pedestrian visibility significantly.”
Residents would like “immediate action to provide a fix for this currently high-risk crosswalk, and involve the neighborhood in the process,” the letter stated, and “feel strongly that this tragic incident (on Sept. 16) could have been avoided if the city had taken more proactive measures to improve the safety of the crosswalk.
“If swift action is not taken, we feel it is merely a matter of time before another person is seriously injured or worse.”
Councilman Eric Friedman — who represents District Five, which includes San Roque, Hitchcock, Upper State, Samarkand, Hidden Valley and Campanil areas, as well as the Santa Barbara Airport — said he received the letter.
“As demonstrated by the recent injury incident, the crosswalk at Cliff Drive and Alan Road is a public safety issue,” Friedman told Noozhawk via email. “While the city has already applied for grants to implement a flashing light for the crosswalk, I share the concerns of Alan Road neighborhood residents about the estimated timeline for implementation.”
He said it’s critical to understand that the area has a high intensity of use with a limited-capacity roadway.
“It is unique to our city with special circumstances that require a timely solution,” he said. “These circumstances include one of the most popular beaches in the region with limited parking that overflows into the neighborhood along Alan Road; it is a primary access point to the many homes in Hope Ranch; the speed which cars can accelerate out of the Las Positas roundabout as they head toward the crosswalk; and the visibility of the crosswalk to approaching motorists.”
Friedman said he is working to identify other potential funding resources that may be available to make the necessary public safety improvements to the crosswalk.
Santa Barbara officials are pursuing monies for pedestrian-activated flashing lights at the Alan Road and Cliff Drive crosswalk through two grant funding programs.
If successful, it will take several years to administer the grant funding and implement the improvements, according to Derrick Bailey, a principal traffic engineer for the city.
Pedestrian flashers typically cost about $100,000, he said.
“Our transportation planning employees have a great track record of winning grants,” Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo said via email.
In the meantime, Murillo said, she will ask police to conduct more speeding enforcement in the area “as speed seems to be a contributing factor.”
“Everyone needs to slow down in general, especially in areas near beaches and recreational resources,” she said.
Murillo said she will ask Bailey if there’s any signage that could help inform motorists that pedestrians are ahead.
“I totally appreciate that the Alan Road residents are concerned about this crosswalk, and it’s awful that the pedestrian was struck by a vehicle,” Murillo said. “If there’s any way to speed up the process of securing those funds, we will pursue that.”
In the letter sent to the City Council last week, the residents pointed out the city’s Vision Zero plan, an attempt to eliminate all traffic deaths and serious injuries on city roads.
In 2016, the Santa Barbara council established the policy to eliminate all severe and fatal transportation-related collisions on local streets by 2030. Santa Barbara’s Vision Zero effort states that serious traffic-related injuries and deaths are unacceptable and avoidable.
The city’s public works and police departments have created a preliminary list of actions for the top priority corridors based on identified safety concerns, according to the 19-page plan.
Residents in Santa Barbara said Vision Zero acknowledged “our community has a high rate of motor vehicle collisions, including a disproportionate rate of serious or fatal pedestrian outcomes.”
A Santa Barbara resident since 2004, Steve Yao said the crosswalk at the end of Alan Road has become significantly more dangerous in the past year or two after the installation of a new single-lane roundabout at Cliff Drive and Las Positas Road. The crosswalk is the main beach access from Alan Road, he said.
Cars often blow through the marked crosswalk without stopping to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway, according to Yao.
“For people who live in the neighborhood, they have indicated many cars disregard the signs and don’t slow down at all, and often don’t stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk,” Yao said. “It’s almost like a game of chicken.”