Stop sign near where Zacharay Cruz was killed

Just a few days after the one-year anniversary of the death of 5-year-old Zachary Michael Cruz, the Berkeley Police Department have announced a concentration on pedestrian safety this month.

Last year, 106 pedestrians were injured in collisions in Berkeley. All three of the city’s fatal collisions involved pedestrians in the crosswalks. The police effort will focus on speeding, cell phone use and pedestrian right-of-way violations, among other infringements of the law. Officers will also receive additional training on spotting driving habits that are dangerous for pedestrians.

“The Office of Traffic Safety currently ranks Berkeley highest in terms of the number of pedestrian injury collisions among similarly sized cities in California,” said Police Chief Mike Meehan.  “Our focus on pedestrian safety is an appropriate way to remember Zachary and to do our part to make this community safer.”

Lance Knobel

Lance Knobel (co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine in Britain,...

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  1. Shrubs and right turns in traffic circles… Uh, am I missing something here? The article was about injured and killed pedestrians and inattentive drivers. The World Health Organization estimates that every single day, worldwide, 1000 pedestrians are killed in roadway crashes – that’s 1000 a day. Zachary never saw his sixth birthday. In fatality collisions involving pedestrians, 99.7 percent of those fatalities are the pedestrians. That is to say, the unprotected pedestrian almost always loses when a cel-phone talking, french fry eating, make-up applying, texting person chooses to operate a two-ton BULLET without any regard for the potentially deadly consequences for his/her actions. Or, to put it more bluntly, driver inattention should be a crime because it causes innocent people to die, with minimal risk to life or limb of said criminal.

    By all means cut down the GD shrubs, but when commenting on an article, comment on what the article is about – it’s this kind of ignoring the elephant in the room that leads to a room full of elephant doodoo.

    I miss you, Zachary, and I hope the Berkeley Police give out a hecka lot of tickets to help the motorists in Berkeley drive more safely.

  2. Re: Traffic Circles and Signalling

    Turn signals are ineffective in Berkeley’s version of traffic circles because they are so small. These aren’t roundabouts like Marin Circle.

    Because all cars entering a tight circle regardless of their ultimate direction must veer slightly to the right, a driver signalling a left turn will have the turn signal automatically turn off as they enter the intersection. Only the right turn can be correctly signalled. Other than a right turn, there’s no way for other traffic including pedestrians to anticipate the driver’s intent.

  3. I love the traffic circles, especially the one at California and Derby, which is often perfumed by its sage plants. But I agree with Laura Menard that they need to be groomed so they are not safety hazards.

    Another area that needs some attention is the stretch of Shattuck between Dwight and Ward that is without a traffic light. It’s four lanes of heavy traffic, a challenge to cross at almost all times. When one direction is clear, the other direction has heavy traffic. Almost never will you find a gap in traffic across the four lanes, and I’m not foolish enough to walk out in front of two lanes of traffic hoping that they all stop. One potential solution would be to build heavily reinforced “safe areas” on the median, thus allowing someone to cross the street in two stages. This safe area would be at least as wide as a bicycle and have heavy concrete or steel bollards that would provide a protected area in which a pedestrian (or bicyclist) could wait for the traffic to clear (or stop). There is something like this on Adeline at the BART station (at least until today). The tricky part, however, is finding the space for the safe area, as Shattuck doesn’t have much of a median. I think there might be room at Derby, as the southbound side is almost four lanes wide.

  4. I would like to second Ms. Menard’s concerns about tall shrubs in traffic circles as a potentially serious traffic hazard. This unmanaged overgrowth poses a potential hazard for both pedestrians and for cyclists. I frequently navigate a series of traffic circles in South Berkeley on a bicycle and when I approach these circles (most of which, strangely, are a four way stop), I often cannot judge the intention of the car(s) circling from the opposite direction. Especially since many motorists don’t bother with a turn signal under any circumstances, once the car in the opposite direction is in motion, I have absolutely no idea if the car is going straight or, in fact, looping around for a left turn to cut in front of me. As a cyclist, I am both less visible than a car and I am generally accorded less right of way. This is a serious issue and problem which needs to be addressed.

    On a lighter note, I recently read a memoir of a New York native Nobel Prize winning physicist who taught at UCB off and an on at various times. Here he recalls living on Euclid Ave. back in 1962 and his experiences as a pedestrian in Berkeley at the time:

    “Afterward [1962], it was back to California to take up my teaching duties at Berkeley. I rented a small house in the Berkeley hills from a faculty member away on sabbatical. Many times I walked between the campus and my home, often being stopped by the police on my way. They were friendly but curious to find someone actually walking on the streets. Californians may jog, surf or sail, but they rarely walk to and from work.” [p. 177] Interactions : a journey through the mind of a particle physicist and the matter of this world (1988).

  5. Traffic circles especially in south Berkeley have tall, inappropriate plants growing which creates a serious threat to short young kids crossing the street.

    The whole traffic circles concept is another good example of short sighted, non-comprehensive planning. Not to mention an absurd expense, $25,000 per circle, most cities install smaller and more manageable circles for $ 7,000.

    The city relies on neighborhood groups to maintain the mini gardens, which is unreliable.

    I called the transportation dept yesterday after witnessing several near misses at dusk as Longfellow afterschool program students was released.
    The plants have grown to 5′-6′ tall and are quite dense. Neither drivers or pedestrians can see each other.

    I also stopped in at Longfellow last week to explain to the PE teacher/staff that the guys hanging on the school’s sidewalk while the PE class ran laps around the school were drug dealers posting up.

    The dealers left when I took notice of them and headed back up Derby to B-Tech. They are not students of B-Tech, just doing business.