In the month when the Berkeley Police Department is focusing on pedestrian safety, reader Anne Whyte has written an open letter to Berkeley City Council Member Gordon Wozniak about what she believes is a “perfect storm” of danger for the students at Emerson Elementary School (shown as “A” on the map above), arising from heavy traffic in the area. We publish it below:

Gordon, will you please get the corner of College Avenue and Garber Street designated as a school crossing?

Students coming to and going from both Emerson School, and new-to-our-neighbourhood Maybeck High School, typically use the corner of College Avenue and Garber Street morning, noon and afternoon.

The dangers at the corner of College Avenue and Garber Street have become a “perfect storm”:

1. Speeding cars, busses and trucks on College Avenue endanger all pedestrians crossing at the corner of College Avenue and Garber Street — pedestrians crossing anywhere on College Avenue are “living dangerously” when they cross College Avenue, but the corner of College Avenue and Garber Street is especially dangerous.

2. All-too-many parents “hurrying” as they drive their children to school — both Emerson School and Maybeck High School (in Saint John’s) parents are guilty — careen around the corner at College Avenue and Garber Street, focused on getting their child to school without regard for the safety of other students or other pedestrians.

3. Crossing at the corner of College Avenue and Garber Street is made more dangerous when there is rain because Saint John’s Presbyterian Church continues to pump out water from Saint John’s underground garage into Garber Street where that water floods at the corner of College Avenue and Garber Street.  This garage water from Saint John’s did not used to be a problem until all underground storm drains were removed during a City of Berkeley “street improvement” contract was so woefully mishandled some years ago.

Please, lets not wait for a tragedy before this dangerous corner is made far, far, far more safe.

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  1. I live across the street from Thousand Oaks School where we have one of the most treacherous crosswalks ever, across Colusa, where there have been serious injuries to pedestrians (but not to children, so far.) The crossing guard was stationed up at Solano Ave. at the traffic signal and it seemed like nothing could get her moved down to the non-signal crosswallk at Catalina. However, parents called Laurie Capitelli, he intervened and the crossing guard was moved. So try your city council person. I wish we could get a blinker, or blinking pedestrian lights – anything. Cars and buses barrel down Colusa, or speed going south, hoping to catch the green light at Solano. It is narrow and treacherous.

  2. This post addresses a problem at Emerson, but I see this problem at Le Conte also, and I think it must be a problem for other BUSD elementary schools too. At Le Conte, I see many parents double parking to let their kids out into the street (!), children running between double-parked cars, non-school traffic driving not very safely to get around all the double parked cars. There was some discussion on Le Conte’s listserv a couple months ago from unhappy parents who’d been given tickets for double parking, or for staying too long in the drop-off zone. The resolution was that parents should try harder to follow safe traffic rules. But really, I think the BUSD and the City have helped to create this problem and are leaving it to parents to solve….

    To my mind, the BUSD has never addressed the issue of increased car traffic at elementary schools due to its policy of sending children to schools outside their neighborhoods. These schools were never intended to have large numbers of cars dropping kids off. Most of them are in residential neighborhoods with little parking, there are no driveways or parking lots, and with all the traffic diverters in Berkeley, cars are all funneled onto a few residential streets that have to somehow accommodate all this traffic, including double parking, illegal u-turns, children on foot, and all the rest.

    Before the “zones”, there was the “two-way busing” – my older kids were at Emerson then. Most of the neighborhood kids walked to school, and there was a bus for the out-of-neighborhood kids. You didn’t see that many cars dropping kids off, and fewer buses were needed because the kids came from just one other neighborhood, not from all over the zone. When my kids went to Emerson, they walked, and there was always a crossing guard stationed at the Garber/College corner the poster is complaining about. (And that brings up another point: What has happened to all the crossing guards at BUSD schools? There is one at Le Conte, but she is stationed at the opposite end of the block from where all the cars are dropping kids off.)

    I think often about the little boy who was killed last year. I believe he lived nearest to Emerson, but he attended Le Conte, and had taken the bus to an afterschool program closer to home when he was hit, on a street that has much too much traffic on it, due in part to all the traffic diverters in Berkeley. It seems to me that the BUSD and the city traffic dept. ought to take at least some of the responsibility for that terrible accident. It seems like they should be looking for ways to avoid such a thing happening again.

  3. I’m one of several Emerson parents who’s been working with Safe Routes to School ( since last year. There’s a task force of concerned parents, bikers, and others that meets monthly, and Safe Routes works with city government and engineers on safety issues and improvements. I would encourage you to connect with Nora Cody at (510) 740-3150. The more citizens we can connect, the more progress we’ll see.