Neighbors sought stop sign where pedestrian was hit

Near-misses occur every day on Phyllis Avenue, says resident

When Mountain View resident Ruifan Ma was struck and killed last week, it was at an intersection where neighbors have wanted a stop sign or stoplight for years.

Resident Chuck Zissman said he was the first on the scene.

"Frankly, it sounded more like a vehicle collision than a vehicle hitting a pedestrian," said Zissman, who lives on the corner where Ma was hit while crossing Phyllis Avenue near Hans Avenue at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 4. "I assumed it must have been a bicyclist. I was pretty shocked to see it was a pedestrian. I don't know how fast she was hit, I just know it was loud. It knocked her completely unconscious and she didn't feel a thing, I suspect.


"People came immediately to her side to help," Zissman said. "The woman who hit her stopped immediately and rushed over and was really distraught about the whole thing."

Ma, 59, died later at the hospital. The driver -- heading northbound -- is not suspected to have been speeding or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, police say. An investigation is ongoing.

"I can't explain it," Zissman said. "I don't even want to say she was dressed in all dark clothes. I can't recall exactly what she was dressed in, she didn't see the car and the car didn't see her. For those two things to happen is just inexplicable to me. Sometimes an accident is just that, an accident. I really feel for the driver because clearly she struck me as a conscientious, mature woman who didn't seem like the sort to take unnecessary risks. It just happened."

"Right next to her body was her cell phone" Zissman recalled. "Which begs the question, 'Was she on it?'"

After the accident, Zissman wrote a letter to the City Council that was read aloud on March 6 in a meeting of the city's bicycle pedestrian advisory committee and the council transportation committee.

"This tragic event brings to light the danger this intersection poses," Zissman wrote. "Living on the corner as I do, I've become nearly numb to the numerous close-calls that occur at this intersection every day. I'd place the number at well in excess of five near-collisions per day here, as I'm all too familiar with the sound of horns honking and tires squealing as drivers on Phyllis react to avoid a collision with drivers on Hans attempting to turn left. This evening we have written to the City of Mountain View to request that action be taken to improve safety at this intersection, and we urge others who have experience with this intersection to do the same.

"While improving safety at this intersection won't restore the life tragically lost here last night, perhaps it will prevent another from meeting the same fate so that this loss of life will not have been entirely in vain," he adds.

Several residents expressed their sadness over Ma's death at the meeting and pleaded for action."I want you to think about what you can do tomorrow about this," said one woman.

Stop sign petition

In 2001, Cuesta Park neighborhood residents requested stop signs on Phyllis to slow traffic, the sort of stop sign that might have saved Ma's life. Over 115 residents signed a petition requesting stop signs and crosswalks to slow traffic on Phyllis Avenue, as well as narrow Phyllis Avenue from four lanes to two. They also wanted to reduce the speed limit from 35 miles per hour to 25 on Phyllis, according to the report for the City Council's Nov. 27, 2001 meeting.

Residents succeeded in having the street narrowed in 2001, with the City Council voting unanimously to do so without comment on the consent calendar item.

Five years later, the speed limit was reduced from 35 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour by the City Council. At that meeting, On August 22, 2006, residents Patrick Burns and Merle Martin asked for a stop sign at Hans and Phyllis.

Cuesta neighborhood residents say the city's traffic engineer at the time opposed stop signs as a way to slow traffic. According to the minutes from a November 2001 council transportation committee meeting, then-council member Sally Lieber "stated it seems unsafe for pedestrians to cross the street" on Phyllis and asked if reflective markers could be placed on the street, presumably to mark crosswalks. In response to Lieber, then-traffic engineer Dennis Belluomini "stated the street does not meet the requirements for stop signs or lights " and said reflective markers have created noise complaints when cars drive over them.

Finding a safe solution

"I work from my home, I spend a lot of time here in my garage and at my kitchen table," said Zissman, who runs a home repair business. "What I was expecting to see at that intersection was a bad vehicle collision."

"People view Phyllis as a way to get more quickly from point A to point B, not as a residential street," Zissman said.

That spells trouble for cars and people trying to cross lanes on Phyllis at Hans, where he says the crosswalk Ma was walking on is "poorly indicated" compared to another one at the other end of Hans, just two white stripes.

"On a typical morning, you'll see as many as six, seven, eight cars backed up on Hans," mostly leaving Bubb school, Zissman said. They are trying to turn left onto Phyllis, where "there is literally an endless stream of traffic."

The intersection causes driver to "take chances that they shouldn't," Zissman said.

"I think a three-way stop is probably the most appropriate" fix, Zissman said, adding that a stoplight might also be best. "I don't think just a solution to the crosswalk (on Phyllis) is enough."


Posted by K, a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Mar 15, 2013 at 2:10 pm

It is true. I work nearby and take Phyllis many times a week. Although there is a wide painted crosswalk and the neon painted cross walk sign; Night is worse, it is a bit dark in that area. I am not sure Zissman would be a fan but a brighter street light right there would help a bit. Or the little lights along the crosswalk that blink when there is a pedestian, would be perfect here. Pedstrians be careful, be ready to run. Drivers be careful, be ready to stop.

Posted by Alto, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 15, 2013 at 2:12 pm

A stop sign would be great...too late for some, but right on time before the next tragedy

Posted by DavidR, a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2013 at 2:42 pm

DavidR is a registered user.

Another idea would be to put in one of those flashing borders for the crosswalk, which a pedestrian can activate when trying to cross. They are really eye catching. It's a notch up from a stop sign in my opinion. There should also be some speed bumps on Phyllis. Drivers treat it like a raceway. Speed bumps would be more effective than a single stop sign in my view. I bike past here all the time and there are bursts of zooming traffic that are dangerous.

Posted by kathy, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 15, 2013 at 2:45 pm

We have exactly the same problem on Sylvan at the Park. I have witnessed two incidents when pedestrians were hit in the crosswalk (fortunately no fatalities as far as I know). We took up a petition, exchanged numerous emails with city staff and council. We wanted traffic calming measures taken on Sylvan with some type of flashing light, illuminated speed sign to alert drivers they were exceeding limit. All that was done was one additional street light, and static neon painted posts in crosswalks, neither have any effect. We still see pedestrians (families especially) standing on edge of cross walk watching cars speed by. It is very frustrating. There have been no traffic calming measures as far as I can tell, for awhile they assigned a traffic cop with radar but cars still speed down Sylvan heading for 237 on ramp, a straight shot from El Camino. With that said I have seen illuminated cross walks and other parts of the city that are far less populated.

Posted by DavidR, a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2013 at 2:45 pm

DavidR is a registered user.

LASD is discriminating against the 25% of the students who wish to attend Bullis Charter. When it expands to serve more of them, LASD cries foul. But it should rather seek to stem the flow through improving the flexibility of its own program. It is single minded in providing one particular type of school, which may be great, but it's obviously not for everyone.

Also, note that this concept of a freeze is nearly meaningless, but BCS did come back this week and offer to do a freeze for 21 days while they discussed LASD's final offer, which is due on April 1, come hell or high water. There's no freeze available for that date.

Posted by Interesting, a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 15, 2013 at 2:47 pm

"Right next to her body was her cell phone" Zissman recalled. "Which begs the question, 'Was she on it?'"

Posted by Mari Posa, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 15, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Put a traffic light, it is really hard to make a left at Phyllis and the visibility is very poor.

Posted by juniperk, a resident of Gemello
on Mar 15, 2013 at 3:23 pm

If it is considered as a residential street and I definitley think it is, it should have had a stop sign and I don't know what the problem in putting a stop sign in that street. the city has 100s of millions and this city council is spending lot of money in overpaying the police, firefighters, city employees and other wasteful things like travel, eating out,ipads,etc.. There are so many stop signs on some streets/avenues in Mtnview and why not on this one. The city council is negligent and they should be held liable for being lax in this and the city council is a bunch of criminals for failing to spend our tax dollars on the things that protects us.

Posted by vfree, a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 15, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Last I heard, if you can see a stop sign from your house, the value goes down by $75,000. I like the flashing lights when the crosswalk is in use. Unfortunately, nothing will save the pedestrian that walks across a street in front of a car.

Posted by Alto, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 15, 2013 at 3:26 pm

A traffic light I feel, makes it a tempting "Speed up to make the green" scenario, and seeing how drivers commonly run red lights these days, I'd rather have a forced stop all the time.

Posted by Look both ways before you cross the street, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 15, 2013 at 3:36 pm

So many times I see people crossing the street or a parking lot looking the other way. I wonder if they even see me in the car stopping for them. The people crossing traffic really have a responsibility to look around until they are safely across. I saw a cop giving a driver a ticket because the driver was turning through a crosswalk and there was a pedestrian crossing several lanes away. The driver saw him and knew he had plenty of time to get through. Drivers hit pedestrians because they don't see them, not because they do. Cops should be giving pedestrians tickets for not looking. With at least one of the two people looking that should have never happened.

Posted by Left Turner, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 15, 2013 at 4:01 pm

The problem with turning left from Hans to Phyllis is that there are almost always cars parked in front of 1198 Phyllis that are impossible to see around

Posted by ORACLE, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 15, 2013 at 4:35 pm

The problem with turning left from Hans to Phyllis is that there are almost always cars parked in front of 1198 Phyllis that are impossible to see around. Cars speed, drivers hate to yield, drivers don't don't understand they are legally required to yield, that area is very dark, drivers do California "stops" by rolling through without stopping, drivers think it is an imposition for a person to use a crosswalk when the very important driver is in a hurry, really scary soccer moms in their tank-like SUV's thinking it is OK for them to drive like banshees as their children are already safe in school or in the banshee's vehicle, drivers not caring about the other people, drivers in a hurry to get home and plop down in front of a TV. I watch this every day at both ends of Hans. By-the-way, the recently painted yellow strips for the pedestrian crosswalk on Miramonte maybe two months ago are rapidly disappearing.

Posted by Anna S., a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 15, 2013 at 8:50 pm

I would like to see the journalist looking into exactly what the city and the traffic engineers consider "the requirements for stop signs or lights". Then we could have an informed discussion of those rules as a community.

Posted by Phil, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 16, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I live nearby, and I cross that intersection (driving or walking) regularly. I have a couple of things to add:

(1) That crosswalk yellow sign is quite new (a few months, perhaps a year). The crosswalk was even less prominent before, despite a decade of complaints.

(2) Cars regularly ignore pedestrians trying to cross. "State Law" without enforcement means nothing to many drivers.

The least the city can do after this tragedy is to put a 3-way stop at that intersection.

Posted by Rezzi Dent, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 16, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Until drivers learn that applying the brakes whenever a pedestrian is near a crosswalk needs to be their FIRST response rather than their last resort, we'll be forced to see this again. At this one spot, a stop sign could prevent the inevitable next on. Daily close calls that I see, and shockingly, its even worse during school commute times to Bubb. You would think drivers would be more cautious at that time, but its the old race race race in order to not have to stop for 8 seconds.
Sorry, now I'm venting. Please put up 3-way stop. Its the right call.

Posted by kman, a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 18, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Dennis Belluomini "stated the street does not meet the requirements for stop signs or lights "

I'll agree with that, it's not needed. What is needed is for people, whether in car or walking or on bike to get a better understanding on how to be safe on the roads. Especially with all the new density of people coming here from all over the world.

Even if we had a stop sign on every corner street, accident's will still happen. It's part of life or is it just plan Darwinism.

Posted by Steve, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 18, 2013 at 3:15 pm

The increase in traffic on Phyllis is a direct consequence of the gridlock at Grant and El Camino, and a visible example of traffic seeking alternate routes to avoid congestion. Same story on Sylvan, it bypasses that mess for those wanting to head south on El Camino. Next time someone suggests that a 'road diet' is the panacea for our traffic woes, remember what the implications are for nearby streets. And by all means, let's increase Mountain View's density by the 14% mandated by ABAG.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 18, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Rezzi Dent "Until drivers learn that applying the brakes whenever a pedestrian is near a crosswalk needs to be their FIRST response rather than their last resort"
I agree with this as long as pedestrians 1. stop and look before crossing the street, 2. Put down their stupid cell phone for a moment so it does not look like they are standing on a street corner just to make a phone call. and 3. When you stop at an intersection for a pedestrian (especially in the downtown area) they don't just wave you on because they are just loitering at the corner with no intention of crossing the street.

Posted by There you go., a resident of Castro City
on Mar 19, 2013 at 6:37 am

Looks like they closed down the Regnstorff safety improvement thread so all the "Change your behavior"/"Get out of my way" drivers who want everyone else to change are here.

Dave wrote: "I agree with this as long as pedestrians...<insert his list of demands here>
So you can see how some people behind the wheel really think. Its not about safety first, its about safety for you _IF_ you measure up to how some think you should be acting, though not bound by law to do so.
Luckily we have laws that care not one iota about the list of demand some drivers think they are entitled to make. I support the robust ticketing of these drivers i have seen lately.

Hey, here's an idea: drivers obey the laws of the road and put aside their petty irritations(if possible) about the behavior of others who are not breaking any laws. Its not a trade off.

Posted by Look both ways before you cross the street, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 20, 2013 at 3:30 pm

@There you go.

It is not a list of demands or petty irritations. All emotion aside, it is a fact of life that drivers sometimes can't/don't see pedestrians/cars for whatever reasons.

The pedestrians also have a responsibility to ensure their own protection, by looking both ways. Parents teach us that when we are toddlers.

Posted by pedestrian, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 20, 2013 at 4:42 pm

I cannot believe the reckless drivers blaming the victim for her death. Pedestrians do look before crossing, but cars are coming so fast and from such a long distance that pedestrians often cannot get out of the way. The city needs to work harder to design and enforce pedestrian-friendly routes around town.

Posted by b nguyen, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 1, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Does anyone else here think there should be a crosswalk going from Sleeper Ave to Cuesta Park?

Posted by Marti, a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Apr 15, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Absolutely there needs to be a painted crosswalk at Sleeper going to Cuesta Park. Right now it is an Unmarked crosswalk. There was a rear end accident there a week ago. Someone stopped and the person driving behind did not. Residents and school kids cross here to enter the park all the time. Cars do not stop for them because it is an "unmarked crosswalk" waiting for someone to get hit.

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