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Guest opinion: A child died at a dangerous Mountain View intersection. How long will it take us to make it safer?

On Thursday, March 17, a 13-year-old student at Graham Middle School died at the intersection of El Camino Real and Grant Road. He died on the street that has consistently killed and injured the most people in the city for the past decade. The project to add bike lanes on El Camino Real, despite being in the works for years, did nothing to help him because it is still just a plan. And that plan, in the name of avoiding even the slightest inconvenience to car drivers, will still not provide concrete separation of the bike lanes along all of El Camino Real because to do so would require encroaching somewhat onto the 6-8 lanes given over to cars.

The El Camino Real/Grant Road intersection has a lot of traffic accidents and particularly dangerous according to the Mountain View report. Photo by Natalia Nazarova

On June 12, 2012, William Ware was killed waiting at a bus stop on California Street. The road diet galvanized by his death, and multiple other deaths in the preceding years, has yet to come to fruition a decade later.

On December 10, 2019, the Mountain View City Council passed a Vision Zero policy saying that we would eliminate traffic fatalities in the city by 2030. Thus far, that policy has resulted in no direct changes to our streets. The most recent update is that there will be a community meeting on March 24, where presumably the public will have the chance to hear about how safe our streets will be eight years from now and be given the chance to express that, indeed, we do not wish for ourselves or our children to be killed because Mountain View’s roads are built to give precedence to speeding drivers.

On March 16, 2020, Santa Clara County issued a shelter-in-place order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Just three months later, on June 22, 2020, Castro Street in downtown Mountain View was shut down to car traffic to help ease the burdens of struggling downtown businesses. This was, and remains, the right call. However, it is a clear indictment of our values as a city that, when the bottom line for a few businesses is on the line we are happy to take rapid and drastic action, but that when the lives of our children are on the line, we subject the slightest improvement to a decade of process.

This deadly perpetuation of the status quo is not inevitable. As in the case of the Castro Street closure, it is within the power of the city to make changes quickly. We already know what streets are unsafe — past efforts by the city have even made prioritized lists of what streets to improve. And in 2020, the state legislature reduced legal barriers to building bike lanes for exactly this purpose. If our City Council so wishes, it can ask city staff to start working on building out an ad hoc network of protected bike lanes on our streets using whatever tools are available — whether that be concrete barriers, planters or even traffic cones. If we want to, there is no good reason that we can’t have set up well-protected bike lanes on every major street in the city’s control by the time that school lets out for the summer in June.

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Doing this will mean taking a lane away from cars on some multi-lane roads, and may make it marginally harder to park in places where we have to remove on-street parking. But if that is the tradeoff required to allow our children to get to school without dying, I’ll take it.

James Kuszmaul has been a Mountain View resident since 1998 and lives in the Willowgate neighborhood.

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Guest opinion: A child died at a dangerous Mountain View intersection. How long will it take us to make it safer?

by James Kuszmaul / Contributor

Uploaded: Sun, Mar 20, 2022, 9:22 am

On Thursday, March 17, a 13-year-old student at Graham Middle School died at the intersection of El Camino Real and Grant Road. He died on the street that has consistently killed and injured the most people in the city for the past decade. The project to add bike lanes on El Camino Real, despite being in the works for years, did nothing to help him because it is still just a plan. And that plan, in the name of avoiding even the slightest inconvenience to car drivers, will still not provide concrete separation of the bike lanes along all of El Camino Real because to do so would require encroaching somewhat onto the 6-8 lanes given over to cars.

On June 12, 2012, William Ware was killed waiting at a bus stop on California Street. The road diet galvanized by his death, and multiple other deaths in the preceding years, has yet to come to fruition a decade later.

On December 10, 2019, the Mountain View City Council passed a Vision Zero policy saying that we would eliminate traffic fatalities in the city by 2030. Thus far, that policy has resulted in no direct changes to our streets. The most recent update is that there will be a community meeting on March 24, where presumably the public will have the chance to hear about how safe our streets will be eight years from now and be given the chance to express that, indeed, we do not wish for ourselves or our children to be killed because Mountain View’s roads are built to give precedence to speeding drivers.

On March 16, 2020, Santa Clara County issued a shelter-in-place order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Just three months later, on June 22, 2020, Castro Street in downtown Mountain View was shut down to car traffic to help ease the burdens of struggling downtown businesses. This was, and remains, the right call. However, it is a clear indictment of our values as a city that, when the bottom line for a few businesses is on the line we are happy to take rapid and drastic action, but that when the lives of our children are on the line, we subject the slightest improvement to a decade of process.

This deadly perpetuation of the status quo is not inevitable. As in the case of the Castro Street closure, it is within the power of the city to make changes quickly. We already know what streets are unsafe — past efforts by the city have even made prioritized lists of what streets to improve. And in 2020, the state legislature reduced legal barriers to building bike lanes for exactly this purpose. If our City Council so wishes, it can ask city staff to start working on building out an ad hoc network of protected bike lanes on our streets using whatever tools are available — whether that be concrete barriers, planters or even traffic cones. If we want to, there is no good reason that we can’t have set up well-protected bike lanes on every major street in the city’s control by the time that school lets out for the summer in June.

Doing this will mean taking a lane away from cars on some multi-lane roads, and may make it marginally harder to park in places where we have to remove on-street parking. But if that is the tradeoff required to allow our children to get to school without dying, I’ll take it.

James Kuszmaul has been a Mountain View resident since 1998 and lives in the Willowgate neighborhood.

Comments

Nora S.
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Mar 20, 2022 at 10:53 am
Nora S., Rex Manor
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2022 at 10:53 am

Great article. City staff has been peculiarly antagonistic to anything impeding the free flow of vehicular traffic for years. They don't like adding stop signs. They don't like adding crosswalks. They don't like upgrading crosswalks. They don't like adding bike lanes. Anything that a neighborhood wants to improve pedestrian or bicycle safety is seen as secondary to the rights of the almighty automobile. This must change, and it is incumbent upon the City Council to see that it does.


bkengland
Registered user
Whisman Station
on Mar 20, 2022 at 10:57 am
bkengland, Whisman Station
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2022 at 10:57 am

As James well points out, it is time for us to shift priorities regarding our streets and related infrastructure. The history points to where we've come from. The future is ours to create.


Dgatsby
Registered user
Shoreline West
on Mar 20, 2022 at 3:29 pm
Dgatsby , Shoreline West
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2022 at 3:29 pm

I completely agree with this letter. The crosswalk by my house with flashing yellow lights at the corner of Shoreline and Mercy Street is also extremely dangerous -- two weeks ago a child was HIT on a bicycle at that intersection. A few years ago my child was almost hit by a car at that intersection right in front of me. Those are two incidents that I saw personally -- how many have happened at that intersection and other places in MV that have not been reported or widely known? How many more incidents have to happen before we can truly create a city that supports bicyclists and pedestrians as much as drivers? I'm a driver in this city and I am extremely supportive of any measures that prioritizes pedestrian and bicycle safety.


SWAN song
Registered user
Shoreline West
on Mar 20, 2022 at 4:01 pm
SWAN song, Shoreline West
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2022 at 4:01 pm

Amen! Well written. It's time for action. More police enforcement of rolling right turns on red would help, too.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Mar 20, 2022 at 4:09 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2022 at 4:09 pm

Mixing this intersection in with the rest of the city is dangerous. This intersection has a freeway on one side, which is not typical. Not only that but much of the traffic along El Camino Real at this intersection is headed to another freeway, 85. So this is a special intersection, a unique case with special needs not found anywhere else in Mountain View.

To equate this intersection with others trivializes the issue for this crosswalk and these turn lanes.

Then there is another issue. El Camino Real is managed by Caltrans, unlike other roads like Shoreline or California. It's a different process. Caltrans has done a lot of things fairly recently to make it safer for pedestrians to cross ECR. Signalized crosswalks have been added. Don't mix Caltrans in with Mountain View's city streets.

There are things that could be done for this crosswalk, but they are not things that generally apply to other crosswalks. These roads are not a candidate for any sort of "road diet." They are major major arteries.


chris aoki
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Mar 20, 2022 at 4:38 pm
chris aoki, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2022 at 4:38 pm

Paid parking stacks offer a possible solution to stop
rolling right turns. Add a gate that requires a driver to
stop when a pedestrian is crossing. Pedestrians can
push a switch to lower the gate before crossing and
must push another switch to raise the gate after the
crossing is complete.
Video cameras can record driver and pedestrian
responses "for quality control purposes" to borrow
a phrase from call centers. Speed bumps on the
approach to the intersection can help remind drivers
to slow down. More aggressive speed bumps can be
installed if accident statistics are not improved.


chris aoki
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Mar 20, 2022 at 5:37 pm
chris aoki, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2022 at 5:37 pm

As a reminder to readers of Mountain View Voice,
"Vision Zero" means a clear vision of eliminating fatalities
and serious injuries due to collisions involving vehicles in
traffic. All drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists must understand
this vision and comply with rules designed to achieve it. To learn
more about Vision Zero, read the writeup at this web page:
Web Link


ivg
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2022 at 8:24 pm
ivg, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2022 at 8:24 pm

Yeah, it's a little misleading to blame this one on the city. The city did agree with Caltrans to install bike lanes the next time Caltrans repaves the roadway. But that was years ago, and the asphalt continues to disintegrate. I would hazard a guess that all the gravel in the road (possibly from the disintegrating asphalt) had something to do with this crash. El Camino is very dangerous for bicyclists of any age.


ConsiderReality
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Mar 21, 2022 at 3:22 am
ConsiderReality, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2022 at 3:22 am

Bike lanes would not have helped directly in this case. Even with bike lanes, you still need to cross busy intersections.

For this intersection, I think a very simple "No Turn On Red" set of signs would do wonders.

Please don't use a tragedy to promote a barely tangentially related cause. I am very much in favor of bike lanes. I bike to work everyday. But this is not at issue here.


Tal Shaya
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on Mar 21, 2022 at 6:00 am
Tal Shaya, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2022 at 6:00 am

Let's try to focus, okay? THAT intersection is very dangerous. The schoolchildren exit onto a road that feeds two highways. How many times did we hear of a child getting injured or killed at Grant and El Camino?


Juan
Registered user
another community
on Mar 21, 2022 at 8:15 am
Juan, another community
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2022 at 8:15 am

Construction traffic should not be allowed on the same roads that kids use to get to school. I propose to prohibit construction vehicles and other large vehicles on city streets (including El Camino) between the hours of 7am - 5pm. It means that construction vehicles would need to arrive before 7am to their location, and leave after 5pm. It might cause more early morning noise for the neighborhood, but that is a price that we can all pay to ensure safety of children.


It's abuse
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Mar 21, 2022 at 2:24 pm
It's abuse, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2022 at 2:24 pm

Thank you for writing this. I would love to have my middle-school-age child ride his bike to school but I'm terrified. There are no stop signs at many intersections in my neighborhood (why?) and I regularly see people in cars blast through crosswalks even in sleepy Monta Loma. A crosswalk that leads right into ML park and is frequently used by kids has such faded, unmaintained paint that it's basically useless. The city could absolutely be doing more--much more.

Unfortunately, every parent who drives their child a short distance to school out of fear is one more car on the road, compounding the problem. We need major action to make it safer for cyclists and it will only get worse without it.


ML Kyle
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Mar 21, 2022 at 2:40 pm
ML Kyle, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2022 at 2:40 pm

I thought the VTA effectively owned El Camino Real?

I agree with the urgency. While we're at it, we should eliminate all street parking along El Camino, as it simply exacerbates the overall danger to bicyclists on a busy and chaotic street.


SalsaMusic
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Mar 21, 2022 at 2:45 pm
SalsaMusic, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2022 at 2:45 pm

The city has traffic engineers. How many pedestrian engineers does it have?


Bob
Registered user
Blossom Valley
on Mar 21, 2022 at 3:00 pm
Bob, Blossom Valley
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2022 at 3:00 pm

While several points in this opinion piece have merit, it seems that this piece as well as several of the comments use this tragedy to justify an agenda. Does anyone actually know what happened here? If so, please tell us. Until then, we don't know who did what and what the specific solution is.


Frank Richards
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Mar 21, 2022 at 3:27 pm
Frank Richards, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2022 at 3:27 pm

The "agenda" of the commenters is to not have any more children die riding their bikes to school. The way to do that is to properly engineer our transportation so that automobile-bike interactions are minimal, which would mean turning El Camino into an actual highway that gets people between major destinations, and have physically separated, much lower speed, and narrower streets that contain businesses, residences, and schools. Trying to have El Camino do both is how we end up with these accidents.


Robin
Registered user
Martens-Carmelita
on Mar 21, 2022 at 5:11 pm
Robin, Martens-Carmelita
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2022 at 5:11 pm

related article with useful info

Web Link


Leslie Bain
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Mar 21, 2022 at 5:53 pm
Leslie Bain, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2022 at 5:53 pm

This situation is so very sad. The reality is that today we have a transportation system where pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers all have to share the same roads. We should make it a priority for kids to have a safe path to bike to school. Intersections where there is very heavy traffic is certainly going to be more dangerous, thought should be given about how to provide safer alternatives. There are long-term solutions, it's not clear we all agree on what those are. Until we do, IMHO bikers should try to avoid this intersection, and to avoid El Camino in general.

I'm not sure where this boy lived. I was curious about existing biking routes between O'Reilly Auto Parts and Graham Middle School, Web Link . As it turns out, the shortest + fastest route for a biker is to turn left onto Grant, go past the In-N-Out Burger, snake around to Hans Ave, then snake around to Graham. My understanding, which might be wrong, is that instead of taking the left on Grant, the biker proceeded straight through the intersection, where a truck from 237 was turning right onto El Camino and hit him. IMHO the safer route would have been to turn left on Grant.

Hindsight is easy, I'm not trying to blame the victim, I just want others to avoid his fate. Maybe a short-term solution might be a program to educate school-children on the dangers, and also on the safest route for them personally to take to school? Maybe we could require a "license" to bike to school, primarily to ensure such training was taken? If schools ran such programs + kept data, they could identify the locations where the most kids were at the most risk, to help prioritize long-term solutions.


Name hidden
Cuesta Park

Registered user
on Mar 21, 2022 at 6:04 pm
Name hidden, Cuesta Park

Registered user
on Mar 21, 2022 at 6:04 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Jennifer
Registered user
Shoreline West
on Mar 21, 2022 at 9:56 pm
Jennifer, Shoreline West
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2022 at 9:56 pm

Thank you James. This tragedy breaks my heart. Let’s take action as a community and make Mountain View the best place for young and old alike.


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Mar 21, 2022 at 10:02 pm
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2022 at 10:02 pm

@ Its Abuse. It is YOUR PERSONAL responsibility to report this situation to Public Works/Streets Dept. Be fixed in a week by my personal experience. The City of Mountain View did such when I reported a similar SIMPLE PUBLIC SAFETY ISSUE to them (dangerous sidewalk ripped up by tree - By Chase Bank/ corner ECR& Castro)

Web Link
"To report urgent street maintenance problems, please call (650) 903-6329. For non-urgent inquiries, you may visit Ask Mountain View.
Web Link


Sam Connell
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Mar 22, 2022 at 11:25 am
Sam Connell, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2022 at 11:25 am

Spent Tuesday morning at the Castro/ECR intersection. Wow, what an eye opener. Chatted with kids who all have had near miss stories. Then saw a near miss in action. A few ideas:
1. Create a time lag between Yellow to Red change and the "Walk Sign Is On" buzzer. Right now, you hear the buzzer, see the walk sign and step out, immediately after it turns to red -- guess what -- drivers are still blowing through the intersection! A girl and I, with a yellow vest on, almost stepped into a red mustang taking a quick right to Castro North from ECR after the yellow went to red. Not good.
2. You can't take a right on red onto ECR from Castro South side going north unless you pull into the pedestrian pathway. The old Peets/now Boba blocks your view. It is a blind spot that necessitates you going into the walk lane. Not good.
3. I'll be out there in the morning walking back and forth with a yellow vest on. It might be a good idea to set up a network of parent volunteers to walk back and forth in the morning/afternoons. Send me a message if you are inerested in joining me in this endeavor. ([email protected])


bluesjr
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Mar 22, 2022 at 12:34 pm
bluesjr, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2022 at 12:34 pm

@Steve Nelson. It's great they responded to your issue. I did not have that experience when I reported a road/cycling safety issue. I cycle around town most days, have been cycling for 50+ years, and am comfortable with traffic. The cycling trigger on Mayfield and Central does not allow enough time for a cyclist to cross. The light turns yellow before you make across Central, with cars screaming down the ramp from San Antonio. I am not slow. I jump on the pedals when I get the light, but there is NOT enough time. Well, the city came out with a traffic expert, measured the green light and claimed it was fine. They felt the green and yellow time combined is enough. It is not (cross traffic can sometimes anticipate the yellow to get an early jump start), and evidently it is not going to change. I bet the two that evaluated the light do not cycle.


Kling-Kling Bird
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2022 at 4:15 pm
Kling-Kling Bird, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2022 at 4:15 pm

The City is holding a zoom meeting Thursday 5-6:30 PM on Vision Zero bike & pedestrian safety.
All the preceding comments should be submitted at that meeting, or emailed -- with copies to the City Council -- to whoever hosts it. In light of the recent tragedy, City staff may be more receptive than usual.


Christopher Chiang
Registered user
North Bayshore
on Mar 22, 2022 at 8:44 pm
Christopher Chiang, North Bayshore
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2022 at 8:44 pm

Join us for a vigil for Andre this Thursday (3/24) at 8am, gathering on the In-N-Out side of El Camino, not directly at Andre’s memorial. Please share this post to honor Andre by lining his entire remaining route from Grant to Castro. March 24, week since Andre was fatally hit on El Camino, the city of MV is holding a traffic safety meeting that same day at 5pm. To learn more about the city’s meeting to have zero future bike/pedestrian fatalities: tinyurl.com/mvzero (this vigil is being held with the blessing of Andre’s family)


Mountain View Resident
Registered user
North Whisman
on Mar 24, 2022 at 3:36 pm
Mountain View Resident, North Whisman
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2022 at 3:36 pm

This morning at the same time of the memorial gathering for the student I was traveling on Grant Road near to El Camino hospital and there was a girl going to school on her bicycle and she was nearly struck by a car that traveling beside a car that stopped for her to cross the road as it was a large white automobile and the other car could not see the student and almost hit her as she crossed the road. I wonder if it is time that the students who attend the local school walk to school rather than ride their bicycles as it does seem too dangerous a road and area especially at rush hour for children on bicycles.


AC
Registered user
Shoreline West
on Mar 24, 2022 at 11:11 pm
AC, Shoreline West
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2022 at 11:11 pm

I mentioned it elsewhere: I don't think that intersection as-is can be made safer. It's the terminus of a freeway. The more traffic we cause, the more people will misbehave because they're in a hurry.

This doesn't happen at the other terminus (the Milpitas side) because there is a big cloverleaf overpass. Cars don't get slowed by an intersection, and kids don't get killed.

Vehicles misbehave at that intersection because they're in a hurry. They're coming off of a *freeway*.

Separate the cars from the bikes and pedestrians. Walkway, bridge, offramp, something. It's the only way to ensure safety. Because dieting that intersection or taking lanes for bikes/peds means that cars will still misbehave when the think they can get away with it.

Because, again, it's the terminus of a freeway.


Polomom
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Mar 25, 2022 at 11:40 am
Polomom, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Mar 25, 2022 at 11:40 am

@Mountain View Resident: it was at Grant Rd and Sleeper intersection?


Wouter Suverkropp
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Mar 25, 2022 at 2:25 pm
Wouter Suverkropp, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Mar 25, 2022 at 2:25 pm

[Post removed at poster's request]


Landels Neighbor
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Mar 25, 2022 at 4:54 pm
Landels Neighbor, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Mar 25, 2022 at 4:54 pm

At a minimum, all El Camino intersections should be made 'no right on red' - the only actual cost would be be for signage. Cars having to wait a little longer, but turning right onto El Camino is a risky
proposition for cars, too. Ideally, speed bumps leading into the intersections would also be added in the far right lanes. Mountain View is great community in part because of its walkability - the city should be prioritizing the safety of walkers and bikers over the interests of drivers 100% of the time.


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