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Petition may prompt safety study of Santa Rosa crosswalk where child killed


After the bell rang Tuesday afternoon at Lincoln Elementary school in Santa Rosa, children streamed outside. They hopped into parents' cars or walked hand-in-hand in a crosswalk beneath flashing pedestrian lights and under the watchful eye of a crossing guard.

About 300 feet down the block, an ice cream vendor waited with his cart at the West Ninth Street crosswalk where five days <NO1><NO>earlier a four-year-old boy was struck and killed.

Few ventured into the crosswalk Tuesday and no one bought ice cream. However a group of fifth graders gathered at a make-shift memorial of balloons, flowers and stuffed animals placed at the base of a street sign in honor of Christopher "Buddy" Rowe.

"We don't want more people to get hurt," said Luis Santacruz, 12, a Lincoln Elementary School fifth grader. "Cars don't respect us," said his classmate, Luis Huesca, 11.

Neighborhood children such as Santacruz and Huesca said they would join a group of high school students gathering signatures to ask the city to install pedestrian lights or a stop sign.

The boys said they and their friends don't feel safe crossing the four-lane street.

The crosswalk at Rockwell Place connects a neighborhood of apartments with Jacobs Park and the school. It is marked with the yellow "zebra" striping used near schools throughout California, said Rob Sprinkle, traffic engineer for the city.

The crosswalk is what traffic engineers call an "uncontrolled approach," indicating an absence of traffic lights, crossing lights or stop signs.

The city hasn't received complaints about the crossing in the past, Sprinkle said. However if residents do gather signatures, that would prompt the city to take another look.

"If we got a petition for a stop sign, we'd do a study to see if the location warrants that kind of traffic control," he said.

The city public works department receives hundreds of requests to re-examine crossings throughout the city each year. It recently applied for a grant from the National Center for Safe Routes to School to fund an analysis of all crossings near schools to determine if any need additional markings or if some crossings should be eliminated, he said.

At about 6 p.m. Thursday, one westbound vehicle had stopped as Rowe and his family crossed the street on the way to <NO1><NO>soccer practice. However, another driver approaching in the inside lane plowed into Rowe, who had lagged behind his family, Santa Rosa police officials said.

Driver Marcos Lopez Garcia, 22, <NO1><NO><NO1><NO><NO1><NO>is scheduled to enter a plea Aug. 30 on <NO1><NO>charges of<NO1><NO> felony hit and run causing a death, misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and driving without a license<NO1><NO>.

California's vehicle laws requires drivers to stop whenever another vehicle heading in the same direction has stopped at a crosswalk, Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Doug Schlief said.

"Your vision is going to be impaired, you may not see a person coming," Schlief said. "The pedestrian may not see that there's a car coming."

After a string of pedestrian injuries in crosswalks, Santa Rosa police officers launched a series of special enforcement efforts to cite people who violate crosswalk rules. Those efforts were still underway, he said.

"That's one of the select violations that we've been targeting," Schlief said.

<NO1>On Tuesday, the fifth graders adjusted flowers that had been toppled by the wind as they walked home from school.

Huesca looked at a photo of the child that had been taped to a sign post.

"He was really little," said Huesca.

Mireya Maldonado-Galvan pulled up to the curb to look at the memorial on her way to pick up her daughter, Crystal Farias, 10.

"People go too fast, they don't respect the speed limit," Maldonado-Galvan said.

Maldonado-Galvan said her daughter asked if she could bring fresh flowers each to add to the display.

"She really feels bad, her mother said. "She asks to pray for him."