As deaths mount on Santa Rosa’s Stony Point Road, city is pressed to do more for safety
Jennell Davies was almost home.
On a cool, clear night last October, the 39-year-old preschool teacher was walking home from dinner. It was about 9:50 p.m. when she tried to cross Stony Point Road, one of the city's busiest thoroughfares - and one of its deadliest for pedestrians and cyclists.
She and her boyfriend approached the intersection of Stony Point with Occidental Road, also a busy route for motorists driving through west Santa Rosa. They were at the intersection's northwestern corner and were heading east across Stony Point.
She must have crossed there hundreds of times before, her father, Tom Davies, said he thought to himself on a recent visit to the site. An Oliver's Market grocery store and a KFC fast-food restaurant are right there, a quick stroll from the apartment where she'd lived for more than a decade.
But that fateful night last year, Davies was more than halfway through the crosswalk when she was struck by a northbound pickup, throwing her body about 70 feet north along the eastern side of Stony Point. Her boyfriend had stopped on a concrete median that abuts the crosswalk. He could only watch, helpless.
She died after a police officer and then fire and medical crews could not revive her.
A small memorial stands near the spot today, newly adorned Thursday with flowers Tom Davies placed on his latest visit from his home in San Ramon.
He first traveled to the intersection less than a week after his daughter died. As he and his wife stood at the northeastern corner of the intersection, a car exited from westbound Highway 12 and whipped up the ramp to Stony Point, Davies said. It would have hit him if his wife hadn't grabbed his coat and pulled him out of the way, he said.
Jennell Davies was one of three people on foot or bike who were fatally struck in a seven-week span last year along Stony Point Road near Highway 12. Since her Oct. 23 death, her father has hired personal injury attorneys to help him probe Santa Rosa's traffic system and statistics and to file a claim against the city for damages.
Officials should have known the intersection was dangerous and should have made changes, he alleged in a claim that has since been denied. Now, seeing no concrete action to improve traffic safety at the site, he is considering a lawsuit to force the city to address the dangers posed to people not in vehicles.
“My concern is for the rest of the people who were her neighbors for 10 years,” Davies said. “If we can do a better job there, it might save somebody else.”
Stony Point Road runs a half-mile from its intersection with West Third Street on the north to where it crosses Sebastopol Road on the south, roughly bisected by Highway 12 running below an overpass. The stretch is one of the busiest roadways in Santa Rosa, carrying about 43,000 vehicles daily near the Stony Point Plaza shopping center, a volume that falls just short of the bustling Highway 101 interchange at Steele Lane, according to city traffic count data.
It is also one of the deadliest, accounting for about 10% of all fatal bike and pedestrian crashes in the city between 2009 and 2018, according to collision data compiled by UC Berkeley researchers. Only two other corridors - the blocks where Mendocino and College avenues meet and a roughly 1,500-foot section of Santa Rosa Avenue near Court Road and Powderhorn Avenue - saw as many deaths over the same period, according to the data.
The perilous stretch of Stony Point is bracketed by the Oliver's Market grocery store and the apartments where Davies lived on the north end, and the shopping center and the Joe Rodota Trail on the south. Near the midpoint, Davies and two other people were killed in September and October.
Mathew Eck, 37, was hit twice while crossing Occidental Road near Stony Point Road at about 9:20 p.m. Sept. 15. Sidney Falbo, a 20-year-old Santa Rosa Junior College student, was bicycling to an afternoon class on Oct. 30 and trying to cross Stony Point Road near the trail when she was struck by a dump truck turning off Highway 12.
The city's own master plan for bicycling and pedestrian upgrades has singled out the area as exceptionally dangerous. It is one of three areas citywide known as a “high-injury network” - where people walking or riding bikes are most often injured or killed - according to the updated bike plan.
Eris Weaver, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, said the numerous places where highway ramps intersect with Stony Point make the stretch of road a hazardous maze, especially for pedestrians and cyclists.
“Frankly, I avoid that (area) if I can when I'm on a bike,” she said.