Close to Home: What will we do about Stony Point Road?
Richard Burns. Lusiano Garcia. Mathew Eck. Jennell Davies. Sidney Falbo. Three pedestrians and two cyclists have been killed by motor vehicles on Stony Point Road within the past eight months.
That’s one death, on this one street, in this one city, every six weeks. At this rate, we could expect another fatality sometime around Cinco de Mayo.
What are we willing to do to stop these deaths?
After each of these incidents, law enforcement officers call for pedestrians and cyclists to change their behavior: Be more watchful, wear different clothing, walk farther to a crosswalk. Why do we immediately blame the victim?
These soft, unprotected human bodies were struck by heavy, fast-moving machines. Why aren’t we calling for changes in how and where and how fast we operate the machines?
These deaths are preventable. Yes, some of the victims made errors in judgment. But people do.
The Dutch - residents of the most bike-friendly country in the world - recognize human error in their urban design principles. They acknowledge that small children will run around erratically, drivers will become distracted, and they design for it. They separate fast-moving entities from slow-moving entities.
People will always do stupid things, but designing safer infrastructure can keep them from getting killed. For example, requiring seat belts and airbags has saved lives.
We can alter the width of lanes and the timing of lights; add physical barriers between cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles; add controlled crosswalks at those spots where people are crossing anyway because it’s where they need to go and they don’t want to walk an additional mile, and that’s what people do.
Why aren’t we taking this approach to improving safety on Stony Point Road?
We don’t even have to look to the Dutch across the Atlantic for examples of a different approach to traffic safety. We can just look across the Golden Gate.
Within one week of San Francisco cyclist Tess Rothstein’s death, a protected bike lane along the stretch of Howard Street where she was killed was created with temporary barriers. San Francisco Mayor London Breed has made it a priority to fast-track traffic safety projects on the city’s high-injury corridors.
Five deaths in eight months, and we’ve done nothing.
Our community can do better. I urge our city officials to take action now to prevent more deaths on Stony Point Road.
Eris Weaver is executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.