Two pedestrians seriously injured on El Camino

Atherton mayor demands that Caltrans install new safety measures after latest in series of accidents

Atherton Mayor Bill Widmer has sent a strongly worded message to Caltrans demanding that improved safety measures be put into place on El Camino Real -- the scene of yet another accident that left two pedestrians seriously injured after being struck by a vehicle Sunday (Sept. 30).

Two women were struck at about noon while crossing El Camino at its intersection with Isabella Avenue, according to Sgt. Anthony Kochler of the Atherton Police Department. They were hit by a southbound Chevy Blazer, whose unnamed male driver remained on the scene, Sgt. Kochler said.

The women, who police believe were in the crosswalk, were treated on the scene by fire department paramedics before being taken by ambulance to Stanford Hospital with major injuries, he said. Their conditions are unknown at this time, he said, and the department is still working on identifying one of the victims.

Coincidentally, the accident occurred two years to the day that Christopher Chandler, a 62-year-old Redwood City resident, was struck and killed in the same crosswalk while riding his bicycle across El Camino.

Sgt. Kochler said the driver voluntarily submitted to a blood test for drugs and alcohol. He said that damage to the vehicle indicated that the driver was not speeding, but that police were continuing their investigation of the incident.

This morning, Mayor Widmer sent an email to Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty "to insist that improved safety measures are taken on Atherton's El Camino corridor." With three lanes moving traffic in each direction, that stretch of the state highway "has become the scene of multiple car-pedestrian and car-bicycle accidents, often leading to severe injuries and multiple deaths," he wrote.

"On other streets, pedestrian crossings are made more visible with the use of lighted/blinking signs and in-pavement flashing lights," he continued. "These have been available for years, and yet the state has taken the cheap route (in mitigating Atherton's problem), which is costing our residents dearly.

"Improved crossing on this state road is mandatory!" he wrote. "Traffic lights, flashing crosswalks, or other safer measures are definitely required."

Mr. Widmer noted that he has been discussing the dangerous situation with Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, following another accident that occurred several weeks ago.

"Please acknowledge this note and provide me with your plans and actions so that this serious situation can be quickly rectified," Mayor Widmer said in the email. "The lives of our residents are at stake here. The liability of inaction rests with the state."

This summer, the town of Atherton, a motorist, and several other public agencies were named in a lawsuit filed by the mother of a teenager who was struck while crossing El Camino Real on foot in 2011. Courtney Schrier was struck in the crosswalk at Alejandra Avenue, suffering a broken pelvis and brain injuries.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michael G Stogner
a resident of another community
on Oct 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm

That is a good e-mail sorry it had to be sent, this should have been corrected years ago. At least Mayor Widmer is on it right now.

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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 1, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Kudos to Mayor Widmer for finally alerting CalTrans.

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Posted by Annabelle
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm

In my humble opinion, the ONLY way to fix this is to build and install an overpass pedestrian bridge.
There is NO way that pedestrians can safely cross 6 lanes with cars traveling 35-50 mph.
Changing lanes, etc. just adds to the confusion and inability to watch out for pedestrians.

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Posted by janet
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Oct 1, 2012 at 12:21 pm

There are similar problems all along Woodside Road and at the intersection of Junipero Serra and Alpine. I hope the injured people recover quickly

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Posted by Bandaid
a resident of another community
on Oct 1, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Unfortunately these "enhanced crosswalks" are just a matter of designing to the lowest common denominator. As we accomodate incompetent drivers more and more we will see driver's skills decline to match the low expectations we set for them. Soon drivers will not even look for pedestrians unless there is a flashing light and a horn blowing. The real solution to pedestrian safety is to get drivers to slow down and pay more attention. That means better training, more testing, more enforcement and stronger punishment for violations. The police have lost control over our drivers and the traffic engineers are left to try to compensate. Maybe Google's self-driving cars will eventualy save us all.

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Posted by Take responsibility
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Oct 1, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Perhas law enforcement could do its job to enforce speed and those not stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks. The speed commuters travel in that area is 40+ mph but rarely are police issuing citations which equates to lost revenue at the price of public safety. They are often noted for stopping and citing unlicensed can they tell that from behind, their RIMS?? Few Atherton residents are on foot.

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Posted by reckless
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 1, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Reckless drivers just don't pay attention on that stretch of El Camino. The city should put up stop lights at those crosswalks. Anything less is too easy to ignore. Also increase speed limit enforcement.

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm


APD is out enforcing the speed laws on El Camino. Of course it's at 6 am when there's hardly any traffic, but....

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Posted by bob
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 1, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Maybe there should not be a crosswalk at Isabella, have people cross at Atherton ave where there is a light.

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Posted by downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Very sad that these women were injured, especially in a crosswalk. There are so many El Camino jaywalkers that I'd expect more injuries.

How about clearing excess vegetation from El Camino in Atherton? If there were safer places to walk & bike along ECR, maybe pedestrians would walk an extra block to a signal-controlled crossing.

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Posted by slow down and pay attention
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 1, 2012 at 3:48 pm

@bob - Atherton Ave is 4 blocks away, almost half a mile. For a car driver, that may be a small distance, but for a pedestrian making a round trip, that can be 2 miles of extra walking.

The city needs to put up stop lights at each of these crosswalks.

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Posted by bob
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 1, 2012 at 4:07 pm

How can you estimate that 4 blocks equates to a half mile? If I am a pedestrian I will take the extra miles over the danger of crossing El Camino with no light. If it is somone who is walking for excercise change your route. The only way to make it safe is to put a stoplight in. Good luck with that.

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Posted by Keith
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 1, 2012 at 4:34 pm

It is actually .6 miles from Isabella to Atherton Ave, so it is more than 1/2 a mile, according to google maps. Thus the detour to Atherton Ave and back to Isabella is almost a mile and a quarter. Removing the crosswalk will cause jaywalking and decrease safety, in the real world.

The flashing lights in the pavement are extremely effective on Middlefield in Redwood City, where their presence and stricter enforcement of the requirement for drivers to stop for pedestrians has made crossing multiple lanes much safer than it was a few years ago.

I have long thought that this was an issue, and have had to wave down drivers trying to pass me when I have stopped for a pedestrian on El Camino. Lights are overdue. A stop light is overkill and not needed, but pedestrian activated flashers are a terrific response.

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Posted by El Camino Reality
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 1, 2012 at 5:19 pm

There are no surprises that accidents on this stretch of El Camino Real involving vehicles, bikes and pedestrian happen as they have been happening regularly for years. The area around Watkins and Isabella and ECR in the past four and half years have produced a total of 16 collisions of which 11 involved personal injury and there were two fatalities. Add two more injury involved with Sundays horrific accident.
For the above posters only CalTrans can set the safety features of ECR with traffic lights,signage, speed limit signs and crosswalk markings, signs etc. The Town of Atherton has no say in this but is the responsible agency to enforce the laws and clean up and investigate after an accident. The State's authority is a hangover from when El Camino Real was the main road from San Francisco. It is well know Selby Lane and ECR is extremely dangerous and Alejandra and ECR has had 15 collisions with 8 injury involved.
I find it distasteful when Mayor Widmer uses the occasion to grandstand when he and the town council have known the problems for many years. Just recently they were well studied in the EIR accessing the traffic problems at Watkins and ECR and the authors deemed the intersection so difficult they determined it could not mitigated. The EIR was approved by the town council. What is particularly unfortunate in spite of this finding Widmer, McKeithen and Dobbie are in favor of the park library site in spite of knowing the dangers. I find this very disingenuous hearinfg Mayor Widmer's public outcry today. The added traffic if there is a library in the Park will only exacerbate the danger.
While many posters are suggesting positive and creative solutions the other police haters use this opportunity as usual to blame law enforcement.
Only CalTrans can make this stretch of ECR safe and have ignored past pleas with superficial fixes. If anything there should be an organized effort by town citizens to make this happen with State and Federal representatives.
Linked below is an interesting article regarding CalTrans and similar crosswalks to the north of us on ECR. I pray for the two victims at Stanford HOspital.

Web Link

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Posted by cynicism not warranted
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 1, 2012 at 5:34 pm

El Camino Reality, thanks for the interesting link. It's very helpful, but what isn't helpful are cynical remarks about people trying to solve the problem. The story says Widmer has been working with assemblyman Rich Gordon for awhile about the problem. The fact that he sent an email to Caltrans hours after this accident doesn't make him a grandstander in the eyes of anyone but a hopeless cynic, or someone with an agenda.

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Posted by El Camino Reality
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 1, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Nice words "cynicism not warranted" but the spin of "working with Rich Gordon" for quite awhile illustrates the problem. That has produced nothing and people are getting injured and dying on the streets of Atherton in considerable numbers. Bill Widmer as Mayor and others on the Town Council have not addressed this and while they can extract money out of Facebook they have not done any thing to fix ECR. It is just lip
service delivered by email.

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Posted by Margo McAuliffe
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 1, 2012 at 7:33 pm

There have been several suggestions, from flashing lights in the pavement---which are very effective at the Ravenswood/Alma intersection by the Menlo Park library. However, 6 lanes of traffic may require more than that. How about a pedestrian activated stop light, such as on Santa Cruz at Hillview School? I suspect there is not a lot of foot traffic at that crossing, so a regularly set light isn't necessary. The pedestrian can push the button and wait for the walk.

I drive that section regularly. I don't find people particularly careless nor speeding, but it IS true that because pedestrians are rare, drivers are not as watchful as they should be.

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 1, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Rich Gordon won't produce anything his union puppet masters don't approve. They don't care, so neither does he. Oh, he'll pay a lot of lip service, but one only need look at his vote for HSR to see where his true concerns are. Until The town gets very vocal and jumps up and down on a few well placed politicians' desks, nothing will get done. Of course, the town is arguing about where to put a library.

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Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Oct 1, 2012 at 8:01 pm

"Only CalTrans can make this stretch of ECR safe " WRONG
Only DRIVERS can make this section of ECR safe. Engineers can try to promote safety through their designs, but they cannot guarantee it.

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Posted by very sad
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Oct 1, 2012 at 10:01 pm

It is very sad to be seeing so many accidents at the same place! So many lives have been lost and destroyed!! pedestrians...drivers...bikers...families and friends of the lost ones also!!!

Someone needs to do something about this!!!! COME ON PEOPLE!!! TAKE RESPONSIBILITY AND ACT!!!

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Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 2, 2012 at 4:26 am

Install proper sidewalk and bike lane on West side of ECR all the way from Valpariso to Oakwood.

Install proper sidewalk and bike lane on East side of ECR from Buckthorne to Loyola.

If it means taking land from Menlo College, businesses and residents, so be it.

Install new signals and xwalks at Buckthorne, Selby, Stockbridge, Almendrahl and Maple.

Remove all the xwalks where there are no signals and place metal barrier and no xing signs as seen at the southwest corner of Middle and ECR in MP. Make the fine for pedestrians and cyclists crossing where there's no sidewalk painful - say $100 to $200. That's less painful than being hit by a car. And make the cops enforce it. As to the costs of all this - a lot cheaper than paying the costs of injuries, lost lives and lawsuits.

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Posted by El Camino Reality
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 2, 2012 at 7:56 am

Donald states "Only CalTrans can make this stretch of ECR safe " WRONG

Only DRIVERS can make this section of ECR safe. Engineers can try to promote safety through their designs, but they cannot guarantee it."

You are absolutely correct and the better word I should have used was "safer" instead of "safe". However my intent was to point out that this is CalTrans responsibility and no other jurisdiction. Agreed that drivers, law enforcement and even bikers and pedestrians all bear responsibility. However the tools are not there on this stretch as the butcher's bill is just too high.
The 2010 fatality produced meetings involving the Town, CalTrans and Sen Simitian and after much fanfare nothing happened except a few signs marking pedestrian crossings. The same is likely to happen again as it sinks into the State bureaucratic swamp.
Only intense and continual lobbying from the Town leadership as well as outcry from the residents will produce the only practical solution of installing traffic lights at key intersections. Meanwhile there will be more injury and fatal accidents as traffic increases each year through Atherton. You can take that to the bank.

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Posted by Rick
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 2, 2012 at 8:37 am

There shouldn't be a crosswalk there at all because it doesn't meet DOT guidelines. Web Link

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Posted by Advocate
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 2, 2012 at 9:47 am

Read the vehicle code. There are crosswalks at every corner. Pedestrians always have the right to cross legally unless there are signs to the contrary. The only variable is whether the crosswalk is marked or not. Unmarked is safer because peds have no illusion of safety.

Still, crossing six lanes of fast traffic is risky. Ped walk lights are long overdue, and don't tell us they cost too much. compared to what?

 +   Like this comment
Posted by John Murphy
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2012 at 10:53 am

@bob - perhaps drivers should be banned from El Camino because Alameda De Las Pulgas is just a few blocks away.

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Posted by bob
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 2, 2012 at 12:38 pm

John Explain the comparision between Alameda and El Camino. One is a 2 lane road speed limit 30-35 the othetr is a 6 lane road speed limit 40-45 and I think isabella and atheton ave are a little closer than alameda and el camino.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 2, 2012 at 2:56 pm

ECR 40-45, in Atherton or Menlo Park? I don't think so.....

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