Monday, February 09, 2009

Send An Ambulance To The Corner of History and Safety

"Politicians, ugly buildings, and prostitutes all get respectable if they last long enough."
     - "Noah Cross" in the movie Chinatown.

I guess you can add road crossings to that list of things that become respectable provided they have enough longevity. How else would one explain both the Daily Sound's Cheri Rae as well as yesterday's Santa Barbara News-Press describing the convergence of State and De la Vina streets as an "historic intersection?"

The only things that threaten to become "history" at this location is the pedestrian or bicyclist who happens to be in the intersection just as an SUV being driven by someone yakking on their cell phone careens from State Street onto De la Vina on their way to Trader Joe's to pick up another case of "Two Buck Chuck."

Photo by Ralph Fertig from "Quick Release"

Personally, if my likeness is to end up as the hood ornament on someone's car, I expect to get a heavy licensing fee.

The problem has been this; drivers heading eastbound on State Street want to turn right on De la Vina Street without easing up on the accelerator. Hence if you're a pedestrian who happens to be in the crosswalk, or a cyclist continuing eastbound on State as opposed to heading south on De la Vina, then it's every man, woman or child for himself. I know. Before I moved to the Mesa I lived out by San Marcos High and rode my bike into downtown everyday via this route.

It's not just me who's been concerned about this hazard. As pointed out in the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition's December newsletter:

"The State Street intersection with De la Vina Street in Santa Barbara is unnerving to navigate by bicycle when heading toward Downtown because of all the free flowing motorists who stream onto De la Vina off State. The City determined that a large majority of the right-turning motorists exceed the 30 MPH speed limit. Virtually all of them violate the Vehicle Code by failing to signal their turns, making it harder for bicyclists to know what to do. Additionally, the majority drive into the adjacent bikelane so they don’t have to slow down . . . The current intersection is not only scary for bicyclists, it’s as bad or worse for pedestrians trying to cross De la Vina just after the intersection, perhaps walking to the Coffee Bean. And hardly safer for motorists trying to enter De la Vina from Samarkand Drive.

* There is also a thoughtful column supporting redesign of the intersection written by Eva Inabar posted at Noozhawk.

The City Council will be considering the proposed redesign of the intersection at 6 pm Tuesday night. Proposals for remedying the problem have included eliminating the free right turn, controlling it with a signal, and installing a dedicated right-turn lane with a bikelane to its left for bicyclists continuing south on State.

Cheri Rae has already made up her mind that whatever the cost to reconfigure the intersection to make it safer is too high a price to pay.

The News-Press simply sees this as another opportunity to bash City Staff and members of the City's Circulation and Transportation Commission.

I can only speak for myself, but the value of not getting embedded into the grill of some San Roque housewife's Escalade? Priceless!

* Added 8:15 am Monday.

© 2009 by Craig Smith and