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Pedestrian safety, crosswalks & a better solution on Woodward Ave.

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POSTED July 19, 2013 12:19 a.m.

Pedestrians are an afterthought in Manteca.

It is no different than in most California communities.

A lot of lip service is paid to making neighborhoods less friendly to fast vehicle movements and more conducive to pedestrians and bicyclists.

But as long as the city keeps approving residential streets that entice drivers to push 40 mph and has connector streets and thoroughfares that don’t take pedestrians into account at key intersections near parks and such nothing will change.

It’s true the city has adopted policies to implement such strategies, but guess what? They’ve been part of the city’s general plan documents that serve as the blueprint for growth for nearly 15 years. Notice any deviation in street width or other improvements that would accomplish that goal? Of course not. The dirty little secret about planning policies is all of the innovative things that everyone makes such a fuss about are ignored. And when some developer is foolhardy enough to try and implement them, they are plummeted with roadblocks by those who are more comfortable with processing the same-old, same-old cookie cutter street patterns.

The City Council this week approved placing a crosswalk across Woodward Avenue at Buena Vista Drive that could cost upwards of $100,000 due to alterations needed for the street to accommodate a pedestrian island.

During the planning process didn’t anyone notice they were going to place close to 400 housing units across from a 52-acre community park that requires pedestrians to forge a 62-foot wide, four-lane road to get there? That doesn’t even take into account kids who have to walk to school that is also is on the opposite side of the wide street that Councilman John Harris aptly describes as “an Indianapolis Speedway.” Harris is also right that most of those drivers who push the envelope and don’t pay too much attention to pedestrians happen to live in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Good planning would have designed such key intersections with pedestrian islands and other such safety enhancements in place. Unfortunately good planning still means moving vehicles and not pedestrians. And everyone wonders why Californians  are reluctant to get out of their cars. Most people don’t have a death wish.

If you doubt that, try walking the streets of Manteca. Pay close attention to those who drive by or who don’t even bother to execute California stops anymore at intersections or even on red lights.

That said, the crosswalk solution for Woodward Avenue is myopic at best.

It is because the City Council, staff and consultant did not look at every factor.

In the case of Woodward, it is enforcement and future plans.

First, Woodward Avenue is no longer envisioned as a four-lane road since the Atherton Drive corridor, less than a quarter of a mile away, has assumed that mantel. Woodward Avenue is being developed now as two lanes west of Main Street instead of four. Woodward Avenue east of Main Street is being reshaped as a collector street. As such, it does not need to be 62-feet wide.

The city could very easily take 20 feet of that along the park side, put in a wide concrete strip and create a separate one-way “street” with diagonal parking on one side. The previous parking solution the city looked at involved only shifting lanes and stripping as well as placing diagonal parking on both sides of Woodward Avenue

Such a solution would provide more parking and would narrow Woodward Avenue to two lanes east of Buena Vista Drive as the outside eastbound lane on Woodward could be forced to turn into Buena Vista Drive.

Such a solution would address speed issues and additional parking, as well as pedestrian crossing safety.

Then there is the 900-pound gorilla – enforcement levels. Prior to the Great Recession, Manteca had five dedicated traffic officers. Now there are only two. That means less targeted enforcement aimed at getting people to understand if you don’t slow down in neighborhoods or pay attention to pedestrians, you are going to get a ticket.

Developing a reputation that Manteca is a city that doesn’t tolerate distracted driving, speeding and such is much more effective than a crosswalk.

If people are conditioned to believe there is a high possibility they will get a ticket for bonehead driving, most of them are less apt to break the law.

We’re not talking about creating a speed trap, but stepped up enforcement that only more officers can bring. There are cities that were definitely speed traps 50 years ago that still have that reputation today even though that is no longer the case. Yet a good number of drivers respond accordingly when they are driving through such cities.

A fear of a ticket does wonders to improving people’s attentiveness to driving.



This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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