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Man in motorized wheelchair injured in car collision

Original post made on Jan 1, 2014

A man in his 90s suffered minor injuries when he was hit by a car as he crossed Hamilton Avenue in downtown Palo Alto in his motorized wheelchair.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, December 31, 2013, 2:23 PM

Comments (16)

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Posted by Mark
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 1, 2014 at 10:30 pm

Although I am uncertain if this is pertinent to this situation, I am curious why a significant number of traffic lights at intersections in downtown Palo Alto do not have pedestrian crossing signals (Walk/Stop lights).

As a result, pedestrians have to guess how much time is left for them to cross at these intersection, which can lead to situations such as this one. It seems to be a lawsuit waiting to happen.


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Posted by pedestrian friendly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2014 at 2:41 am

Even where there are pedestrian crossings, Palo Alto is terrible for pedestrians. When the "walk" sign lights up, it shouldn't be at the same time as the green light given to cars to turn left across the crossing pedestrian's path, particularly since the person's back would be to the oncoming car. There have been traffic deaths and injuries here in exactly that circumstance, and a person in a wheelchair would have little or no ability to look over their shoulder or easily move out of the way. It is possible to make the signalling safer for pedestrians.

In general our town is horrible for pedestrian TRAFFIC. It's lovely to take the bike path over to California Avenue, but our sidewalks on main streets are really a patchwork. The new urbanism proponents seem to think people will want to walk on a narrow strip right up against ever-increasing traffic, with tall buildings looming over them. In general, the sidewalks on many main streets in this town are unpleasant and really only fit for single-file walking, and who wants to do that? There are usually so many obstructions in the sidewalks - telephone poles, sign poles, hydrants, etc - the sidewalk width should only be counted based on the unobstructed width, and should be wide enough for two people to walk abreast. If we did more than pretend to care about making our town disability friendly, sidewalks would be wide enough for at least one person to walk abreast of one person in a motorized wheel chair.

Following such standards for the disabled usually ends up making a nicer more walkable space for everyone. These new urban design buildings, like Alma Plaza, with no setback, are unfortunately horribly unwalkable, and can never be fixed since buildings have been allowed to go there with no possibility of a wide enough sidewalk in the future. But right now even when we fix things, they are just as bad. I thought the Arastradero work was going to make Arastradero more walkable, but no.


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Posted by Raymond
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 2, 2014 at 10:44 am

Drivers must really look out for wheelchair users at crosswalks. They can be hard to see since they are lower to the ground than a pedestrian. I have seen wheelchairs with a flag and pole attached. I wonder if this chair had one?


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Posted by Garden Gnome
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 2, 2014 at 10:52 am

Unfortunately, it is all too common for drivers in Palo Alto to ignore pedestrians.

I don't think any amount of new signals will ever be sufficient for these drivers. Rather, stiffer penalties for failure to yield right of way might, conceivably, convince some of these drivers to abide by the law.

When this happens to me I often give a thump to the car with my hand - causing no damage to the vehicle - and reminding/scaring the owner that yes, he nearly hit me. Sometimes the driver gets out and yells at me for assaulting his vehicle - and I respond that I will more than happily call the police to have him charged for attempted murder, since this is exactly what the driver is doing - albeit inadvertently.


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Posted by Jared Bernstein
a resident of University South
on Jan 2, 2014 at 10:52 am

Thanks for covering this accident. We need people in cars to go slow and be careful.


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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 2, 2014 at 10:55 am

I have this dream that Palo Alto will someday ban all automobiles from the downtown area except for emergency vehicles. I would like to see that whole area reserved for pedestrian and bicycle traffic only. The only problem is that the University underpass is the only practical (though ugly) way to get to El Camino, and another way would need to be found. Currently, that section of University through downtown is bad for everyone. Cars crawl, not much room for bicycles, and pedestrians reduced to single-file if any construction is going on, which there always seems to be. We need a better and safer solution.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 2, 2014 at 12:39 pm

I guess I have to ask if you're a local, why would you even consider driving on University Avenue in the downtown area? If you know its clogged, why do it?

Same goes for riding a bike. The streets and sidewalks are narrow. Downtown was set up over a 100 years ago --- the concept of wheelchairs, bikes, pedestrians + so many cars --- especially at the volume we have now was not in anyone's imagination in 1900.

It is not a perfect world. Be smart and don't ride your bike on University Avenue.


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Posted by realitycheck
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 2, 2014 at 12:43 pm

On a similar note, last night I went to the grocery store and was waiting in a left-turn lane for the light. All traffic southbound on El Camino was waiting when the light turned green. An elderly man in a wheelchair started crossing from the east side to the west AFTER our light had turned green, and either he did not see that his light was red or didn't care, because he kept right on going! Even though it was very dark, the first driver in my lane saw the wheelchair, so did not accelerate. But the other two lanes started going. The middle lane eventually stopped but the far right lane could not see the man at all and was full speed ahead with a couple of cars already through, even though they might have wondered why the other lanes weren't moving. I thought the man would be plowed as his speed did not change. Fortunately, the driver in the outer lane noticed in time and was able to come to an abrupt stop without being rear-ended. It was a frightening thing to watch unfold and I truly wonder what was going on in the head of the man in the wheelchair.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 2, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Crescent Park Dad - I usually avoid Univ Ave during heavy traffic times, but when I don't, it's just a matter of being patient & very careful - & turning off of it asap! There are times that downtown is much faster to go through than Embarcadero, & since we're at Stanford, we can't avoid these 2 routes when driving. I've noticed that the need for defensive driving in the area has increased greatly in the past 5 years.


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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 2, 2014 at 1:01 pm

JustMe is a registered user.

I also try to avoid driving on University as much as possible. But it seems to me that once another route on, say, Hamilton to El Camino is created, shutting down University to cars would be a smallish change to the cars, but a major improvement for the bicycles and pedestrians downtown. If the train tracks are raised, as has been proposed, then it might be possible to pass under the tracks on the side streets and keep the cars off University. Think what this would do for shopping downtown!

Of course, we would lose the parking spaces for cars on University, but downtown parking is already under reconsideration, as it needs to be. Perhaps if it was safer for bicycles, there might be fewer cars to park.


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Posted by Susan
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 2, 2014 at 1:44 pm

I simply avoid downtown Palo Alto like the plague!


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Posted by NOt ok!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2014 at 8:59 am

Posted by Garden Gnome, a resident of Crescent Park
22 hours ago

Unfortunately, it is all too common for drivers in Palo Alto to ignore pedestrians.

I don't think any amount of new signals will ever be sufficient for these drivers. Rather, stiffer penalties for failure to yield right of way might, conceivably, convince some of these drivers to abide by the law.

When this happens to me I often give a thump to the car with my hand - causing no damage to the vehicle - and reminding/scaring the owner that yes, he nearly hit me. Sometimes the driver gets out and yells at me for assaulting his vehicle - and I respond that I will more than happily call the police to have him charged for attempted murder, since this is exactly what the driver is doing - albeit inadvertently.

-- something like this happened to me as a driver several yrs ago and police witnessed it and arrested the man who did the thumping!


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Posted by Garden Gnome
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 3, 2014 at 10:45 am

Dear NOt ok!

I know! I was expecting a reply like yours. And of course you're in the right legally. Too bad about the pedestrian, eh?

Cheers.


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Posted by NOt ok!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2014 at 11:52 am

I wasn't doing anything wrong. That's why the police took the guy away. He had a warrant out, they told me, incidentally. He had stepped out incorrectly, too, incidentally, and this was witnessed.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2014 at 12:08 pm

I do feel sympathy for all concerned in this incident.

It is not just a matter of drivers paying more attention, it is a matter of all road users paying more attention and that includes those who need to cross the streets.

Too often pedestrians and others crossing the streets act unpredictably. Too often pedestrians and others are not paying enough attention, too often they come out of shadows and appear in bright daylight as out of nowhere. Too often they are on their phones, jogging, or dare I say it bicycles acting like pedestrians but moving a lot faster than a person walking would.

I think our crossings can have poor visibility and quite often vehicles are parked too close to the crossing or people stand and chat at crossings with no intention of crossing the street and "hide" someone else about to cross.

Ultimately we are all responsible for our own safety. We should look before we cross a street and if in doubt, wait.

I was at a four way stop this morning, I stopped until it was my turn to cross and was halfway across when a pedestrian came out of shadows and walked right into the crosswalk on the far side of the intersection. He had no awareness at all that I was coming and I was expected me to stop. I slammed on my brakes and fortunately since I was only doing a crawl I didn't hit him. He continued on his way completely oblivious to my being there and abrupt stop. Incidents like this show that we all must be much more aware and alert while using the streets, particularly pedestrians who often seem to have their heads in the clouds.


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Posted by Garden Gnome
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 3, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Dear NOt ok!, if you were doing nothing wrong, then of course the pedestrian shouldn't have touched your vehicle and I'm glad the policeman was there to witness and arrest him.

I wouldn't just randomly thump a vehicle - only those that fail to yield right-of-way to me legally crossing the sidewalk. In most cases it's drivers that only look one way (left) as they turn another (right). Maybe remedial driving courses would help?


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