The family and friends of an 11-year-old Greene Middle School student who died in a collision in Palo Alto on Friday evening are coming together in the midst of tragedy to raise awareness about road safety.
The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner's Office identified the boy on Wednesday as Paul Lafargue. He was riding a bicycle when he was struck and killed by a flatbed truck at El Camino Real and California Avenue on Friday, March 6. The coroner ruled his death an accident.
In a statement provided to the Weekly, his parents urged others to slow down — not only on the roads, but also in life.
"Paul's family would like to express their deep gratitude for the overwhelming show of support they have received from everyone," they said. "Through this tragedy they would like to encourage everyone to slow down for kids. Be more mindful. Be more aware of your surroundings."
His mother, Veronique Lafargue, reached out to a friend this week for help designing posters to promote what they're calling the "Slow Down for Kids" initiative. Nick Wiesner, a designer, jumped into action. He spent Tuesday night creating several posters, using Paul's favorite colors — orange and purple — to illustrate the message, intertwined with hearts and a "children at play" yield sign. He used large, all-capitalized text and high-contrast colors.
The posters are meant to be "big, bold, hard to ignore," Wiesner told the Weekly. "It feels like this is an opportunity to reflect and hopefully create posters that are arresting enough to stop people in their tracks."
In one poster, he created an "abstract" exclamation point with the triangular "children at play" sign above a purple heart — "two well-known symbols that when put together tell the full story," he said.
"Slow Down for Kids is a cause worth shouting about, so I made the posters loud," he added.
They plan to print the posters and display them around Palo Alto in order to spread the message and keep children safe.
Wiesner has made the poster images available online for others to download and print.
A preliminary police investigation revealed that both the boy and the truck were traveling east on California Avenue approaching El Camino Real, with the boy riding on the sidewalk. The truck made a right turn to head south on El Camino and hit the boy, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
An online fundraising page for the new initiative had raised just over $12,000 as of Thursday.
Wiesner described Paul as a special child who made an impression on "everyone he came into contact with."
He said he's talked with Veronique about how distracted people are right now, both by the current news cycle and in general in their lives. They hope the posters will prevent future accidents and remind the community to "be more present in general for your loved ones and for others," the family said in their statement.
"Life is busy," Wiesner said, "and it's easy to forget how valuable it is and how short it can be, sadly."
A group of parents who are close friends of the family is organizing a memorial walk for this Saturday, March 14, at 10 a.m. at the Stanford Dish, at Stanford Avenue entrance. It is "open to all families and community members as a small way for us to show our love and support for the Lafargues" (though they are asking anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms to refrain from attending).
They're asking people to wear orange, one of Paul's favorite colors and also a symbolic "'warning' that more tragedies like this will continue to occur if changes aren't made to improve our city's street safety."
The parents are also urging anyone to wants to advocate for "more traffic education, better street signage and effective speed limit enforcement" to email the City Council or speak at public meetings "so that something positive can come out of this devastating loss."