Why Not in Laguna?

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A Firebrand Media editor and local dromophobe proposes improved crosswalk safety.

By Ashley Breeding

Laguna safety

My first summer in Laguna Beach was one of the best of my life. And it was almost my last.

En route from the Saloon to the Sandpiper, I crossed Pacific Coast Highway at the nearest crosswalk with flashing yellow lights. Clearly still not visible to the oncoming driver—who probably also had too many Pinos or was a tourist unfamiliar with the lay of the land—I was in the middle of the street when the SUV kissed my skirt as it sped by. I don’t think the driver even noticed in the rearview mirror any sign of the girl he nearly mowed down.

In addition to traffic congestion, lack of available parking spaces and excessive waitlists at our favorite local establishments, another bummer we can count on every bustling summer season is a pedestrian getting hit by a car at one of the city’s PCH crosswalks. Sure, pedestrians, too, are responsible for their own safety, but the fact that we live in a heavy tourist town means we should implement the highest level of safety possible.

To this day, I still won’t cross at the yellow blinking crosswalks during heavy traffic times, but prefer to go only where there are traffic lights and illuminated “Walk” signs. This might seem neurotic, but I’d rather be the crazy dromophobe than the girl who died crossing the road.

What’s worse is that a few of these crosswalks—at Calliope, Brooks and Anita Streets, for instance—don’t even have blinking lights. I’ve witnessed many near-accidents where a surfer, jogger or parent pushing a stroller has crossed in front of one stopped car, only to have another in the adjacent or opposite lane cruise through in complete oblivion.

So I propose the following: First, the city remodels all crosswalks. Instead of yellow flashers (not the most effective on a street drenched in sunlight),  maybe we put in rainbow strobe lights—or orifices that spit vertical fountains or eject commissioned statues to blockade the pathway (funds for public art seem to be aplenty). Or we bring back the colored flag system, circa the 1980s, where pedestrians would wave a flag as they crossed. We could equip students looking for community service hours with handheld stop signs and let them serve as crossing guards. In all seriousness, though, something must be developed—like a more visible light system.

I also propose we build a pedestrian bridge downtown, similar to those found near Aliso Beach; at the intersection of PCH and Del Obispo Street in Dana Point; and in Newport Beach connecting the civic center and park over San Miguel Drive. I’m not suggesting a concrete monstrosity that overly obstructs the scenic views or fights with the area’s aesthetic, but rather one of modest scale that reflects the rustic architecture and artistry of the town. Consider it another piece of public art.

What I’d really like to see is a bridge or an underground tunnel at every crosswalk (as well as one from my front steps to the Wine Gallery). But, alas, this is not economically feasible, nor within the perimeters of the city’s height limit—so one will do, along with additional safety measures at the other crosswalks. LBM

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