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Tice Creek pedestrian project adds more safety features

By Craig Lazzeretti

Assistant managing editor

 

(Friday, April 21): The effort to improve pedestrian safety on Tice Creek Drive, which became a rallying cry for residents and officials alike after a series of high-profile accidents in 2022, has reached a milestone with the completion of a host of safety features along the busy roadway.

The Tice Creek Pedestrian Safety Plan, made possible by a special expenditure of roughly $100,000 in capital improvement funds that the GRF Board added to the fiscal year budget in the wake of the collisions, includes six permanent speed-reading devices, 18 high-visibility crosswalk signs with arrows at nine crosswalks; “shark teeth” yield line markers in front of each crosswalk; and converting the crosswalks on Tice Creek at Singingwood Court and Canyonwood Court to high-visibility “ladder” crosswalks.

The final element of the project, which Public Safety Manager Tom Cashion said should be completed within the next few weeks, is adding red no-parking paint to curbs at crosswalks to increase visibility for pedestrians and drivers.

Far from being a one-off project, Cashion said the work on Tice Creek over the past several months should be viewed as the first step in a long-term commitment to pedestrian safety.

“I’m not done,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll be doing more improvements in the future to make Rossmoor even safer.”

A pilot program for extra traffic enforcement is anticipated to start this summer, after the GRF Board approved funding eight hours a week for additional Walnut Creek police patrols inside the gate.

Long-simmering concerns about safety on Tice Creek reached a boiling point last year, starting with the April death of Curtis Gunn, who was killed by a suspected drunk driver at Tice Creek and Fairlawn Court while walking home with his wife from a trivia event at Gateway. Eight days later, a man suffered a bloody head injury when he was hit by a car in a Tice Creek entry. And the following month, Becky Smith was seriously injured after being struck by a car, enduring 11 surgeries on the road to recovery.

In response to the accidents, Smith’s friend, Lynn Carruthers, and other residents launched the group “Neighbors for Safer Streets” to advocate for pedestrian safety within Rossmoor, holding rallies along Tice Creek. Carruthers said Cashion kept the group informed every step of the way during the Tice Creek safety project.

“This is Tom’s doing,” Carruthers said. “It was his idea, he knew something had to be done, he planned it, proposed it, drove it, kept it moving, and now eight months later, the Tice Creek Drive Pedestrian Safety Plan is complete.”

For his part, Cashion credited Smith, and the suffering she and other injured pedestrians experienced, as a “driving force” in bringing the project to fruition.

Smith also lauded Cashion for making the plan a reality. She recently made her first trip back to the corner where she was injured to view the new stop sign.

“It felt really good. It was so nice to have that stop sign there,” she said. “It’s taken a lot for these things to happen, but something is happening.”

Though the high-profile pedestrian accidents shined a bright light on the safety concerns of the roadway, those concerns were nothing new. A 2016 city traffic study showed that Tice Creek had the most injury-related collisions in Rossmoor, Cashion said. And collisions on Tice Creek are more likely to involve pedestrians, whereas they tend to be vehicle-vs.-vehicle elsewhere in the community.

Cashion pointed to a number of factors that have long made Tice Creek uniquely dangerous for pedestrians:

  • A large concentration of crosswalks, which produce more opportunities for pedestrian-driver interaction;
  • A higher-than-normal number of parked cars, owing to the fact that many residents live off the road and on side streets, reducing visibility for pedestrians and drivers alike;
  • Close proximity to a number of popular services and destinations in Rossmoor, such as Creekside, Gateway and the golf courses, making it heavily trafficked via foot and car.

“Add all that in, and that’s a recipe for more accidents,” said Cashion, adding that the growing popularity of SUVs over the years, with their higher, heavier frames, has led to more serious injuries generally.

The common theme among the traffic enhancements on Tice Creek are increased visibility and separation between pedestrians and vehicles. The new signage and ladder crosswalk stripes are designed to make the crosswalks easier for drivers and pedestrians to identify.

The “shark’s teeth” markings of solid white triangles act as a “limit line” forbidding drivers from advancing beyond that point when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk, Cashion said. The red curbs at crosswalks will reduce the number of parked cars on Tice Creek and make it easier for pedestrians and drivers to see one another approaching at crosswalks.

Smith said the onus is also on pedestrians to do their part when it comes to safety.

“I think it’s the pedestrians that have to be aware, too,” she said. “I know there’s pedestrians who try to make sure they make eye contact and wave to people in the car to make sure they are seen. It’s kind of a cliché that it’s a two-way street. It’s not just educating the drivers but the pedestrians, too.”

Making eye contact with the driver of an oncoming vehicle is among the tips Cashion offers for pedestrians to reduce their risks of injury. Others include using the orange flags that are now located at every crosswalk; wearing bright clothing while walking at night; and using the flashlight feature on cellphones for illumination at night.

The vast majority of collisions involving drivers and pedestrians are caused by speeding or inattentive drivers, Cashion said. He reminds drivers that the speed limit throughout Rossmoor is 25 mph (the average speeding ticket is $500 and $400 for failing to yield for a pedestrian, he added).

Now that the project is largely complete, Cashion and others are eager to see the results. “We’ll study it, monitor it and see if the improvements are working,” he said.

Smith, who said she’s “thrilled” by the improvements, is confident that Tice Creek is now a safer place for residents such as herself.

“I think it will make a big difference.”

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