It’s a very simple emotion. Everyone has their own threshold to what sets them off, but the news I got Monday has elicited the same feeling from everyone who heard it.
Saturday morning, Eugene Paul Drabinski was crossing Riverside Dr. when he was struck and killed by a truck making a left turn. While we are still battling the mentality that “accidents happen”, the news that such a tragedy occurred on this stretch is a surprise to none.
Riverside Drive is known as a dangerous street, even making the Mayor’s infamous high injury network. While the addition of bike lanes would normally be seen as a safety improvement to all, they were also coupled with an increase in speed limit up from 35mph to 40mph.
Factor in the wider than needed lanes, most cars reach near highway speeds along this stretch which is especially puzzling with the Ventura Freeway running parallel a quarter mile to the south.
Let me repeat that. A quarter mile to the south. If you can defend the need for this, you know where to find me.
If you want to say this is a one off, then you’re not understanding the problem.
Three weeks ago while at dinner, my wife saw a call coming in from our synagogue. She didn’t have time to reach it, but seconds later my phone rang. It was a message from our Rabbi warning about driving to our temple for Shabbat as responders were dealing with an accident right in front of the synagogue. I may get set off by hearing the word “accident”, but I had to email my Rabbi as a death of this nature in my community is disturbing.
Before I got to writing the email, my dad phoned me saying he drove by the scene noting that a man was lying there questionably alive after being hit in the crosswalk on Laurelgrove.
A brief interlude for x’s and o’s, our temple also sits on Riverside, just feet from where the man lost his life this weekend.
When I emailed the Rabbi, I told her about my background, stance on traffic and a brief explanation about using the word “accident”, not knowing what her position on street safety was.
My fears of being a zealot(in the mobility sense) were instantly squashed with her response, as she noted the synagogue was against the speed increase and fought for a traffic signal at Laurelgrove which was approved years ago, but had yet to be installed. The scuttlebutt in the community is that everyone talks about a traffic signal needing to be there, but I’m shocked that adding it hasn’t been a priority.
Google image of Riverside Drive & Laurelgrove where a traffic signal is waiting to be installed
To let you know how dangerous that crosswalk is on a regular basis, during the high holidays, our synagogue hires TWO crossing guards to direct people across and even then, last year a car rear ended another just as everyone was crossing.
Getting back to this weekend’s death, Drabinski was crossing Riverside Dr. just east of Rhodes Ave not in a crosswalk. A truck was heading south on Rhodes making a left onto Riverside when the driver struck him.
It’s pretty easy to throw the blame on Drabinski. He crossed the street illegally nad he paid the price.
Let me tell you something about Riverside: It has a lot of apartments and few parking spots, so many people find spaces on the other side of the street, then walk across. At the point where Drabinski was hit, he’s over a quarter mile away from the nearest stoplight. There is a crosswalk right at Rhodes, but as previously noted, these stripes of paint don’t offer you any added protection from crossing where Drabinski did.
I could tell you from a driver’s perspective that turning onto Riverside Dr. is no fun. With cars speeding at 50mph, you have a short time frame to get up to speed to merge appropriately. Ever try entering the Arroyo Seco Parkway? A lot like that.
On one hand, the bike lanes offer an extra five foot viewing channel to see oncoming cars, but this added space is negated by the difficultly of trying to see around cars being parked too close to the corner in a lot of places.
Completing this maneuver creates anxiety. Tension leads to mistakes.
You wouldn’t guess Valley Village prides itself taking over the streets seeing the speeds on our major arterials
One fact I haven’t shared is that Drabinski was 71 years old. My guess was that he wasn’t sprinting across the street as he got hit. In other words, he should have been seen.
Could the driver have been pressured into making a poor decision? The driver stopped and told his side of the story, but Drabinski never will.
Bottom line, everyone in the community knows these streets are dangerous, except for our leadership. These collisions are predictable in so long as we make our streets secondary highways.
The name Valley Village suggests we live in an area inspired by rural settings with small town values. I hope that this general feeling would be attainable, but until we rid ourselves of these racetracks, we’ll be known more for having Valley Victims.