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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Guest Opinion: Change needed on Russell Boulevard

Imagine waking up every day, getting ready to go to class and fearing for your life as you walk to campus. That is the experience that I, along with my neighbors on Russell Boulevard face daily. Crossing Russell at California Avenue to get to campus is like playing a twisted, real-life version of Frogger. It’s dangerous — cars don’t stop for pedestrians; pedestrians do not make the necessary safety checks to cross.

The problem stems from a false sense of security for pedestrians. When they press a button, they expect a protected cross signal, as happens at other intersections. Instead, a yellow flashing “yield” light is triggered, which drivers and pedestrians alike seem to misunderstand.  Approximately 20,000 vehicles drive on Russell each day. According to one source, only 25 to 30 percent of people actually stop when seeing the “flashing beacon.”

There are several options for improvement to the intersection.  At a December meeting, three members of the Safety Parking Advisory Commission recommended making this a fully functioning signaled intersection, which would cost $250,000.

One nearby resident commented:

“People drive so fast through this crosswalk and ignore the flashing lights that it’s only a matter of time before some is killed here […] Wouldn’t traffic signals be cheap compared to a tragedy like that?”

Supposedly, several steps were taken to improve safety, such as a police presence and added signage over the summer. From my observation, the added “safety” measures have done little to curb the dangers or the misunderstandings between driver and pedestrian.

To date, three people that live at my complex have been hit crossing the street at this intersection. In some instances, this was even after they took the necessary steps to ensure safety, and drivers did not stop.

In the most serious incident, a certain student was hit by a City of Davis vehicle while crossing, throwing her to the ground and leaving her with a skull fracture, a serious concussion and an overnight hospital stay. The victim, junior Liana Glicksman, commented, “It is even scarier for me to cross the street here after being in an accident…The thing that scares me most is that I cannot think of a way in which to prevent something like this happening again. I was…crossing at an intersection…in a town where I felt safe and secure. If something like this could happen to me, someone who knew to be careful at this crosswalk, and in optimal conditions, it terrifies me to think about the future.”

On a party night during Fall quarter, I noticed some drunk freshmen, too unaware of their surroundings, attempted to sprint across Russell without making safety checks. Now imagine the dangers of being located on Frat Row, especially when typical Davis conditions like dense fog and rain occurs.

The Facebook group “I have almost been hit Crossing Russell at California” has 65 members, who have been active in trying to improve the situation. When I spoke to city traffic engineer Roxane Namazi, I told her it was dangerous and one day, someone will likely get hit and they will not survive, and it will be the city’s liability. Namazi admitted that the city would be liable if someone were seriously wounded or killed, though the city does not have the money to properly address the situation.

It’s time you take action. It’s time the others who live, work and cross the street here take action. Pi Beta Phi, Theta Chi, SAE, SAE∏, LDS Office and the other residents who live and cross here — please join me in urging the city to finally take action, and keep us safe.


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