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Crosswalk’s Safety Questioned as Investigation Into Arcadia High Student’s Death Continues

Alice Zhang's classmates start movement to make the crosswalk where she was killed safer.

The investigation into the death of 16-year-old continues as detectives have now reconstructed the crash and are in the process of doing forensics on the cell phone belonging to the driver of the vehicle that struck Zhang.

“There are still some things we have left to do, but so far it’s looking like something that will likely be presented to the district attorney’s office for their review for prosecution,” Det. Mike Hale of the APD told Patch in an interview last week.

Hale said he and the Arcadia Police Department Major Accident Investigation Team have measured the scene with a laser total station so that they can apply a mathematical physics-based formula to determine things such as the speed of the vehicle, which does not appear to be a factor. The cell phone forensics will potentially tell if the driver was using his phone when the incident occurred, Hale said.

According to police, the driver, a 19-year-old Arcadia male, said the sun was blinding him when his vehicle struck Zhang and her friend, a 16-year-old Claremont High School student, on April 10 at the crosswalk in the 600 block of Duarte Road just east of Baldwin Avenue.

"[The sun] was certainly a factor, but it does not relieve the driver of their obligations to drive in accordance with the California Vehicle Code,” Hale said. “At least twice a day the sun is a factor, depending on which direction you're going."

Hale said the second victim has been released from the hospital and is doing "as good as can be expected."

Meanwhile, a grassroots effort to make the crosswalk where Zhang was killed safer has sprung up. Juniors Li-Xing Chang, Andy Qin and Utthara Rameshbabu, all classmates of Zhang's, are the leaders of this growing group called the "ForAlice Movement."

“Alice was a close friend of ours, and we wanted to do something productive --rather than just grieve-- after her accident,” Rameshbabu said in describing the group’s formation. “From the day I heard, I've wanted to do or say something to alleviate the pain felt by Alice's friends and family, and with the support of my friends at school, we were really able to make a difference.”

Rameshbabu and company have already put their plan into motion, arranging an informal sit down with City Engineer Phil Wray to discuss their cause and also speaking during public comment at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting to give an impassioned plea for community support.

Chang said the group would like to see the Duarte crosswalk copy the crosswalk on Campus Drive located in front of Arcadia High. Under this plan, solid red lights would replace the flashing yellow lights currently deployed at the Duarte crosswalk, yellow lights that Chang says give off two conflicting messages: Either “proceed with caution and slow down” or “speed the heck up so you don’t have to wait.”

“But with a red light, it presents only one message: stop,” Chang says simply.

The group has also offered several other potential solutions, such as moving the crosswalk down to Lovell Avenue or implementing a stop sign at the crosswalk.

Members of the ForAlice Movement will continue their fight when they speak during public comment at the City Council meeting on May 3, with the hopes of getting an item that would tackle the crosswalk--which the group says is a clear public safety issue and does not follow the 2011 Vehicle Codes of the DMV--placed on a future council agenda.

City Manager Don Penman and Tom Tait, the City of Arcadia's public works services director, would not comment on the Duarte crosswalk due to the ongoing police investigation into Zhang's death.

Det. Hale, though, doesn’t see the crosswalk as a public safety issue.

“I don’t believe that even had a full-on, tri-faced traffic signal like you would see at a major intersection been installed there, in this particular case, I do not think it would have helped," Hale said.

“You know you always get these anomalies, the outlier case, that presents a unique set of circumstances, and unfortunately I think this is one of the cases.”

w.c. April 28, 2011 at 09:23 PM
There is no way you are going to engineer this x-walk to stop accidents. A Red light? with a traffic light one-half a block away...Realistically I dont' think so...good idea, but the phones at city hall would be ringing off the hook with comlaints about traffic tie-ups. (yes, I could care less about the phone calls too) however, I suggest just take out the x-walk and make people actually walk to Baldwin Av and Duarte Rd making peds cross at the SAFEST point. If it's such a dangerous x-walk as I have read, and I believe it is, maybe a little inconvenience would be worth the cost of tragedy.
SandraT April 29, 2011 at 05:33 PM
As a driver, I find those flashing yellow lights just too invisible amidst all the other distractions in that one area. I'm sometimes worried that I'll not see the lights because I'm trying to make sure I don't get hit by all the other distracted drivers looking to find whatever store they're after. If a red light were installed there, I WOULD stop. At a regular intersection, we drivers anticipate having to stop. But there really aren't the same number of peds crossing in the yellow flashing crosswalk as they are in your typical crosswalk, so I think that lowers drivers' expectations that they'll have to stop there. At first I was on the "install a red light for pedestrians" bandwagon, but now I'm not so sure due to the horrific traffic issues that would ensue. Now I'm leaning toward removing it altogether and having pedestrians walk to the main intersection. Surely several extra yards of walking/exercise would do us all some good and possibly even save lives, no?
Karen Requa Higgins April 30, 2011 at 01:42 AM
First, let me say that I am very sorry a young lady lost her life. I don't know the details of this accident. However, I think the walking public needs to be educated not to walk off a curb without looking; not to walk into the next lane of traffic until the walker knows the driver has seen him/her, etc. In other words, self-preservation seems to be an instinct that has gone by the wayside in recent years. People need to walk smart: STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN before proceeding into the next lane of traffic.
Alex B. May 02, 2011 at 07:19 AM
I agree wholeheartedly. It may be true that the sun was in the driver's eye, but for it to be an interference in the first place, I believe the driver must have been driving west down Duarte. From that side, it's a straight drive down and the crosswalk should have been in plain view for quite a while. Unless the sun's flash coincided with the girls stepping onto the street I find it a little ridiculous that the sun can be regarded so heavily a factor. It also seems strange to me that speed is not being considered a factor. Since when is speed in a fatal car crash not a factor? Also, if what you say is true about blood on the sidewalk, there definitely must have been quite a force generated from the crash. While I appreciate the fact that the driver is being given the benefit of the doubt to avoid unnecessarily harsh punishment for what is most likely a terrible accident, responsibility must still be given to the proper party(ies). It also feels a little irresponsible to Detective Hale to claim the crosswalk is not a public safety issue when there have already been two deaths there. At what point does it become an issue? When perhaps one or two more deaths occur? Maybe then these "outlier cases" will warrant more weight in his eyes?
genevieve July 10, 2011 at 06:25 PM
Those bloodsucking lawyers are at it again. If the flashing yellow lights are not good enough then the entire state needs to do away with them. Pedestrians are always to have the right away but they also have the responsibility of checking before crossing.

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