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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.”

Edward Huang April 27, 2011 at 02:02 PM
Our street syetem is mainly designed for moving vehicles, not for pedestrian safety. To make street safer for walking, traffic calming measures other than signs & traffic lights need to be installed to slowdown traffic. One of such measure is that crosswalks at strategic locations where there is high foot traffic shall be clearly marked with strips, patterns and/or colors on the floor, so it is clearly visible by drivers that they are approaching a pedestrian priority zone. Improvements to the traffic lights & signs are inadequate at the accident location to create a strong visual impact to drivers.
Anne Joseph April 27, 2011 at 03:57 PM
The crosswalk system in our town needs some serious review. On the East side of Dana Middle Schoool, there is NO crosswalk, leaving those who live across the street, or park along the east side of First Ave. to take their lives into their hands when attempting to cross to school, or to utilize the new Dana Gym. What is really needed is a stop sign and a crosswalk. On the weekend, the street is solidly parked and pedestrians need a place to cross the street. There isn't even a sidewalk all the way along the east side of First Ave. to make it feasible to walk up to Duarte or down to Camino Real. This is an accident waiting to happen. The city needs to correct this problem before something terrible occurs.
Patty April 27, 2011 at 04:42 PM
In a previous article, it stated that there was another death at this Duarte crosswalk in December. How many deaths does it take in order for the city to look into this problem? A few years ago, I was involved in a traffic accident at this same crosswalk. A senior stepped off the curb to use the crosswalk and the car in front of me slammed on the brakes. I did the same behind him because I didn't notice someone crossing. Unfortunatley the car behind me didn't see us stopped abruptly, and ran into us. Luckily the car in front of me didn't get thrown into the crosswalk and hit the lady. The police officer at the scene admitted to me that it was a problem crosswalk and there are always near misses. This detective, named in the article above, needs to spend some time and watch people as they cross and the traffic, and interview those people that use the crosswalk. I disagree with his comment and do believe a traffice signal would help. As a community we should support this For Alice Movement and attend the City Council meeting at 7pm on May 4th. It could have been anyone of our loved ones crossing that day.
w.c. April 27, 2011 at 04:46 PM
Crosswalks have always presented a false sense of security for pedestrians crossing the street. Peds have to realize it's not the "free or safe" zone...it's the danger zone. Crossing the street requires both driver and pedestrian to look and anticipate; drivers to anticipate peds at corners and or crosswalks, and pedestrians to anticipate speed and distance of moving vehicles. It really comes down to complete focus and common sense for pedestrians crossing. Crossing at a marked xwalk or unmarked xwalk requires total attention...meaning stay off the cell phone and look!...and that goes for drivers too! Your family members will appreciate it.
BT April 27, 2011 at 06:43 PM
I am curious who that driver is now. The comments from Hale is totally nonsense. The investigation hasn't completed yet. He already indicated the sun is "certainly a factor". My question is to what degree it was a factor. At close to 7 pm at night on Sunday, give me a freaking break. He further indcated "the speed of the vehicle didn't seem to be a factor." What basis does he have? If speed wasn't a factor, how could the vehicle managed to hit 2 persons at the same time so quickly who are athlethes and moving at the time of the incident? There is blood found on the sidewalk. You need to have certain speed for the impact to cause a human beings' blood flying out of the body from middle of the road to sidewalk. Of course, you need take weight of the objects into consdieration. I hope the forensic can tell it all. Lastly, a tragedy has occurred. Something apparently went wrong at that spot which considers to be one of the busiest in the entire city. We should take a serious look at what can be done to improve the safety for all. To simply comment on the crosswalk isn't an issue without concrete facts, to me, is so irresponsible. I am delighted to see AHS students are doing something to improve the saftey at that intersection. The way to go AHS. No need to wait for the Arcadia PD to admit there is a problem.
Andy Qin April 27, 2011 at 08:20 PM
Pedestrian safety is always an interest that must be taken into account. This movement is just what this city needs because that crosswalk in particular requires special attention not only because it is a mid-block cross walk on a busy street, but also because it is aligned with the setting sun. When driving through that street, I can recall many times in the late afternoon when seeing the flashing yellow lights at that cross walk was close to impossible. Granted, traffic flow, the Arcadia City budget, and pedestrian convenience are also interests that the city should take into consideration. One thing remains certain: that crosswalk as it stands is far too dangerous to not undergo any improvements. I agree with the question above when it asks 'How many more accidents/fatalities will it take for the city to do something about it?'
Andrew April 28, 2011 at 01:57 AM
“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" I disagree. The driver went around the car in front of him and caused the accident because he didn't take the yellow flashing lights seriously. If there was a full traffic signal there, I do not believe he would have run a red light.
Utthara Rameshbabu April 28, 2011 at 08:59 AM
What concerns me now is that even after the news of Alice's death, both drivers and pedestrians have been just as careless as they were before-- jaywalking, running yellow lights. I acknowledge Mr. Hale's argument about a revamped light being possibly ineffective, but honestly, it is too ambiguous to stand. Of course we can continue on with life without instituting a new light system at this crosswalk, and just rely on others to have learned their lesson, but how much safety does that guarantee us? None. However, if we do install a legitimate 3-light system-- already outlined in the vehicle code-- there will be consequences for reckless driving. This will in turn reduce the number of unlawful actions by drivers and pedestrians, and therefore guarantees to minimize accidents in the area. It's simple logic. Honestly, that supermarket complex is already a mess(just accounting for drivers), so the most ideal solution would be to remove pedestrians from the equation altogether. However,this may conflict too much with public convenience. Thus, the most logical solution is to put in a complete light system, like the one on Campus Drive. I pose this question to City Council and those opposed to the idea of fixing this crosswalk: What price must we, the residents of Arcadia, pay for safety?
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.
Sandra 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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