Saturday, November 30, 2013

Fulton Mall Alternate Analysis Reports Available for Public Comment

The city has used the Thanksgiving weekend to put up the massive "Alternate Analysis Report" for the Fulton Mall on their website. The choices of course, are to keep the mall, or to destroy it.

The public comment period runs until January 13.

It's 382 pages of fun, so I haven't made my way through it yet, but the folks at "Save the Fulton Mall" have pointed out something quite bothersome:

 photo fultonmall_zps6c6454d7.jpg

That doesn't make sense. The plan is to bulldoze a park and turn it into a standard road. That doesn't have any aesthetic impacts? Turning a pedestrian mall into a street doesn't have land use/planning impacts? It doesn't affect recreation, transportation or traffic? Huh? The plan involves bulldozing playgrounds to add parking spaces, that by definition is an impact on recreation and transportation...

And I'd think cutting down dozens of mature trees downtown and adding asphalt would have some impact on air quality. Is it significant? I don't know, isn't the point of the EIR to tell us?

On the plus side, these ridiculous omissions might bite the city in the ass if they're taken to court.

I'll plow my way through the report over the next few weeks, and I hope the rest of you do the same.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

3rd pedestrian killed in two weeks, Bee jumps to blame victim

In all of 2009, four pedestrians were killed in Fresno.

Over the past 3 weeks, three were killed by motorists, and one by a train. This is actually the second time this very year in which three pedestrians were killed in such a short span of time. I don't know the total, but I would wager it's trending higher than the 14 last year.

The latest incident happened at an intersection adjacent to Fresno State. The person killed was a high-school special ed teacher, who apparently was also studying at Fresno State. It happened on Shaw, between the college campus and the student neighborhood, filled with apartments, frats, and some restaurants. You know, the kind of place one finds heavy pedestrian traffic.

 photo shaw5_zpsf4350547.png
ABC 30

Naturally, because the motorist 'did not see the man," he was free to go. No word on the height of the driver

Here's how the Bee reported it:

A jaywalking pedestrian was killed Tuesday evening after a driver struck him in front of Fresno State in northeast Fresno, police said.

That's right, The Bee begins by accusing the victim of breaking the law in the very first line. I say accusing, because the rest of the story contracts this claim of "jaywalking".

The man, described in his 40s, was walking across Shaw Avenue from Jackson Avenue about 6:20 p.m. when a driver of a Toyota Matrix hit him, police Lt. Phil Cooley said.
Shaw and Jackson? That sounds like the intersection of two streets.... yup, sure looks like an intersection to me.

 photo shaw1_zpsdf08bbc1.png

The campus of course is visible on the north side. The area filled with student apartments is on the south side.

Does the law confirm that this is an intersection? Absolutely.

365.  An "intersection" is the area embraced within the prolongations of the lateral curb lines, or, if none, then the lateral boundary lines of the roadways, of two highways which join one another at approximately right angles or the area within which vehicles traveling upon different highways joining at any other angle may come in conflict.
 photo shaw2_zps2aa7970b.png

Pretty obvious right? It's important because there are crosswalks at every intersection. So now that we know that this is indeed an intersection...

275.   "Crosswalk" is either:
(a) That portion of a roadway included within the prolongation or connection of the boundary lines of sidewalks at intersection where the intersecting roadways meet at approximately right angles, except the prolongation of such lines from an alley across a street.

Then we have now confirmed that this intersection has crosswalks. As do all intersections, except alleys. Jackson is most certainly not an alley.

 photo shaw3_zps8bae6060.png

In this case, we have three unmarked crosswalks, even though it's a very busy place for pedestrians to be. Doesn't matter, a crosswalk doesn't have to be marked to be a crosswalk.

21950.  (a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.

It's simple. Intersection means crosswalk, means pedestrian right of way. Driving 101.

So if the Bee article is correct on the location, then it looks like they've libeled the victim by starting the story off by naming him as a lawbreaker, when that doesn't appear to be the case.

Isn't it odd that they were so quick off the mark to do this? What was the last time you saw a story start like this:

"A murderous motorist racing along Shaw avenue slammed into a pedestrian...."

You don't. Unless you're reading the article in a tabloid, and the victim was a celebrity. The Fresno Bee is not a tabloid. They shouldn't litter their article with accusations against the victim, and they should probably consult basic traffic law. You know, the stuff every driver is supposed to know, and one would expect the reporter would confirm before publishing.

The article was updated this morning, it now starts as follows:

An Edison High School special education teacher was identified as the man struck and killed by a car Tuesday night while walking across Shaw Avenue near Fresno State.

Alex Lark, 43, began his career at Fresno Unified in 2005 as a special education aide. He became a teacher in 2012 and taught at Phoenix Elementary Academy and Edison High School.
Fresno Bee
No accusation. No "accident". Much better. Not perfect though.

The wording has been changed to show that the real problem is the police officer on the scene. 

Fresno police said Lark was jaywalking across Shaw Avenue near Jackson Avenue, in front of Fresno State, about 6:20 p.m. when he was struck by a Toyota Matrix sedan. Lark was taken to Saint Agnes Medical Center, where he died.

Read more here:

Read more here:
An article by the college paper goes into further depth.

The driver told police he didn’t see the victim, (Fresno police Lt. Phil) Cooley said, and it appeared to have been a tragic accident.

He said no charges were expected against the driver.

Cooley added: “There are a lot of pedestrians near campus. Please use the crosswalks.”
The Collegian

Assuming both articles have reported the location correctly, it appears that Lt. Phil Cooley has made a mistake. A serious one. Does Fresno PD not know what an unmarked crosswalk is?

Sadly, as we've observed before, that seems to be business as usual.

Earlier this year, Sgt. Richard Tucker blamed pedestrians for not wearing the right type of clothing when walking. That was in response for a child killed in a school zone that lacked sidewalks.

In that same article, "Capt. Andy Hall said the simple solution would be to hold pedestrians accountable." Yup, the solution to an explosion in pedestrian fatalities is citing pedestrians following the law, or existing in a city which doesn't always build sidewalks by schools.

Incidentally, here's a map of collisions involving pedestrians and bikes for the year 2011 (only recent data I could find).

Looks like Fresno State has a serious problem they're not addressing. Presumably, they're busy focusing on innovative ways to expand parking lots.

 photo shaw4_zpsd8308a20.png

The other two incidents in these past two weeks were the "short driver" excuse, in which a Fed-ex driver ran over a pedestrian, fled the scene, and was not charged, and the following:

Hit-and-run near Fresno Rescue Mission kills pedestrian

A male pedestrian was killed Thursday night in a hit-and-run crash near the Fresno Rescue Mission, and police are looking for an older-model Ford pickup that fled after the crash.

Police were dispatched to G Street and San Benito Avenue about a report of a truck that hit a man about 8:15 p.m. and dragged him south on G Street.

Police found the man's body in the middle of the road at G Street and Belgravia Avenue about seven blocks south of the mission. Evidence at the scene indicated the truck fled east on Belgravia Avenue.
The man was later identified by the Fresno County coroner as Jimmy Hill, 66.
Fresno Bee

Read more here:

After the jump, the original copy of the Bee article that inspired this post, which is no longer online.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Meta: Comment spam-filter issues

Hey folks,

Just wanted to apologize at the delays in your comments being posted. For whatever reason, almost every single comment is now being sent into the "possibly spam"  folder, rather than automatically be published. I haven't changed any settings, so I don't know if something is going on at Google's end.

It's especially strange because that includes those of you signed into an account with a history of commenting. You'd think that after the 20th time hitting "not spam" the filter would have figured it out... Anyway, it may take a day or two for me to be able to manually approve them, so sorry about that.

As for those of you commenting anonymously, your comments sometimes head straight to the real spam folder, which gets about 10-30 spam comments a day. As you can imagine, it's a bit hard picking them out between all the real spam, so my apologies if I miss it. If you could start your comment with something like REAL as the first word, it would be easier to find.

It's 2013, why hasn't the spam issue been solved?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Add "short driver" to the list of excusable reasons when a pedestrian is killed

Once upon a time, "I didn't see him" was not an excuse. The rule was, if you hit something or someone, you were "driving too fast for the conditions," or "not exercising due caution." Most cops, it seems, have forgotten the rule, and take "I didn't see him!" as a perfectly valid excuse. Fresno PD seems to have recently expanded that leniency in the death of a pedestrian this week in Fresno:

Officers also determined it would have been impossible for the driver to see the pedestrian because of the driver's short stature and seating position. The driver faces no charges.
Fresno Bee
Does the driver not deserve blame for failing to adjust their seat properly? Perhaps an inquiry as to why someone who can't see the road is driving in the first place? Of course not. It's not their fault they were dealt a short deck, and driving is a right after all.

 photo kid1_zps886cffe6.jpg
Apparently legal now

Did I mentioned the driver was maneuvering a Fed-ex big rig? I guess being a commercial driver of an enormous truck does not obligate one to be able to see the road.... or feel a collision.

The driver of the rig had no idea he had struck and seriously injured the pedestrian, Fresno police said Tuesday.
If you can run someone over in downtown Fresno, and not even notice, something is wrong.The driver failed in adapting to an urban environment. Fed-ex failed in assigning this person to a large truck, and the state licensing system failed in giving them a commercial license without restrictions.

 photo kid3_zpse86b3dd8.jpg
It turns out, the "gangsta lean" is a sophisticated method to waive liability in a collision

According to a witness, the pedestrian was at fault because the truck had a green light. Based on the investigation being concluded in under 24-hours, it seems as if the police department have taken the word of the witness as fact. I'd bet a large pile of money that no video evidence was obtained, or even searched for. Never-mind an investigation into speed and cellphone use.

Now to be fair, this specific part of town is home to many transient individuals who do occasionally have a habit of randomly wandering into the road. I once had quite the scare when I encountered a homeless lady standing in the middle of a lane, in pitch darkness. Of course in my case, as it was so dark, I was driving at a speed which allowed me to come to a complete stop without hitting her. Novel concept, I know.

In this case, the collision happened around noon, so visibility wasn't a factor. And even if the pedestrian did step into the road without the light, the driver should have seen him coming.

This is what the driver would have seen, approaching the light. Any pedestrian would be clearly visible well in advance of entering the roadway. To not only be unable to see a pedestrian AND not notice the collision is highly troublesome.

 photo kid4_zpsd0586c88.pngAll four corners are highly visible

 On the plus side, the Bee reported this as a collision, and not an accident.That's progress.

 Meanwhile, on Sunday, just 15 miles away...

A pedestrian was killed Sunday evening after a GMC Suburban hit the man while he was crossing at an intersection in Selma, police said.

The victim, believed to be in his mid-30s, was walking north crossing the intersection of 2nd and Sylvia streets about 5:20 p.m. when the woman driving the Suburban fatally struck him, Selma police Sgt. Terry Reid said. The woman stopped and has not been cited, Reid said.
Fresno Bee

Read more here:

Four marked crosswalks, a playground and skate-park on one corner, church on the other.  According to Google, the speed limit is 30, and only 25mph a couple of blocks later.

  photo kid2_zpsa7d45e50.png

Open and shut case right? The law is pretty clear as to what happens at a crosswalk...

Officers said it is not clear if the driver will face any charges.

The Central Valley has a serious problem with road deaths, and police departments that shrug their shoulders are a major part of the problem. What ever happened to accountability? 

Read more here:

Read more here: