Can We Do Better with Morning Traffic at Encinal High?

At least two students have been hit by cars near Encinal since the school year began.

I write this on Sunday afternoon, with the thump-thump-thump of the bass that lasted until 2 a.m. from the Beyond Wonderland Rave at the Oakland Coliseum still fresh in my mind — fresh in my bones, really. Yikes, that was loud!

Whatever behind-the-scene politics or lapses of attention led to the Saturday night show, I don’t know. But you’ll find lots suggestions for responsible parties to contact in the comments on Alameda Patch and also on Patch’s Facebook page.

In the wee hours Sunday, as I watched the comments go by about rattling windows and dishes, frazzled nerves (the concert started at 6 p.m. and lasted until 2 a.m.), unsettled pets and children (one commenter had planned to have a backyard sleep-out with her 4-year-old), I mulled my intended topic for today, another environmental issue: the colossal traffic safety disaster around Encinal High.

Morning and afternoon traffic by the school (schools really, because the Alameda Community Learning Center is housed there as well) is not just a one-night irritation, like the Insomniac-sponsored rave (really, the company’s name is Insomniac) we were treated to Saturday night.

The area around Encinal High isn't just an accident waiting to happen. Accidents ARE happening.

Two students — mercifully without serious injury — have been hit near Encinal this year. Both students, I am told, came away with just bumps and bruises. 

There’s a backup of cars on all streets leading to the campus, but what seems to be the worst intersection is what one parent driver called “the star,” where Central Avenue intersects with both Third Street and Taylor Avenue.  

The intersection would be a worrisome road configuration under the best of circumstances. (It reminds me a bit of Central-Gibbons-Versailles, a great place to witness near-misses between cars at any hour, but without a twice-daily throng of student pedestrians and cyclists and parent and student drivers in the mix.)

One morning last week, just before the morning bell rang, I stood chatting with assistant principal Tracy Allegrotti as cars hovered in the wide, irregularly shaped intersection and students pressed across Central Avenue, spilling out of the bounds of the crosswalk.

As Allegrotti worked to manage the disorder, waving students into the crosswalk, indicating for cars to wait, we watched together as a huge SUV did a four-point turn mid-block on Taylor.

When the final bell rang, students rushed, parent drivers hovered just outside crosswalks, and a row of cars blocked every street. “It’s pretty crazy,” said Allegrotti, herself an Encinal High graduate. "When I was in school, we walked."

At other hours of the day, when Central Avenue is not congested, Allegrotti says she sees cars rushing by, well over the speed limit. “I assume they’re on their way to the ferry,” she said. 

I'm left wondering what actions we can take to make passage to and from school safer for our Encinal and ACLC students. Surely students, parents, school staff, city and district can work together to come up with some relatively straightforward solutions?

Can students be trained as monitors to direct vehicle and pedestrian traffic? Can we offer a series of classes on pedestrian and bike safety — ear buds out, eyes up. Can we reduce congestion by not driving our children, by supporting them in making their way to school by foot or bike or bus? Might it make sense to create a drop-off location some blocks a way?

Perhaps there are already folks hard at work at improvements. In any case, I'm sure that together as a community we can come together with some smart, expedient fixes.

And here's to hoping, too, that the greater East Bay community can find away to avoid another eight-hour barrage of bone-rattling noise from the coliseum on some future Saturday night.

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Lion's Mane October 01, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Short answer? Of COURSE we can do better--it *almost* couldn't be any worse. My son attended Encinal, and the few times I dropped him off or picked him up, I was absolutely AGHAST at the mayhem. How, after all these years in existence, could there not be a light at that intersection--no, confluence--or some other form of enhanced traffic control during school hours? I only know of one student who was hit during his time there, again, walking away with only bumps and bruises, but what will it take--a death? The students are left to cross on their own without any control whatsoever, often stepping off the curb without even looking and sauntering across at a snail's pace, with no consideration for those who are and have been waiting patiently for scads of pedestrians. I also wonder...what of those who aren't dropping children off, yet choose that route anyway? I can't imagine choosing to use that intersection during those times unless there was absolutely no other alternative. For various reasons, I'm glad my son has graduated.
10dB October 01, 2012 at 03:57 PM
I live near the corner of 4th and Central and I can tell you that large numbers of Encinal students either have no idea what red traffic lights and/or "don't walk" lights mean (or else they think they are too important for these traffic controls to apply to them as pedestrians for bicyclists). And I agree that the 3rd/Taylor/Central intersection is a monstrosity. I often use it as a way to bypass Webster and every time I have to creep into a nearly blind intersection from the Taylor stop sign I fear for my safety. Last but not least, Eve is dead on when she talk about cars dropping students off. It never ceases to amaze me how little regard so many drivers have for others trying to use the road. Triple park? I'm just going to be here for 15 minutes! 4-point turns blocking traffic in both directions? What, you expect me to drive around the block, wasting a minute or two of my precious time? Sad to see not one but two generations of me, me, me, mine, mine, mine strutting their stuff every morning and afternoon. But, as Eve points out, maybe there is a learning/teaching opportunity for the EHS staff. And maybe an opportunity for APD to hand out some speeding -- and some jaywalking -- tickets.
Patch Reader October 01, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Let's not forget that next year there will be an addition middle school grades at Encinal...more students - more traffic... "Coming 2013-14 Junior Jets! Our Junior Jets Program (for students in grades 6, 7 and 8), will be starting in the Fall of 2013."
Michael October 01, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Traffic enforcement has declined sharply in recent years. It will probably take a high profile tragedy before the situation changes.
joel October 02, 2012 at 03:50 AM
Sadly I agree


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