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Slow Down! Parents Sending Message To Newell Avenue Drivers

Parkmead Elementary School parents say it's dangerous to walk their children to class

Parkmead Elementary School parents show some of the signs they've made to encourage traffic to slow down on Newell Avenue
Parkmead Elementary School parents show some of the signs they've made to encourage traffic to slow down on Newell Avenue
Parkmead Elementary School parents have tried just about everything to get drivers to slow down on Newell Avenue.

They've paid for signs asking motorists to reduce their speed and stop at intersections.

They've donned orange vests and held stop signs at the crosswalk at Newell and Idlewood Drive.

They've even put an empty baby stroller at the edge of that crosswalk to get cars to slow down and stop.

The battle came to a boiling point last week when Le-Lan Jorgensen paid for a professionally made 24-inch-high sign asking drivers to stop at the crosswalk. She attached it to the pole already at the intersection early Wednesday morning.

A Contra Costa County public works crew came by and took it down at midday. They later explained it was unauthorized and might confuse drivers.

"Taking that sign down was the straw that broke the camel's back. That says you're on your own," said Jorgensen, who has five children under the age of 10 and has lived in a house at the intersection for 10 years.

Jorgensen fired off emails to neighbors, the media and county officials.

She now has a meeting set up for Monday morning at the crosswalk with a senior traffic engineer for the county.

"I've had it," said Jorgensen. "I've just missed being hit too many times."

The problem along Newell Avenue has several contributing factors.

First, Newell is used by commuters in the morning to cut from the downtown area to Olympic Boulevard.

There are also two schools along that route -- Parkmead Elementary and the Dorris Eaton School.

School starts at those campuses between 8:10 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., so school traffic combines with commuters at that time.

In the afternoon, there is also traffic when parents pick up their children at both sites between 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.

There are several stop signs along that winding part of Newell Avenue. However, the intersection with Idlewood has just a crosswalk with signs on each side of the street identifying it as a pedestrian crossing.

There's also a bit of blind curve coming at the intersection from the east.

Jorgensen and other parents say cars don't even slow down as they near the crosswalk, much less stop, unless they see someone in the intersection.

The parents say the situation is so dangerous they don't allow their older children to walk by themselves.

"I don't even let my kids go get the mail," said Stephanie Lathrop.

The parents have asked for a stop sign at that crosswalk. They've asked for extra sheriff's patrols. They've asked for speed bumps. They've asked for a flashing light.

So far, none of that has materialized.

"We need action. We don't need another study," said Brooke Shinsky.

Parkmead Principal Chris Reddam sympathizes with the parents' frustrations.

He said Newell isn't the only street in the neighborhood with safety concerns, but it certainly is one of the major ones.

Reddam said the school works on making sure cars entering and leaving the campus are being driven safely. The school also sends home reminders to parents about traffic safety.

"We're working to get that message out to the public," he said.

Reddam noted, however, the school can only do so much. They don't have control over how people drive on streets like Newell.

"That's the scary thing. We don't have control over what goes on out there," he said.

Jorgensen said this problem has been going on for at least 20 years. She said the two previous owners of her family's home moved because of the traffic situation.

Now, Jorgensen and her husband are considering moving or perhaps home schooling their children.

As she wrote in her email blast, "I know in the pit of my frustrated heart that only after a human being is killed or maimed that something will change."

obiwan December 09, 2013 at 03:04 AM
I tried clicking the link to see Jorgensen's video. All I see is "Loading". The numerous advertisements on the page all play fine ... including the lady talking about her underarm perspiration problem who won't shut up no matter how many times I click on the pause button.
Julie Jepsen-Grant December 09, 2013 at 08:09 AM
As a walker and bike rider around Walnut Creek this is SO true. Good for you Parents of Parkmead. Yesterday, while crossing in the crosswalk toward Heather Farm Park, a man honked his horn at the car in front of him to get going and make the left hand turn, while pedestrians were walking in the crosswalk!
Barbara Doherty December 09, 2013 at 10:01 AM
Why not a full time stop sign or add it just during the school walking time? Walking should take precedence over driving in all instances. Always yield to walkers and bike riders since they are on their own muscle. As a pedestrian I am most worried about the right hand turn at Macy's looking at Whole Foods (also Newell). I think I'll stop crossing that way and cross Broadway first, then Newell. Remember November and December are always the worst in downtown WC with shoppers and limited day night. Plus so many people are wearing all black. Lets find workable positive solutions, unlike my latent desire to carry a sledgehammer on my walks through this town.
Leslie December 09, 2013 at 10:19 AM
We used to live on this street too. It is completely unsafe. There was a passionate meeting last year about the problem with no results. It is also tragic that there are no sidewalks on a street leading directly to two schools. Family's are risking their lives walking to school-especially on garbage days when the small path is blocked and children have to hop on and off the busy street. Although, the problem is exacerbated during school drop off and pickup, it is all of the time. I pray no one gets hurt!
imawanderer3 December 09, 2013 at 11:55 AM
Bravo, Parkmead parents! I live in this neighborhood and would be delighted with a 15 mph speed limit on every street. High school walkers, pedestrians, bicyclists are in danger on every street. if it takes civil disobedience, sometimes you have to go for it when the cause is this critical. When I was a kid, my mom somehow got a couple of school buses to park sideways across a 55-mph two-lane commuter road to get the county to reduce the speed limit (school walkers and crossing.)Massive media attention ensued. Speed limit was reduced. No child died.
Mom of the Horde December 10, 2013 at 02:58 AM
I drop off kids at 3 different schools in Walnut Creek (with afternoon pick up at those same schools, just in a different order), and I've come to the conclusion that a lot of drivers simply don't care. It also doesn't help that there are a lot of pedestrians that just assume cars will stop for them. Drivers need to slow down, put their dang phones down, be courteous and pay attention.
mlm2013 December 11, 2013 at 11:49 PM
We have this same issue up on Cherry Lane and Treat. The latest is Supervisor Karen Mitchoff is working with John Muir Medical to eliminate the left turn restriction from WB Treat to SB Cherry. This restriction has been in place since 1988. This is a 22 foot wide windy road with no sidewalks and barely any shoulders. Supervisor Mitchoff claims there would not be a "significant impact" on traffic is the turn restriction is removed. This street already has approx 1000 cars per day traveling SB & NB, some have been clocked at 51 MPH and we've seen cars passing cars on Cherry. We had a Dodge Ram drive thru our front yard and TOTAL a Range Rover and a big ol' Ford pickup. Then a couple of years ago, a drunk driver ran off the road - if my husband and I had been facing the other way, we would have been killed. Neither the City nor the Supervisors listen to what the residents of these neighborhoods say - in our case, John Muir will get their way I am sure, regardless. They don't care, after all, they have a business to run, we are just trying to live our lives. Don't get me started!!! Thanks for listening and good luck to the Parkmead residents - my heart is with you.
Johnny Jerico January 12, 2014 at 04:57 PM
Doesn't CA have the yellow signs with blinking lights that say "15 mph when children present?" or something like this: http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-3008350/stock-photo-sign-for-school-speed-limit-when-children-are-present.html

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