School's Neighbors Petition for Safer Streets : Ventura: The death of a 12-year-old near Juanamaria Elementary prompts the action. Traffic engineers to investigate the concerns.


Prompted by a child's death in a bicycling accident last week, more than 300 Ventura residents have signed a petition to make the streets safer around the eastside's Juanamaria Elementary School.

"People are not slowing down for the kids," said Billie Olmstead, the eastside resident who started the signature drive. "(Drivers) are just very reckless as far as I'm concerned."

Olmstead said she has tried for years to get the city's attention about the speeding problems around the elementary school on Telegraph Road between Petit Avenue and Kimball Road. She first noticed how fast people drove when she walked her grandchildren to the Juanamaria School in the mornings.

But she said council members did not return her calls and city staff, though available, proved of little help.

Then last Wednesday, 12-year-old Christopher Grasmugg died in a bicycling accident unrelated to the area's speeding problems. Pedaling home from Balboa Middle School in the early evening, he swerved into a passing car on Blackburn Road, just south of Juanamaria Elementary School, and suffered fatal head injuries.

Olmstead said she knows that fast driving had nothing to do with Christopher's death. But the traffic accident occurred near Juanamaria and it involved a child who once attended the school, so she decided to seize on it as her opportunity to call the City Council's attention to what she considers a growing problem.

"I thought how can I get the council members' attention?" she said. "I'll get it this way. Also, it's an election year."

Olmstead's hunch proved correct. After listening to her concerns Monday night, the council ordered the city's traffic engineers to investigate the petition's demand for a traffic light at Petit Avenue and Telegraph Road, and for a stop sign at Petit Avenue where it crosses Balboa Street.

On council orders, the engineers will also re-examine the posted speed limits on the streets surrounding Juanamaria Elementary School. Those speed limits range from 50 to 25 m.p.h. In addition, the council's traffic committee will soon discuss a citywide survey of traffic problems at all Ventura schools and nearby roads.

However, since the city's traffic engineers are just concluding a survey of all Ventura's intersections, council members say they are not sure how much more work they need to do.

But school officials and parents say the idea is so attractive they would like the city to start on it as soon as possible.

"That would be great," said Paul Jablonowski, principal of Lincoln Elementary School on Santa Clara Street in downtown Ventura. "It can get pretty hairy here at times."

Those who live and work around the Juanamaria school in particular are frustrated by the traffic zooming daily down their residential streets.

"People are flying right by," griped Jean Peckfelder, who lives on Santa Maria Street. "I have three children that love to play street hockey on our street, and the cars are going 40 m.p.h. down our street alone."

Ten-year-old Patrick Azarian, who attends Juanamaria, said the speeding vehicles scare him.

"I worry that the drivers go too fast," he said, walking home from school Tuesday with his two brothers, a friend, and a baby-sitter. "I think it's not very good to go fast. You might hit someone riding a bike and cause very serious injuries."

Patrick said he does his best to practice safety precautions.

"We always look both ways, and if there's a car we go like this," he said, demonstrating how he steps back from the street onto the curb.

"But some cars come faster than we run," he added. "We don't like that."

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