Looking to address pedestrian-safety issue

Glendale's ongoing issues with pedestrian safety have claimed the lives of two 86-year-old men just within the past four months.

The figure is specifically distressing to Daniel Mehrabian because his grandfather was one of those men killed.

"I wasn't ready to lose him," he said.

Determined to find answers as to why pedestrians, particularly seniors, are being killed by vehicles in Glendale, Mehrabian sat down with community stakeholders Thursday night at the highly-anticipated UC Berkeley pedestrian workshop to discuss the city's enduring traffic safety problem.

The workshop was revived through a move by Transportation and Parking Commissioner Maro Yacoubian, who asked UC Berkeley's Safe Transportation Research and Education Center last year to return to Glendale for a second time to help address its pedestrian-safety problem.

A similar workshop was held in 2009 after Glendale was selected for it because of its high number of pedestrian-involved collisions and fatalities.

Last year, five people were killed in pedestrian-involved traffic collisions. Police have logged 14 pedestrian deaths — most of which have been seniors — between 2008 and 2013.

Roughly 52% of collisions between 2007 and 2011 were caused because the driver violated the pedestrian's right-of-way, according to California Walks, a pedestrian safety advocacy group.

But in fatal collisions, both driver and pedestrian behavior played a role.

"The only way you can have true impacts and reductions in fatalities, injuries and traffic collisions is through modification of the behaviors of our residents and our visitors," Glendale Police Chief Robert Castro told the group.

Pedestrians should follow the rules of the road, and drivers should slow down and pay attention to their surroundings, he said.

"Working together is the way we are going to do this," Castro said. "Many crime problems that we face, we can solve quickly. One thing I know for sure, traffic safety is a never-ending event."

Just this week, police cited 22 drivers for allegedly failing to yield for a pedestrian during an undercover enforcement operation at Victory Boulevard and Irving Avenue.

Three other drivers were given warnings and an informational pamphlet. Three drivers were also cited for various violations, including speeding, driving without a license and possessing marijuana.

Another approach to addressing pedestrian safety issues is the idea of creating a continuous and focused message.

The group worked together on pedestrian safety concepts including school-based education, wearing reflective clothing, using flags to cross the street, asking volunteers to help seniors safely cross intersections and memorializing victims by using some form of symbolism at the crash sites.

"The names of the victims should never be forgotten," Yacoubian said, adding that the death of Mehrabian's grandfather must not be in vain.

Mehrabian suggested airing public service announcements on Armenian TV networks, which he said many seniors watch and get a majority of their news.

He was certain his grandfather, Abram Mehrabian, would have heeded traffic safety warnings if similar announcements had been aired before his death.

"Awareness could only help," he said.

The group's suggestions will be included in a larger community pedestrian safety action plan, which will be presented on May 22 to Transportation and Parking Commission. Low cost, high impact actions will likely rank high on the list, said Roubik Golanian, deputy director of Glendale Public Works.

"This is going to be a living document," he said.

Meanwhile, city staff plans to apply for a transportation grant to help fund any pedestrian-safety efforts.

A final report will likely be presented to the City Council in July.


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