Less than 24 hours after Glendale’s newly appointed Mayor Zareh Sinanyan commented on the need to increase safety in the city for pedestrians and bicyclists, Antranik Melkonian, 86, died Wednesday morning after he tried to illegally cross five lanes of traffic on busy North Glendale Avenue. He didn’t make it to the other side of the street before he was hit by a passing motorist. The timing of his loss, coming so close on the heels of Sinanyan’s remarks after accepting the gavel as our city’s mayor, was a tragic irony.
In January, another 86-year-old, Abram Mahrabian, was the first Glendale pedestrian fatality of the year when he was struck down on Western Avenue. It was determined by investigators that Mahrabian had been in a crosswalk at the time of that incident.
So, our two most recent pedestrian versus vehicle deaths differed in the regard that one of the walkers who died had been apparently breaking the law by crossing in midblock, while the other had been following traffic rules by choosing to cross at an intersection. But the commonality these men shared is that they were both senior citizens when these fatal accidents occurred.
A disproportionate number of pedestrians who die or are injured this way are in the autumn of their lives. Our seniors are often out and about walking to take care of errands, to socialize with their friends or simply to achieve health benefits. We don’t want to discourage any of that, but they must learn to take into account that as they have aged, so have their eyes and ears. Their vision and hearing are likely impaired, at least to a degree. So, too, is their ability to react quickly to avert impending danger.
We know the city has made some efforts to reach out to the senior population, but clearly more such work is necessary. Pedestrian-safety seminars should be taking place regularly at libraries, places of worship and community centers — anywhere and everywhere, in fact, that our seniors are likely to congregate. Families should talk to their beloved elders about the issue. They need to understand clearly that each time they step into the street, they are far more vulnerable than they might have been in their youth. There are no doubt safety measures that can (and have been) implemented to make our streets safer for seniors, but their own cooperation is going to have to be part of the solution.