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Construction starts on Santa Rosa crosswalk safety measures after collisions, community outcry | #schoolsaftey

Crews with the city of Santa Rosa on Thursday started construction on safety measures for a crosswalk on Hoen Avenue near Sierra Creek Lane.

It was there, less than six months ago, where now-14-year-old Atticus Pearson was struck by a Honda CR-V. He suffered serious head injuries, a fractured pelvis and a damaged spleen that will require him to take antibiotics for the rest of his life.

It’s also been four months since 19-year-old Maria Gonzalez-Valencia was hit by a car there. The collision shifted her brain.

And it’s a bit under 10 years since Dan Lennox was struck by a car while in the crosswalk and suffered a broken fibula and a fractured skull.

The city’s response, though criticized for being delayed, is to bolster safety measures at the crossing, including adding a rectangular flashing beacon to help motorists better see pedestrians.

These flashing signs are the first of nine sets to be installed at locations around Santa Rosa, based off a need determined by specific criteria.

The city weighed each crosswalk’s proximity to a school and its volume of pedestrian traffic, said Rob Sprinkle, the city’s deputy director of traffic engineering.

The city’s Bike and Pedestrian Advisory met Jan. 19, the same day Pearson was hit, and discussed which crosswalk safety projects would receive funding from the Transportation Development Act.

Hoen Avenue’s crosswalk didn’t make the list — until the city learned of Pearson’s collision.

Those funds finally became available July 1, and work began Thursday.

The crosswalk at Sebastopol Road and Laurel Grove Circle, near Cesar Chavez Language Academy, will be the next to receive a beacon.

Construction at all nine locations could take about a year, Sprinkle said. Hoen Avenue’s will last about two to three weeks.

Other city crosswalks set to get a flasher are:

  • Dutton Avenue and Funston Drive
  • Summerfield Road and Parktrail Drive
  • Mendocino Avenue and Howard Street
  • North Dutton Avenue and West Eighth Street
  • Cleveland Avenue and State Farm Drive
  • Montgomery Drive and Franquette Avenue
  • Steele Lane and Service Court.

Pearson’s mom, Margaret Amanda Pearson, said Thursday she was glad the beacon was being installed. But she was dismayed to learn an overhead flasher — a configuration similar to the crossing on Yulupa Avenue near Manzanita Elementary School — wasn’t part of the plan.

It “will not be as noticeable or safe,” she said.

As a result of his injuries, Atticus Pearson missed his eighth grade graduation from Spring Lake Middle School and has had complications since being discharged from the hospital April 19.

There’s a dedication to him in Spring Lake’s 2022-23 yearbook.

“We are sending get-well sunshine your way because you always brighten our days, Atti,” it reads. “You’re one of the strongest people we know and we have faith you’ll overcome this and be back in our lives.”

Ethan Cosgrove, a teacher at Spring Lake, said he recently visited Atticus Pearson and said he has made progress — but it’s been slow.

“When you talk to him you can tell he’s there,” he said. “He is responding and he is struggling to try to communicate and wants to communicate but his body is just not cooperating, which is just heartbreaking.”

Margaret Amanda Pearson said she and her family have been watching and “caring for Atti 24/7 and hope this never happens to anyone else.”

“This should have been done 10 years ago when the first victim was hit,” she said, referring to when Lennox was struck Oct. 31, 2013.

Cosgrove said he believes the installation is a step in the right direction, but it is a small step.

“It’s great that it is going in, obviously,” he said. “It is six months too late.”

“It would be good to see the city be a little more proactive about identifying these spots before incidents happen,” he added.

He said he wants the city to prioritize slowing down traffic overall.

After Atticus Pearson was hit, community members came together to rally for greater safety across the city, specifically around schools.

Christina Panza, Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition’s education director and its Safe Routes to School director, has helped put together a task force made up of the coalition, local schools, law enforcement and city leaders.

The task force’s goal is to open communication to become more proactive on pedestrian and bicyclist safety, Panza said.

“Our current (Safe Routes to School) program provides education and encouragement, but engineering and enforcement are necessary for safe streets,” she said. “Ongoing collaboration between the schools, city and community can strengthen all those elements.”

The first open meeting for the task force will be held 10:30 a.m. Aug. 24 at the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. There will also be an online hybrid option.

The GoFundMe for Atticus Pearson’s medical bills is still active at gofund.me/b6497ec2 — and has since raised over $93,000.

You can reach Staff Writer Madison Smalstig at [email protected]. On Twitter @madi.smals.

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