To the Editor:
I’m wondering about the City of Berkeley’s legal exposure because of the City Council’s refusal to turn on the already-installed traffic signals at the intersections of Stuart and Telegraph and Russell and Telegraph. These signals have been in place since before the start of school on August 28. There has been a contentious debate over the configuration of the traffic light sequences, and the City Council has decided that the signals will remain inoperative until the full deliberation process has been completed.
In the meantime, scores of Willard Middle School children struggle to cross Telegraph Avenue each morning and each afternoon under very dangerous circumstances. The traffic is relentless, and many drivers are very aggressive and drive at excessive speeds. There is no question that the intersections could be made much safer for children and other pedestrians by turning on the traffic signals and using a temporary lighting sequence until the public decision-making process can agree on a permanent sequence. This is certainly the opinion of Peter Hillier, the city’s traffic engineer.
Putting the decision-making process ahead of increased safety for children seems to me both a terrible mistake and morally wrong. I also believe that the City will be vulnerable to charges of gross negligence if a child or other pedestrian is injured or killed crossing either of those intersections. The City has the absolute capacity to make those intersections safer immediately and has deliberately chosen not to do so.
My own son, Casey, was hit by a car eighteen months ago crossing Telegraph in a crosswalk on his way to Willard. He is in the eighth grade there this year, and he still has to cross Telegraph in fear.