Pedestrian Our Reaction to the Latest Pedestrian Death in San Rafael

MCBC was saddened to learn of yet another person killed while walking in Marin. On Tuesday morning, May 18th, 73-year-old San Rafael resident Elida Delgado Rodriguez, was hit and killed by the driver of a box truck at the intersection of 4th Street and G Street. 

Initial social media reports indicated that the victim had been riding a bike, but all subsequent news reporting has indicated that she was on foot, and walking within a crosswalk when struck and killed. 

The details of the crash are murky. Police have said that the driver stayed on the scene of the crash and was not intoxicated. However, the Coroner’s Office stated that the driver “stopped at the traffic light at the intersection before proceeding through,” an obvious impossibility given that the intersection of 4th Street/G Street does not have a traffic signal.

The typical outcome for tragedies such as this is inaction. As long as a driver stays on the scene (he did) and was not driving under the influence (he wasn’t), police departments have, time and time again, issued a finding that there was “no apparent criminality,” and washed their hands of the matter. The driver continues to drive, the street looks the same, and a family grieves an irreplaceable loss.

And unfortunately, this is nothing new. In the past 10 years, 438 pedestrians have been hit and injured by a car in San Rafael alone, 12 of whom lost their lives. The lion’s share of these crashes have been in Downtown San Rafael, with fully ⅓ of the crashes taking place within a five-minute walk of the Transit Center. In fact, this same intersection was the site of a crash in just 2017, when a 48-year-old man was hit while walking in the crosswalk.

How many more times can we shake our heads saying, “what a shame,” before moving on? Are senseless deaths of our city’s seniors simply the cost of doing business? Or can we imagine safer streets, quieter streets, family-friendly streets where we would not be subject to the constant drumbeat of violence? 

We don’t even have to imagine. Cities across the world have decided that there is no acceptable number of traffic deaths. This concept, called Vision Zero, has been adopted from places as distinct as Hoboken, NJ to Sonoma County. Indeed, in Hoboken, where a rapid rollout of quick-build changes to intersections and increasing crosswalk visibility, the city of 53,000 (nearly the same as San Rafael) has seen not a single death on its roads in three years.

Regardless of the driver’s sobriety and his decision to remain at the site of the crash, this incident was not unavoidable. We can choose to change our streets to make them safe for people walking and biking, as long as we are able to accept relatively minor changes. We can limit top speeds and make it somewhat harder to whip around a turn in your car, and those changes will save lives. We, as an organization, believe that is a fair trade. We can never bring back those who we have lost, but we can decide that it must not continue.

To this end, the City of San Rafael should follow the direction of San Francisco and implement quick-build changes to the street to prevent a crash like this from occurring in the same place. There is no reason that intersections that have proved themselves to be fatal should look the same way year after year. We have shown that we are willing to reimagine our streets in order to keep our small businesses alive, realizing that they are the lifeblood of our community. Can we not do the same for our cities’ grandparents?

After a full investigation into the causes of Tuesday’s crash, MCBC looks forward to hearing the city’s plan for ensuring that such a tragedy does not occur again.

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