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Lack Of Crosswalks May Have Contributed To Death Of Boy

November 26, 2012 Featured, Planning & Design, St. Louis County, Walkability 17 Comments

On the evening of Friday October 5th a tragedy happened:

A boy has died and another is in critical condition after a pickup truck hit them and left the scene in Pagedale Friday evening.

The incident happened at about 7:30 p.m. in the 7300 block of St. Charles Rock Road in Pagedale at Salerno Drive, just east of Pennsylvania Avenue. (stltoday.com)

His 10 year-old brother survived, with serious injuries. Earlier this month I visited the accident site, well I got as close as I could.

ABOVE: The boys crossed St. Charles Rock Road to reach the gas station/convenience store on the right.
ABOVE: A power pole pays tribute to 4 year-old Traye-shon Williams killed at the scene.

I couldn’t reach the convenience store or cross the street in my wheelchair due to a lack of sidewalks and crosswalks.  The distance between signalized crossings is more than a quarter mile, as a result pedestrians regularly cross the street where it is convenient to do so.

ABOVE: A woman crossing St. Charles Rock Road just east of the accident location.

Media reports focussed solely on the driver’s record:

In the last 30 years, he has been arrested about 150 times, almost always while driving in north St. Louis County. Six of his 11 DWI arrests resulted in convictions: four times on misdemeanors and two on felonies. He has served fewer than two years total in prison on the DWI charges. (He also has served time in prison on gun charges.) (stltoday.com)

Yes, those who drink & drive are a problem, but only part of it. The other part of the problem is this area, just a short distance from the Rock Road MetroBus/MetroLink center isn’t designed for use by pedestrians.

My sympathies to the families of all involved.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "17 comments" on this Article:

  1. Eric says:

    It’s not clear how sidewalks would have prevented this, as the kids were hit while trying to cross the road. And this driver would probably have just sped through a normal crosswalk. Serious traffic calming measures (speed bumps, roundabouts, fewer lanes etc.) would have helped, but putting them at every street crossing in suburban St Louis would be unaffordable, and probably intolerable to the locals who want to drive.

    Instead, I think this driver’s license should have been permanently revoked after about the second (misdemeanor) conviction.

    • The lack of sidewalks just demonstrates how the area isn’t designed for pedestrians. Button activated crosswalk signals might have been helpful. Clearly the driver shouldn’t have been behind the wheel but we must also look at the physical design of accident scenes.

      • JZ71 says:

        The root cause here is 2% inadequate infrastructure and 98% driver inattention / incompetence / impairment. It doesn’t matter if it’s a kid, a deer, a dog or another vehicle, you shouldn’t be hitting stuff while you’re driving down the road! Yes, “button activated crosswalk signals might have been helpful,” but only if a) the kids went to that location, b) actually pushed the button, and c) the vehicle actually paid attention to the flashing lights and stopped. Look at railroad crossings, look at school buses – both have multiple warning devices, both have laws behind them, both have severe consequences for non-compliance and both are still ignored on a regular basis. Without enforcement of our existing laws and a major change in drivers’ attitudes toward pedestrians, physical changes will do very little to “protect” pedestrians.

        • I’m an adult, I felt it was unsafe to cross the street. My point is we design streets for motorists-only then focus only on the motorist when a pedestrian is killed. I’m surprised more aren’t killed.

          • Eric says:

            The problem is not with the street, it’s with the neighborhood. When a neighborhood has as low density as this and most suburbs, few people will want to walk through it to their destinations (sidewalks or not), and driving on arterial roads must be fast so that commute times are tolerable. High speed car travel is inherently dangerous, 30000 Americans die per year in accidents (whether motorists or pedestrians), car accidents will on average take half a year off your lifespan. But most Americans have chosen to accept this cost. I can’t demand that suburbia cease to exist, I only choose not to live there myself.

  2. JZ71 says:

    My sympathies, as well, and I won’t repeat / go into the multiple failures in adult responsibility apparent here, but if you think a painted crosswalk, alone, would’ve made a difference, you’re living in a fantasy land! Drivers in Missouri rarely stop for pedestrians in marked crosswalks, especially those that are not at controlled (signals or 4-way stops) intersections. Add in that this is a 4-lane road where “the distance between signalized crossings is more than a quarter mile,” and drivers are even less likely to be looking for a crosswalk, much less even thinking about stopping and yielding. Given that mindset / lack of consistent (any?) enforcement, creating a false sense of security / entitlement (by painting some stripes on the pavement) would actually be worse than the current, far-from-ideal situation.

    You also argue that “as a result [of not having a marked crosswalk], pedestrians regularly cross the street where it is convenient to do so.” I’d argue that it doesn’t matter if there’s a crosswalk 100′ away, or not, many will always take the path of least resistance. You shop at the Hampton Village Target, You’re familiar with the bus stop on Chippewa next to the McDonald’s, across from the Walgreens. Watch how many bus riders CHOOSE to ignore the crosswalk at the corner, and choose to jaywalk, just to save a few steps. Watch what happens in the Delmar Loop. Yes, in a perfect world (for pedestrians), there would be sidewalks on both sides of every street, no matter how minor or rural, with marked crosswalks at every intersection and drivers who cared / follow every law in every situation. Reality check – we’re not going to be painting crosswalks every 200′ or every 500′, many drivers won’t be paying (enough?) attention and many pedestrians will end up being inconvenienced, some will be injured and a few will be killed. Yes, in a perfect world (for pedestrians), there would be sidewalks on both sides of every street and marked crosswalks at EVERY intersection. We live in a very imperfect world, an unfair world, a world of limited resources, and looking both ways and waiting for a safe break in traffic will continue to be your, my, our reality.

    • Crosswalks come in many forms. This road needs either the type where you have a string of flashing caution lights over it or a pedestrian-activated signal to stop traffic as needed.

    • Scott Jones says:

      Without fail JZ71 comes to save us from Steve’s naive bleeding heart liberalism! Just kidding. Steve, you are absolutely right. This is a commercial strip according to the photos (however unused it may be currently) in the middle of a road and needs to not just accommodate pedestrians but encourage them even to the point of giving them preference. You see this all over North County, pedestrians walking to convenience stores, grocery stores, schools with *no sidewalks* forced to jaywalk where there are *no crosswalks*. There is a demand but it is being ignored. I think this is due to the fact that the pedestrians are part of the “underclass” (typically young and poor, and usually black).

      • JZ71 says:

        I agree, sidewalks are needed. I disagree that a crosswalk, especially at an unsignalized intersection, would have done much good, in this particular case. Both pedestrians and drivers need to watch out for each other, neither one is inherently superior to the other. Still, you can’t argue with the basic laws of physics – 4,000 pounds of anything will overwhelm 50 or 75 pounds, anytime, anywhere. This was a case of a driver who only cared about himself and his booze, a crosswalk would not have made him pay any more attention. And the kids here were not jaywalking, they were crossing at an intersection, where, technically, traffic is already required to yield to them. Yes, there’s a culture here where cars rule. Until that changes, no amount of improvements to the existing infrastructure will change the negative ways many drivers perceive and treat both pedestrians and cyclists!

        The real problem, in suburban areas like this, is that we can’t have a traffic control device (stoplight/traffic signal, 4-way stop, pedestrian-activated flashing light, human crossing guard, etc.) every block or two IF we’re going to move traffic along major thoroughfares with any sort of smooth flow. And when 95%-98% of the traffic is in vehicles, and the rest (peds, bikes, skateboards, etc.) make up, at most, only 2%-5% of the people moving along or across a particular corridor, then guess what? they’re NOT going to be given preference! Pedestrians are being marginalized because they’re a distinct numerical minority, not because they’re poor or black.

        • Pagedale is a technical suburb but had St. Louis’ city limits not been frozen in 1876 the area would have been annexed decades ago. When I visited Toronto I was shocked that motorists stop for pedestrians. This is because the punishment for not yielding to pedestrians is very real but also the physical design of their public rights-of-way is geared to value the right of the pedestrian citizen as well as the motorist.

          • Scott Jones says:

            Here in Wisconsin you see that as well. Pedestrians are downright coddled and it shows. State laws are very strict about cars not stopping for pedestrians. It’s fun to show off to out of town guests and start crossing a street at a crosswalk and have both lanes of traffic stop. It’s a different culture, yes, but this is still the midwest and it can be done!

        • Scott Jones says:

          People take the hint from the infrastructure. If a place is designed to only accommodate driving it’s no surprise that it gets “95%-98% of the traffic is in vehicles”. It’s only in these poorer municipalities in North County that you see folks (typically young and poor, and usually black) walking despite the lack of infrastructure because they have no other choice. Also, drivers may not stop for pedestrians but they usually stop for stop signs and traffic lights! Maybe a stop sign or pedestrian-activated traffic light could be added?

          • JZ71 says:

            One “could”, but stop signs every block or two are not feasible on a major, arterial street and pedestrian-activated traffic lights are expensive – who deserves to have one on “their” street, and who goes without? I agree, sidewalks are important, to get pedestrians out of traffic and to encourage walking, I just don’t have a good answer for the crossing problem, in a local culture where drivers don’t stop for pedestrians in marked crosswalks. If drivers acted like they do in Wisconsin (and California and Toronto), then, sure, go ahead and paint a bunch of crosswalks. But doing that here would have little positive effect UNLESS the Pagedale police made enforcement as high a priority as speed enforcement – that’s the ONLY way people will “get a hint”!.

      • Eric says:

        West County is rich and white and also lacking sidewalks.

        • Scott Jones says:

          Very true, but not nearly as many pedestrians in West County. My wife is from Spanish Lake originally and whenever we go there to visit it always strikes me how many people are walking places with no sidewalks or crosswalks (largely because they have no other means of transportation). You would think that someone would see this and think, “hey there should probably be a sidewalk/crosswalk here!” but no! This leads me to believe that it’s the type of person doing the walking that matters–the underclass with no political clout. I think the idea in St. Louis county is that decent people drive places and that if you’re walking of cycling you’re instantly suspect… poor? homeless? drunk? hmm…. Maybe a lack of pedestrian infrastructure is strategic: they want to discourage *those* types of people from walking around. I don’t know but it’s a sad state.

  3. Fozzie says:

    Habitual drunk driver > lack of sidewalks.

  4. Daniel Layton says:

    Obviously drunk driving is largely to blame here, but I will add that I bike at this exact spot on a regular basis going from UMSL to U City. It is hands down the most dangerous leg of the trip. Pedestrians are always present when I bike through despite the complete lack of infrastructure, but the drivers do not behave like they are present. I would agree with the sentiment that the drivers follow the infrastructure. The speed limit should be lower, there should be more stops, and crosswalks should be in place. It’s not a vital artery by any stretch of the imagination.


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