One of the new flashing pedestrian safety lights City Hall recently installed on Milpas Street malfunctioned just as a group of about two dozen pedestrian activists associated with COAST (Coalition for Sustainable Transportation) toured the area last week. The new light at Milpas and Ortega — where a 15-year-old pedestrian was struck and killed two years ago when crossing the street — was not working, forcing city traffic planner Derrick Bailey to make some quick repairs.
While some residents and neighborhood activists have contended City Hall did not go far enough in making Milpas Street safe for pedestrians seeking to cross — they’d argued for two new stoplights — Bailey said the new flashing yellow lights, activated by pedestrians at Yanonali and Ortega streets, have made a significant difference. During a traffic sting last February, Bailey said city cops issued 30 tickets in one hour to motorists who failed to yield for pedestrians. In a similar operation this February, he said only nine citations were issued in a two-hour period.
Councilmember Cathy Murillo said she heard from her hairdresser — who lives by Milpas and Yanonali — that the new lights have helped considerably. Some motorists, Murillo added, continue to ignore the signals. “There’s no engineering solution for people who just don’t care,” she said.
COAST organizer Eva Inbar said the Ortega Street improvements have protected pedestrians far better than those at Yanonali. She noted a pedestrian “refuge” had been installed in the middle of Milpas by the Ortega crosswalk, while no such refuge exists by Yanonali. The council opted not to include a refuge at Yanonali because it would have eliminated six parking spaces on Milpas Street, which had been opposed by local business owners.