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Motorist Strikes Man in Emeryville Crosswalk; Lawmaker Vows to Redouble Efforts on Safety

John Bauters, a Councilmember for the City of Emeryville and outspoken advocate for safe streets, was two blocks from his house at the intersection of 45th and Hollis when he saw the driver of a pickup truck run down a pedestrian in the crosswalk.

"I went over and knelt down, asking his name, took his vitals, I was on the phone dialing 911," said Bauters in an interview with Streetsblog. "James had a head injury, so I asked him how he felt. He said he was losing feeling in his hands. I was telling him to squeeze my hand but he couldn’t."

Streetsblog readers will recall, Bauters is already well-known to advocates for his support of safety improvements, such as the planned two-way cycle track on 40th Street. "I am grateful for leaders like John who care not only enough to create streets that are safe but also to take time and comfort someone in need," wrote Bike East Bay's Dave Campbell in an email to Streetsblog.

Bauters has good reason to care. "I was hit by a car in 2005," he said. "I was crossing an intersection in Brookline, MA. There was a car coming up a hill and he sped through a red light." As it seems was the case with yesterday's crash in Emeryville, the motorist was distracted. The driver in Brookline "...was wearing headphones and had a handful of dogs in the car and he nailed me as I stopped off the curb."

The recovery was long and tough. "I had multiple surgeries on my hand and wrist and arm," he explained.

Bauters took a picture of the vehicle from Wednesday's crash, but he said he didn't want to share it out of respect for the victim's family.

He showed it to Streetsblog, however. The vehicle was a Chevy Silverado, similar to this one:

Was the motorist a professional contractor or a bricklayer? No, then he doesn't need to be driving such a dangerous vehicle
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

As Streetsblog has reported, SUVs and light trucks such as this cause far more serious injuries in a crash than a normal car.

Image: Don Kostelec
Image: Don Kostelec

The above image, courtesy of transportation planner Don Kostelec, illustrates why. And that doesn't even take into account motorists who add metal grills (which concentrate energy in a crash) or those who jack up their suspensions even higher, bringing their bumpers up to a pedestrian's head level (and raising their truck's center of gravity, which make them less maneuverable and more prone to roll overs).

They are so dangerous, in fact, that in the U.K. they are now considering banning them--as they should. SUVs and trucks are two-to-three times more likely to kill in a collision than normal automobiles.

Yet, here in the Bay Area, police forces continue to buy these vehicles, apparently oblivious to the danger they represent.

There's also, of course, the poor sight-lines and unsafe street infrastructure that surely contributed to the crash.

"Emeryville should move to improve low-visibility intersections like this here (see lead image) and around the city, perhaps using low cost paint/post sidewalk bulb-outs like Oakland recently installed along Market Street north of W MacArthur," wrote Bike East Bay's Robert Prinz in an email to Streetsblog.

Bauters said he's already talking with Emeryville's city manager about doing just that.

Building infrastructure to improve sightlines and protect cyclists and pedestrians may mean slowing traffic and eliminating parking spaces. But Bauter's attitude, he told Streetsblog, is that maybe he won't get re-elected, but as long as he's in office that is exactly what he's going to try and do. "I'm done with this," he said, adding that when it comes to safety versus automobile throughput, safety should always come first. "Cars don't need to race throughout residential neighborhoods. Stop signs aren't optional."

John Bauters after his interview today with Streetsblog. He wants protected infrastructure like the Lake Merritt cycletrack, behind him, installed everywhere in Emeryville. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
John Bauters after his interview today with Streetsblog. He wants protected infrastructure like the Lake Merritt cycletrack, behind him, installed everywhere in Emeryville. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

He's also tired of the lax way in which we treat motorists who put other people in danger. He said the driver of the truck was visibly shaken, and in no position to continue driving his truck. Yet after an initial investigation and short interview, the police "permitted him to just drive on away from the scene," he said.

One bit of good new--it looks as if James is going to make it. His family reached out to Bauters on social media, and tweeted the following: "This was my dad who was struck. Thank you everyone for the prayers and a huge thank you to John. ❤️❤️❤️ He is doing better but still in the hospital."

Bauters asks that you follow his twitter feed to learn more on what he's doing to support safe streets in Emeryville.

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