Two women were struck by a Chevy Blazer SUV in a crosswalk while crossing El Camino Real at Isabella Avenue in Atherton around noon on September 30. One of the women was thrown 70 feet upon impact; both were sent to the Intensive Care Unit at Stanford Hospital nearby.
The town is cut in half by the 6-lane state highway, on which is speed limit of 35 mph is commonly ignored by motorists who use El Camino Real as an alternative to the often congested Highway 101 located less than two miles to the east. This section of El Camino Real has seen over 80 injuries due to car crashes over the past 5 years, according to the Atherton Police Department.
In that period (2007 – 2012), two people were struck and killed by vehicles while crossing the street: Christopher Chandler, age 62, who was bicycling at the same intersection (Isabella Avenue) where the two women were severely injured on September 30, and Honofre Mendoza, age 55, who was walking across the street only 150 feet to the south.
El Camino Real in Atherton is dangerous not only for pedestrians and bicyclists, but for motorists as well due to the excessive speed at which many drive. Over the past 5 years there have been 55 car crashes on El Camino Real in Atherton due to excessive speed – roughly one every month – and 2/3 of these resulted in injuries to the driver or passenger of the vehicles involved.
On October 1, Atherton Mayor Bill Widmer sent a strongly-worded letter to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Director Malcolm Dougherty and California Assemblyman Rich Gordon demanding safety improvements for El Camino Real:
“This stretch of dual three lane streets has become the scene of multiple car-pedestrian and car-bicycle accidents often leading to severe injuries and multiple deaths. Over the years the only measure that has been taken has been to put down a crossing stripe with diamonds in front which honestly does nothing…
On other streets, pedestrian crossings are made more visible with the use of lighted/blinking signs and in-pavement flashing lights. These have been available for years and yet the State has taken the cheap route which is costing our residents dearly…
We have just had yet another accident leaving two pedestrians in critical condition or worse… The lives of our residents are at stake here.”
In a follow-up letter, Mayor Widmer wrote:
“The street is a ribbon of six lanes effectively cutting our community in half. Atherton is a rural-focused residential community. Our residents need to be able to walk and bicycle across town to city hall, schools, our library, and our park…
I will point out that in total, including car/truck drivers over 60 incidents injuring or killing 45 people have occurred over the past 2-year period. For a small town of less than 7,000 residents, this is very alarming. Furthermore, Atherton is being named in at least one legal filing due to the unsafe crossing conditions on this State route.”