(Below is what we wrote in light of the tragedy at Twinkle Park in December, 2020)
Madam Mayor, Members of the City Council, and Members of the Parks, Arts, & Community Services Commission,
As you are aware, on December 6, 2020, a driver struck and killed 12-year-old Noel Bascon while he was riding his bike with his father in the relatively new crosswalk at Arlington and Junipero. In the days that followed, the media focused exclusively on the rough history of the driver of the truck and the fact that he had been impaired while driving. Unsurprisingly, they failed to even mention the design of the street as a potential factor in the collision.
We believe that both Arlington and Junipero are streets where driver convenience is prioritized over the safety, comfort, and convenience of others. Although Arlington runs alongside three schools and a large park, it is straight, fast, and starkly devoid of anything that might encourage drivers to proceed cautiously. And while Junipero is within the park itself, it resembles something that a state DOT would have designed. Both streets facilitate fast and reckless driving.
With the help of many, we have brainstormed potential design solutions that could make these streets, and specifically the intersection between the two, safer.
This street is 64 feet wide, although it contains only two travel lanes, two parking lanes, and a center turn lane. This open-road design with so much room for error increases the speed at which drivers feel comfortable moving. Despite the visual cues of the roadway, the street runs through a park - a place where drivers should be extremely attentive as they slowly move through. Eight feet should suffice for each parking lane, and eleven feet should suffice for each travel lane. This leaves twenty-six feet of space in the center that could be repurposed. Alternatively, all four car lanes could be pushed to the middle, thus eliminating the unnecessary turn lane, and creating spacious parking-protected bike lanes alongside the curbs. This is a prime street to test such designs that the community may be interested in applying elsewhere in the city.
Secondly, the sweeping turn radii at Arlington facilitate unsafe turn speed. These radii make rolling through the stop sign is too easy. A device that would make such action near-impossible as well as slow the turn itself is a simple bulbout. Bulbouts would have the added benefit of shortening the crossing distance for pedestrians.
A totally dedicated slot, straight as an arrow, and free of the regular interruptions of intersections you’d find on a regular city street visually communicates to the driver that speeding is safe. The driver’s point of focus, when heading east, is on the freeway shrubbery at the street’s terminus, which draws him/her forward. It’s no wonder that the speed limit is set at 35mph - more than double the recommended limit in school zones when children are present. The entirety of the street runs alongside schools and TeWinkle Park, which should tell us that it is reasonable to assume that children may always be present. Therefore we believe that the design speed of the street and the speed limit itself should be reduced. However, for the present purpose, the intersection at Junipero must be addressed first. A flashing stop sign would be appropriate, since it is not obvious to eastbound drivers that they are approaching an intersection and crosswalk. Additionally, speed humps on either side of the intersection would effectively slow drivers to more reasonable speeds at the intersection.
None of the recommendations above need to be expensive or complicated. All necessary materials for at least a pilot could be ordered and installed within a week, and would result in a safer environment. TeWinkle Park should be a place in the city where kids can run free, and people can let their guards down a bit from the near-ubiquitous threat of speeding cars through our city. It is a perfect place to test these applications. And in light of the recent tragedy, we urge you to start testing these applications immediately.
The Costa Mesa Alliance for Better Streets
P.S. We posted about the intersection on a Facebook group that specializes in tactical urbanism and intersection redesign, and got a number of suggestions.