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Alhambra ranked most dangerous city for senior citizen pedestrians

Three times in the past year, Teresa Luckie narrowly avoided being struck by a car on her daily walk around downtown Alhambra. “It’s changed since I’ve been walking here,” the 71-year-old Luckie, who has lived in the city since 1975, said. “You’ve got to walk defensively.” Her neighbor was not so lucky — a car hit him and he ended up in a wheelchair. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles County Supervisor’s office is still offering $20,000 for leads in the December 2009 hit-and-run death of an elderly wheelchair-bound Alhambra man.

Alhambra is the most dangerous city for pedestrian senior citizens out of 104 cities of similar size in California, up from second place the year before, according to 2009 statistics the state Office of Transportation Safety released this month. The actual numbers for Alhambra are 17 pedestrian accidents of which four were fatal, according to the police department. This may be low in comparison to larger cities, but it worries transportation and planning advocates, the Office of Safety and Transportation, and the Alhambra Police Department.

“It is significant. We realized that three years ago — we have a high pedestrian accident level here in this city,” Alhambra Police Department Captain Debbie Santana said. “The alarming part is why the elderly are at such a higher risk.” For overall pedestrian accidents the city ranked sixteenth and for children under the age of 15 it ranked fifty-fifth in 2009.

Santana said that when the police department became aware of the problem they began researching the causes, including cultural differences among its large immigrant population or a particularly physically active senior citizen population. But no specific indicating factor was found.

A particularly dangerous area for pedestrians, according to the police department, is Valley Boulevard between Garfield and Almansor, an area with many businesses and large thoroughfares. “When we have big, wide corridors such as Valley Boulevard, regardless of the speed limit, people tend to ignore the speed limit and go whatever speed feels comfortable,” said Rhianna Babka, a network coordinator at California Walks, a non-profit organization that focuses on pedestrian safety for children and senior citizens.

Other cities in the area with similar traffic patterns also tend to have high rates of senior citizen pedestrian injuries. Monterey Park ranked fifth out of 104 cities, and San Gabriel, which is in a different size category, ranked fourth out of 98.

Last year, California Walks worked with residents of Scripps Kensington senior housing on Valley Boulevard to address their transportation concerns. “The pedestrian crossing light isn’t on long enough for us to get even halfway across the street,” said Ida Donahue, 82, a former president of the resident council. “These are people with walkers, or scooters, or canes trying to cross Valley which is a four-lane street.” Donahue organized a group of residents to address City Council last fall. As a result, Captain Santana said that the light is now extended to give pedestrians more time to cross, but Donahue said she has not noticed a difference.

Photo by Tina ZengJames Rojas, an Alhambra resident and urban planner, said he also had his own recent brushes with death on Main Street. “I thought to myself this can’t be happening. This driver clearly sees me. I am right in front of them,” he wrote in a post titled “Perils of walking in Alhambra, My near death experience!” in LA.Streetsblog. “Luckily the van was driving slowly so I was able to stop the van with my hand. The impact of stopping this machine set my adrenaline rushing through my body. I started to bang on the driver side window for at least an apology for her attempt on my life. But she just giggled and drove on!”

Rojas said Alhambra, as a flat city on a manageable scale could be an ideal city for runners and joggers, but to do that driver patterns need to change. “If you want to build a sustainable community, you have to think about pedestrian safety,” said Rojas, a former transit planner for Metro. “The city really needs to do more education, and make streets more multimodal for people to walk and bike.”

Photo by Albert LuCaptain Santana said that despite limited resources the police department has been proactive in addressing pedestrian safety with efforts to educate school children, stationing officers in thoroughfares where there have been speeding problems with instructions to educate drivers on the importance to yield the right of way to pedestrians, and asking the 18 school crossing guards to also help seniors.

Santana said these enforcement and education efforts appear to be helping. According to unofficial numbers, she said injuries and fatalities among seniors were down to 10 last year.

But Santana said the Alhambra Police Department suffers from budget cuts and a shortage of officers who speak Chinese. Its traffic bureau consists of a sergeant and four officers. That is twice the number of officers it had in 2008, but a significant drop in officers since when Santana joined the force in 1986. None of the officers speaks Mandarin or Cantonese.

Photo by Albert Lu

The department applied for a $177,000 grant from the Office of Transportation and Safety last year that would have included money for traffic and pedestrian safety enforcement efforts and education, but did not get the funds. Chris Cochran, a spokesman for the California Office of Traffic Safety, said that most of the money would have gone to addressing drunk-driving problems and there “was not a very large pedestrian proponent especially for enforcement.” In particular, he said, that OTS noted that “one element was for under-aged drinking when in Alhambra in 2008 there was only one injury for DUI under-aged drinking.” Cochran encouraged the city to reapply during a new round of funding in February. 

The Alhambra Source encourages comment on our stories. However, we do not vet comments for accuracy or endorse links to posts in the comment section. The thoughts and opinions expressed belong solely to the author of the comment.

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12 thoughts on “Alhambra ranked most dangerous city for senior citizen pedestrians”

  1. I think we can agree that new immigrant drivers — regardless of their country of origin — is one of the problems. I say this because as someone who works in the city of Glendale, the drivers — who are primarily Armenian, are what moat U.S. drivers would consider reckless. Not in the unintentional or oblivious way, but are AGGRESSIVELY bad drivers. As a pedestrian, I myself have dodged drivers of Armenian descent (yes, I can tell) numerous times — once nearly being missed by mere inches by a driver who was driving way too fast in a parking lot. I literally jumped 10 feet to avoid her.

  2. After seeing every other car rear-ended when exiting the Garfield and Atlantic off ramps from the 10 freeway (they never look forward when accelerating), I seriously thought CalTrans had gotten pressure from the insurance industries to re-construct them to make them “Alhambra-proof.”

    1. guillermo martinez

      Longtimer. “Alhambra Proof”, that’s great, I love it. But whatever CalTrans does can not “Alhambra Proof” the I-10 on and off ramps.

  3. I disagree with your less-than-informed opinion.

    First, you do not actually know the ethnicity of the drivers or injured pedestrians, based on your statement. If I am wrong, then please share the report you have. I’m sure the Source would be happy to report it. I’m interested in knowing the ethnicity, age, and cities of residence, as well as the location of the accidents. Without that information, your assertions are empty. BTW: You can submit a public records request with Alhambra P.D. They have ten days to respond. 🙂

    Second, the police department said “no specific indicating factor was found” after it “researched the causes, including cultural differences among its large immigrant population or a particularly physically active senior citizen population.” The police are much more reliable a source than someone who has no data and provides no citations to back up broad assertions based solely on ethnicity.

    Third, you seem more incensed that “these people” are here than in engaging in civil discourse about the causes and ways to help resolve this problem in our community.Your reference is a less-than-veiled hostility towards Asians and other immigrant groups who choose to live here.

    Fourth, your examples and arguments are silly. You start out attacking male drivers (put their wives and kids in back) but then use examples that are specific to female drivers (welder hats, socks, and stuffed animals). You generalize Asians as slow drivers and not hugging the curb while taking a right turn. Neither of those driving habits are specific to Asians. My experience tells me they are more likely attributable to new or very old drivers rather than any one specific race or ethnic group. Drivers like that exist in high numbers where I grew up in the very white Midwest.

    I personally think the problem is caused by a mix of factors that all together make it dangerous. At its most basic, people of all ethnicities do not pay attention when driving. They are on the phone, engaged in conversation, in a hurry, stressed at all the traffic, switching songs on their radio/ipod, texting, fiddling with the GPS, looking for an address, etc. All that makes people forget they share the road or to look for pedestrians at intersections or crosswalks. It does not help that the freeways and local arterials are often highly congested, inducing people to look for shortcuts or other quick ways around the congestion and use excessive speed to get around our city. From that we get the turbo-charged 6th Street underpass, Ramona speedway, and Hell-on-earth-Man, among others.

    I’m not asking you to be politically correct, just to back up your assertions with cold-hard data and reliable sources/references.

    1. guillermo martinez

      Dan, I don’t think the poster you replied to needs a report from the police dept. All one need’s do is open their eyes to see who actually causes most traffic problems in Alhambra and Monterey Park. From my experiences it is the ethnic group that makes up 52% of the Alhambra population. Some people just don’t know where they are going until they get there, as is the case with the many 70 year old men that rode bicycles their whole life in Asia until they moved to Alhambra and were given their first drivers license. Did you ever notice the way many of them merge on the freeway at 35 MPH, that is way the I10 freeway is always backed up in Alhambra. It’s just a fact, keep your eyes open and you will probably agree with the poster.

      1. Guillermo, this is one instance where we will need to agree to disagree about the causes or whether a report and access to supporting data is necessary to tie pedestrian dangers to one particular ethnic group. That said, the fact that we disagree demonstrates why we need a more scientific analysis of the problem that looks at the data. 🙂

        As you said yourself in your example, those men are old as well as newer drivers. I could make a similar assumption based on the ethnicity of people I see speeding down my street. In which case, I could guess Latino drivers are the problem because they speed, often drive bigger vehicles that are harder to stop, and make up a significant portion of the population. But I will not make that assumption because I do not have data to back up that hypothesis (nor do I actually believe that drivers of a particular ethnicity are the problem).

      2. guillermo martinez


        All I ask is next time you merge on the I-10 at 35 MPH because of the car in front. Take a peek and see who is driving!:-)

  4. Lets just say it doesn’t take a study to figure this 1 out. We don’t have to be politically correct and know asian drivers usually are the problem. In fact if you look at the chart I see a direct correlation between A. population and accidents. Growing up in Montery Park and Alhambra in the 80’s and seeing the slow migration of these people from riding their bikes to buying cars and putting there wives and grown kids in the back seat you knew this is where we would be headed. Now they drive with socks on their arms, welder’s mask on their faces and 200 stuffed animals in their back windows. Why are the police not more aggresive in cracking down on people who, when driving 4 mph for example are not pulled over? How about making a right turn from the lane next to the turn lane? What about when making a left not moving up so that at least two cars can make a left b4 the light turns red? Maybe the city should start with the local driving schools around here.

    1. If I only had a name

      Correlation is not causation. When the population is around 50% Asian (i.e. 1 out of every 2 people), it’s just plain probability that the person driving is Asian. If the population were around 50% Lakers fans, 30% Clippers fans, and 20% doesn’t care for basketball, are you going to jump to the conclusion that Lakers fans are unsafe drivers just because they’re the ones you see the most?

  5. I was hit by a car while legally walking in a crosswalk in Alhambra a couple of months ago. I’m staying with family in another city still recovering from broken limbs. Once I am healed I am moving out of the Alhambra apartment I share with a friend. Alhambra is NOT a safe place for ANY pedestrian. I don’t make this statement lightly because before I got hit I had many close calls in Alhambra.

  6. Why does this not surprise me?

  7. I’ve also had my run-ins with cars. Unfortunately, too many drivers do not pay attention to the road and their surroundings.