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Fifth Street crosswalk requested
City studies matter but insists pedestrians are key to safety
Fifth Street
Students at Ceres High School have signed a petition to have the city add crosswalks and signage on Fifth Street on the east boundary of Ceres High School. The city doesnt believe the changes would make things safer but is looking into them. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

A concern for student safety recently prompted students and at least one Ceres High School staff member to ask the city for a crosswalk on Fifth Street.

At the May 22 Ceres City Council meeting, sophomore Gary Condit told the council there is no school zone signage and crosswalks on Fifth Street.

"This is a serious safety issue and a potential problem for the city and a real danger for students' lives," said Condit. He presented a petition signed by less than 1,000 students and teachers asking for action.

The high school sophomore was told that no student pedestrian had been struck on Fifth Street since 1994. But he said one student was hit while riding his bike two months ago and that a security guard was hit in 2011.
Those incidences are not part of accident records, however.

Teacher and track coach Anthony Gerads said he uses Fifth Street to drop off and pick up athletes "and several times I've seen athletes have to almost play human frogger as they go across the street both weekdays and Saturdays." He said three-quarters of students in one of his classes polled use Fifth Street and nearly all of them have had a close call with vehicles.

"They said there's no specific place for them to cross and they said that they kind of just have to go between cars whenever they see a chance. And I know personally driving on Fifth Street there's been several times where I've had to hit my brakes between the hours of 2:45 and 3 o'clock," said Gerads.

City Manager Toby Wells said the Ceres Unified School District decided to make Fifth Street a bus drop-off and pick-up location.

"The city didn't do that, the school district did," said Wells. "The school district creates a problem by changing where they pick up and drop off."

The city can do pavement striping and add signage but crosswalks are "concerning" to city officials, he added.

"Crosswalks are concerning because of what trends people are seeing in traffic safety. Unfortunately a lot of folks who are not only distracted driving are distracted walking. Everyone's looking at their phones and you see a lot of trends nationwide where the pedestrians being hit by cars is skyrocketing. Turlock is wrestling with this all over the place and it's just a phenomenon that you're seeing numbers just jumping off the charts with pedestrian accidents."

He said crosswalks seem to give a "false sense of security" to pedestrians and they often stroll into traffic without looking both ways. That sense of invincibility could pose an even greater problem at mid-block, said Wells.

"A midblock crosswalk where buses drop people off really is concerning from a visibility standpoint," said Wells.

The speed limit on Fifth Street is already 25 mph because of the residential zone.

"Any time you change something like that you're buying some liability."

As timing allows, the city's engineering department will evaluate the condition to determine the best course of action. Wells said the city is in the midst of a pedestrian and bike master plan looking for any "potential safety concerns and how should we address those."