New Torrey Pines Road pedestrian crossing raises questions in La Jolla

The recently installed pedestrian-activated blinking crosswalk installed across Torrey Pines Road between Pottery Park Driveway and Ardath Lane has raised a number of questions.

On the one hand, employees and guests of the nearby La Jolla Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, at 2552 Torrey Pines Road, now have a safer option to cross from their parked cars across the street. On the other hand, the location is around a curve at the bottom of a hill often subject to speeding drivers, and the signage indicating a crosswalk is partially blocked by trees.

Stemming from a request by the La Jolla Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in 2017, the crosswalk is intended to provide safer crossing options for employees and visitors who park along the south side of Torrey Pines Road.

“Previous to this recent installation (in early October), people were jaywalking and running across Torrey Pines Road rather than walking to the closest intersection and crossing with the signal. Although it was on the City’s unfunded requests list, it was recently granted funding and installed,” explained City spokesperson Anthony Santacroce.

“After a study of the location and associated traffic conditions, it was determined that the crosswalk meets the required criteria found in Council Policy 200-07 and the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices,” Santacroce said.

Council Policy 200-07 “provides the requirements uncontrolled pedestrian crossings must meet in order to be considered for a marked crosswalk, how a crosswalk must be marked, and the process of removal, if necessary” and takes into consideration factors such as the number of pedestrians that use the street during peak times, visibility, the nearest controlled crossing and more.

The crosswalk that was installed across Torrey Pines Road features a striped walkway, with a makeshift island in the center, delineated by stanchions. Similar to other blinking crosswalks in Bird Rock and The Village, pedestrians wishing to cross can push a button to activate the blinking lights.

But is it enough to make the crossing safe?

One La Jolla Light reader critiqued that the flashing lights do not stay on long enough for pedestrians to get all the way across. Further, the rate of speed at which most drivers take that street coming down from La Jolla Village Drive, coupled with the curve in the road, shortens the distance at which the crosswalk is visible.

For years, residents have lamented the speed at which cars drive down the street, some calling it “the Torrey Pines Freeway,” according to past Light coverage.

San Diego Police traffic enforcement officer Mark McCullough said, in general, the area is subject to speedy drivers. “I know the road, I know the area. On the type of set-up (on that road), are you are more likely to get a higher speed if a driver is not paying attention or if they are distracted. That’s why enhanced traffic controls, such as the lighted crosswalk, are being looked at.”

He added that a blinking crosswalk can be seen as a traffic calming measure because it is designed to bring the motorist’s attention to the fact that pedestrians are crossing.

“If you look at a level roadways with a speeding problem, we would put a normal crosswalk that doesn’t blink. But this one was installed with the lights so people see it. Crosswalks like these have a better impact when sight and speed is a factor,” he said.

The California Driver’s Handbook’s “Right of Way Rules” calls on drivers to “respect the right-of-way of pedestrians. Always stop for any pedestrian crossing at corners or other crosswalks, even if the crosswalk is in the middle of the block, at corners with or without traffic signal lights, whether or not the crosswalks are marked by painted lines.”

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