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Pedestrian’s death prompts another look at Torrey Pines Road crossing

The efficacy of this pedestrian-activated crosswalk in the 2500 block of Torrey Pines Road has been called into question.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Residents want the pedestrian-activated crosswalk to be converted to a high-intensity activated crosswalk, or HAWK, beacon.

For years, La Jolla resident Ted Cosby has been saying it’s only a matter of time before someone gets killed on the section of Torrey Pines Road that fronts his home. Regrettably, that happened last month when a 70-year-old man died after being hit by a car while crossing the street.

The pedestrian was walking south across the 2500 block of Torrey Pines a little east of La Jolla Parkway at around 6 p.m. Feb. 14, said San Diego police Officer John Buttle. A 2012 Toyota Camry driven by a 40-year-old woman was heading east up Torrey Pines in the right lane when it struck the man. The pedestrian was taken to a hospital, where he died.

For the record:

1:49 p.m. March 8, 2022This article was updated to correct the spelling of Audre McKenzie’s first name.

The man’s name and other details about the crash were not released. Neither alcohol nor drug impairment were thought to be factors, Buttle said.

Cosby and neighbor Audre McKenzie said the man was hit while crossing in a pedestrian-activated crosswalk, which has warning lights that flash when a pedestrian wants to cross.

However, since it was installed in 2018, the efficacy of that crosswalk has been called into question. Some argue that the lights don’t stay on long enough for a person to cross safely and that the 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.

Residents are asking for the crosswalk to be converted to a high-intensity activated crosswalk, or HAWK, beacon, similar to that on Torrey Pines Road between Amalfi and Princess streets. That lighted crosswalk remains dark and traffic is uninterrupted until a pedestrian indicates he or she wants to cross, at which time lights progressively instruct traffic to stop.

A HAWK beacon on Torrey Pines Road between Amalfi and Princess streets
At this HAWK beacon on Torrey Pines Road between Amalfi and Princess streets, the lights above the crosswalk flash red and cars are required to stop when a pedestrian activates the signal.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

“We are looking at a problem and solution,” Cosby said. “It might not be the right one, but we’ve got so many issues that something has to be tried to stop this.” He said he has reported problems with the street to the city of San Diego many times in recent years.

In June 2020, a HAWK beacon for the area was approved by the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board. This month, a memo from City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, to the city Transportation Department echoed that request.

He also asked that streetlights be installed on both ends of the crosswalk and that new “Ped x-ing” warning signs be painted on the street.

As an alternative to the HAWK beacon, LaCava suggested replacing the crosswalk signs with newer ones similar to those on La Jolla and Mission boulevards “that have more and larger lights on the signs.”

LaCava also noted that “currently, a pedestrian can only activate one set of flashing signs from the curb and must activate the other side upon reaching the pedestrian refuge in the median.”

He told the La Jolla Light that the pedestrian fatality is “calling our attention to improving the Torrey Pines Road midblock crosswalk. San Diego is a VisionZero city; this effort is consistent with the citywide goal of zero traffic-related fatalities and severe injuries by 2025.”

In addition to improved safety for pedestrians, residents say they want better access to their driveways.

“When we try to back out of or go into our driveway, we can’t,” McKenzie said. “When the cars are speeding, they don’t see us, and when the traffic backs up, they don’t leave space for cars exiting and entering. Anything that is more viable and visible would be a better solution. They see us trying to enter or exit our driveway and don’t let us in, and they keep coming and when the light turns red, they stop in front of our gate. And if we want to turn left, it’s nearly impossible.”

She suggests the words “Keep clear” be painted on the street so cars have to leave a space when traffic is thick.

Dipping in the 2500 block of Torrey Pines Road has created a 5-inch-deep gap between the street and a nearby driveway.
Dipping in the 2500 block of Torrey Pines Road has created a 5-inch-deep gap between the street and a nearby driveway, as measured by area resident Ted Cosby.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Additionally, a portion of Torrey Pines Road fronting the driveway area is “slipping,” she said, creating a 5-inch-deep gap between the street and the driveway.

“The bottom line is, this is crazy, and we have a problem that needs a solution,” Cosby said. “Do something. Anything.” ◆