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‘Pedestrians have to do their part to avoid accidents’: La Jollan gives out reflective gear at weekly market

La Jolla resident Laurie Block models some of the reflective gear she gives away at the La Jolla Open Aire Market.
(Courtesy of Laurie Block)

As many La Jollans wait for darkened streetlights to be repaired, one resident is doing her part to promote nighttime pedestrian safety by giving out reflective gear for free at the weekly La Jolla Open Aire Market.

“In the town of La Jolla, the streets are dark. After sundown, visibility is poor, especially if there is fog or a marine layer,” Laurie Block said. “There are skateboarders, cyclists, surfers walking back from the beach, pedestrians walking dogs, motorized wheelchairs, electric scooters ... children playing in the street and elderly drivers. Often pedestrians … appear distracted by smartphones, texting or listening to music. The lack of streetlights in combination with people being distracted is increasingly making our streets unsafe.”

Block said she’s observed that many of La Jolla’s side streets and alleys that are frequented by cars and pedestrians are not well-lighted. As a health care professional, the registered dietitian said she believes in prevention and sees the use of reflective gear as a way to avoid dangerous encounters with vehicles.

While called “The Type 1 Diabetes Cookbook,” La Jolla resident Laurie Block’s recently penned work is more of a guidebook into the world of Type 1 Diabetes (previously known as Juvenile Diabetes), which affects approximately 1.25 million people in the United States.

“During the pandemic, many were exposed to the concept of personal protective masks and gear to prevent against COVID-19,” Block said. “My view is that pedestrian safety is a shared responsibility, and we should use personal protective clothing to keep ourselves safe.”

She started buying high-visibility safety apparel in the form of hats, jackets, wristbands, shirts and more. The reflective materials used in the items direct a large portion of a light beam — such as a headlight — back to its source, Block said.

“High-visibility safety apparel has the ability to help the driver put you in focus,” she said. “Retroreflective clothing has been shown to not only facilitate a driver’s early recognition of pedestrians but also increases their accuracy in determining the walking direction of pedestrians as they cross the street.”

Block said she wanted to distribute the apparel at the La Jolla Open Aire Market because it is “frequented by many of those in our local community.” Also, by being on the grounds of La Jolla Elementary School, it is “a perfect location to bring awareness to families and the community,” she added.

“We teach our kids to stop, look and listen when they cross the [street], but everyone needs to follow similar safety precautions.”

The Open Aire Market is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays at Girard Avenue and Genter Street.

Block, a New York native, said she knows pedestrians need to coexist with fast cars, cyclists, taxi drivers and large buses that can prevent visibility, and she said she’d like to see “drivers proceeding slowly, especially at intersections.” But pedestrians, cyclists and others also need to use caution, “especially when they have headphones, [and] avoid texting or using phones in crowded areas or on low-lit streets.”

Block noted that the city of San Diego’s Vision Zero plan is to have no traffic-related fatalities or severe injuries by 2025. “The city has started to put pedestrian safety on the agenda,” she said. “There has been some success implementing high-visibility crosswalks or countdown digital flashing lights and arrows.”

But until Vision Zero is a reality, “pedestrians have to do their part to avoid accidents,” she said. “Individuals [must] begin to take some responsibility to protect themselves.” ◆