Coexisting Safely

By Alice Phillips

Sophomores walk to the bus. Juniors trek to St. Michael’s. Seniors drive off campus at the Harvard-Westlake light. 

All of these tasks must be accomplished simultaneously, yet none of these tasks can be peacefully accomplished at the same time at least not in the current parking lot environment. It’s the pedestrian versus the driver. The 100 pound human versus the 1,000 pound motor vehicle.

It’s oil versus water.

Harvard-Westlake is all too familiar with that reality.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl held a press conference last Thursday at Cliffwood and Sunset, where Julia Siegler ’14 was killed by a car last February, to encourage driver awareness and pedestrian safety.

That morning, motorcycle officers distributed flyers to motorists stopped at intersections on Sunset.

But despite the tremendous efforts of Siegler’s family, friends and busmates to make sure that what happened to Siegler last February won’t befall another pedestrian, the upper school parking lots remain unaccommodating to man and machine’s coexistence.

The very school that suffered the most and the very school whose individuals have taken action has done so seemingly little as a whole to improve pedestrians’ safety.

To get to the bus, sophomore pedestrians have to walk into the right-hand turn lane while more than 100 senior motorists exit the senior lot in no mood to slow down for errant pedestrians in their right-hand turn lane.

Even if the sophomores do stay close to the Taper spots and cross the traffic lanes at the crosswalk, there is no way to get past the hedge and fence without entering a traffic lane.

The solution?

Cut back the hedge. Put a door in the fence. Extend the sidewalk all the way to the first Taper parking place.

To get to the St. Michael’s lot, junior pedestrians have to walk around a blind curve through the most trafficked lane of the senior lot (between the slanted spots and the hedge) while over 100 senior motorists exit the lot in no mood to slow down and/or come to a full stop for a texting pedestrian in their path. Even if the juniors do hug the hedge, the lane isn’t wide enough to comfortably accommodate a pack of juniors and a compact car side by side.

The solution?

Cut back or remove the hedge. Build a sidewalk with a fence to separate the traffic flow from the pedestrian flow.

But clearly, the senior motorists in no mood to slow down will have to get over their imminent need to leave school property and at least tap their feet on the brake.

No matter what time your dentist appointment is or how much history reading you have, pedestrians have the right-of-way. Period. End of conversation.

Going so fast that you leave skid marks in your tracks is, simply put, reckless endagerment.

One of the cars that killed Julia Siegler was driven by a student.

A student.

He left his house that morning intending to go to school, maybe grab a snack with friends and do what teenagers do.

He didn’t intend to hurt anyone. He wasn’t speeding. He did not break any law.

But what happened happened and there’s no way to change it.

He left his house thinking the same things all of the reckless Harvard-Westlake student drivers think when they leave their houses.

There is nothing distinguishing him from any of the students who drive to Harvard-Westlake each day.

Don’t be deceived by how distant or unexpected Julia Siegler’s accident may have seemed.

Don’t assume that it could never happen to you.

Anything could happen to anybody, even if drivers take precautions and the school improves pedestrian walkways. But if changes are made, we mitigate those chances.

If all of the culpable parties take a step in the right direction, as Rosendahl urged last Thursday, we mitigate those chances.

Cut back a hedge.

Put in a door.

Slow down for Julia.

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