Washington neighborhood residents are calling for action from city officials after multiple children were hit by cars in the area in the span of two weeks. They say cars are constantly speeding and driving recklessly through their residential neighborhood in Central Long Beach.
Residents were joined by members of the District 1 council office, city traffic engineers and Public Works officials at a community walkthrough as they braved the 90-degree weather Friday evening to discuss the issue at one of many problematic intersections along 16th Street.
In the span of two weeks, three pedestrians have been injured in traffic collisions near the area. Maria Diaz, who lives near the 16th Street and Locust Avenue intersection described how she is constantly hearing cars doing doughnuts at night. She fears for the crowds of parents and students who use those crosswalks on their way to school every morning and afternoon now that school has begun.
“The city needs to make a stoplight, install a roundabout or the police need to be more vigilant,” said Diaz.
Eight days ago on Aug. 26, a 9-year-old boy and a 19-year-old girl were injured after being hit by a car on 16th Street and Locust Avenue around 6:57 p.m., according to the Long Beach Police Department and the Long Beach Fire Department, which both responded to the scene.
The details about what caused the crash are unclear but in pictures and video footage taken by witnesses at the scene, officers can be seen trying to pry a yellow bicycle out from underneath a black car, a pair of red shoes and black socks are strewn across the asphalt as paramedics aid those who were injured. According to police, there were no life-threatening injuries.
One week before that on Aug. 20 around 5:49 p.m., a 6-year-old boy was hit by a car near Pine Avenue and 15th Street. Police say the driver of a 2016 Kia Forte was traveling southbound on Pine Avenue and was unable to stop when the child ran into the middle of the street. The boy was transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, according to police.
“The way these people drive around here is ridiculous,” said one woman who was walking by the crowd. “People don’t stop at these stop signs, they just roll right through them.”
It’s not the first time that residents in the Washington neighborhood have urged city officials to focus more on pedestrian safety. In April, a babysitter was struck while crossing Pacific Avenue as she was walking the kids she takes care of to Washington Middle School.
Residents then urged Public Works to consider a traffic signal in the area. Now, they want the city to consider installing speed tables or speed humps on residential streets like Locust Avenue, Pine Avenue and Elm Avenue to slow down drivers.
City traffic engineer Paul Van Dyk, who was in attendance at the gathering, told members of the Washington Neighborhood Association that speed bumps have been popularly requested throughout the city. In order to consider installing them, public works will need to properly inspect the area first.
Van Dyk said any requests and suggestions may be sent to Public Works via email and any requests to fix broken signage or traffic lights can be requested via the Go Long Beach App.
There are a few projects running throughout the Washington neighborhood that the city is working on. However, none are expected to be completed until 2025 which residents say is far too late.
“We’d like to do everything faster,” said transportation planner Ricardo Light. He explained, however, that it often takes a long time to secure funding for projects, design them and then start building.
In February, the city presented its plans for the Pacific Avenue Cycle Track, an $8.3 million project that will extend from Ocean Boulevard to Pacific Coast Highway and reduce the volume and speed of traffic.
The project is in the design stage but will include shorter pedestrian crossings, a separated bikeway and bus islands, and will shorten Pacific Avenue from five lanes to three. The project is expected to start construction in 2024 and will hopefully be completed by 2025, according to Light.
Another project, the Pine Avenue Bike Boulevard will extend from Eighth Street to Willow Street and will have an estimated total cost of $4.1 million.
This project will introduce many traffic calming features including raised intersections, traffic circles and diagonal parking among other features.
“It’s important that we show up and let them know that we need these changes,” said Jesus Esparza, president of the Washington Neighborhood Association.