The safety of Siskiyou Boulevard crosswalks was the main topic of discussion at the Ashland's Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission's meeting Thursday night.

The death of Southern Oregon University student Gladys Jimenez Wednesday, who was struck last week by a vehicle while crossing Siskiyou Boulevard at the Garfield Street intersection, put the city in "crisis mode" to find solutions to the number of pedestrian, skateboarder and bicyclists accidents on Siskiyou and other main streets in Ashland.

James Olson, interim director for the city's Public Works Department, sent a memo to Ashland's Traffic Safety Commission, which was presented to commissioners at Thursday's meeting.

Olson presented ideas from the pedestrian safety sub-committee that lists educational, engineering and enforcement recommendations for the Traffic Safety Commission, which meets next Thursday.

Olson points out in the memo that Ashland does not have a "Dark Sky Ordinance," but is part of the "Dark Sky Organization," and that current street light bulbs are certified "night sky compatible."

The sub-committee recommended increasing the wattage of the existing street lights nearest to the crosswalks from 70 watts to 150 watts, and that the city's electric department would support the measure to increase pedestrian safety.

On Siskiyou Boulevard, from in front of the fire station to Wightman Avenue, the city has two types of lighting. Tall street lights line the meridians, while shorter, more historical-looking lights, are placed at each crosswalk.

Bike Commissioner Jim Olney said he'd very much support increasing the wattage for the lights at crosswalks.

"I think that's something that could be done immediately and then we could see if better lighting has improved the situation," he said.

Commission Chair Dave Young said he drove his vehicle down Siskiyou Boulevard the other night and was amazed at how dark the crosswalks were.

The Public Works Department put together a map of pedestrian, bike and skateboard accidents that have occurred on Siskiyou from Mountain Avenue to Wightman Avenue from 1998 to 2008. The map indicated the severity of the accident and the year the accident happened.

Matt Warshawsky, a commissioner with the Traffic Safety Commission who attended Thursday's bike commission, said it would be interesting if the map also indicated the time of day the accidents occurred.

Ashland City Councilor David Chapman, liaison for the bike commission, said he'd like to see improved lighting at crosswalks throughout the community, not just on Siskiyou.

Bike Commissioners Mick Church and Julia Sommer supported the sub-committee's recommendation to petition the state traffic engineer to reduce the speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph.

Church said he didn't think either Ashland Street or Siskiyou Boulevard were designed in a very bike- or pedestrian-friendly manner.

"Both of the streets are designed like highways and people drive like they are on highways," he said.

The sub-committee also recommends installing flashing amber lights at one or two of the busiest intersections and that it would be more effective if the flashing lights were activated by pedestrians.

The sub-committee also suggested closing the crosswalk at Garfield Street, where Jimenez was struck. The angled crosswalk crosses five lanes of traffic, does not intersect with the raised meridian and is the longest and least safe crosswalk on Siskiyou, the memo noted.

Few of the bike commissioners supported the idea of closing any of the crosswalks because regardless of whether a crosswalk is there or not, people will continue to cross at intersections they are used to crossing.

Olson's memo also said City Administrator Martha Bennett has authorized overtime hours for crosswalk "sting" operations by the Ashland Police Department and that Chief Terry Holderness offered to organize a series of stings in the near future.

Warshawsky said safety at the crosswalks was a "two-way responsibility" for both the people using the crosswalks and the vehicles that cross them.

Chapman agreed and said he hoped pedestrians and bikers, as well as vehicle drivers, were going to be cited for safety violations.

"It has to go both ways," he said.

The bike and pedestrian commissioners will attended the traffic safety commission meeting which will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28 at the City Council Chambers.

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