ALHAMBRA — Since 1984, residents of the Brykirk Extended Care Hospital on Valley Boulevard have stopped going directly across the street to the bank or the mail box because there is no marked crosswalk for them to use.
"We've had to keep a real watchful eye on our residents who go out, and they've had to walk to other intersections where there are crosswalks," said Sheryl Brykmam,director of the convalescent hospital.
"The older people look forward to getting out, and they get real tired when they have to walk the extra block," she said.
But in two to three weeks, the residents will again be able to go directly across the street to the bank as a result of a unanimous vote by the City Council to repaint crosswalks at 15 Valley Boulevard intersections, including the one in front of the hospital.
The council based its May 12 decision on the results of an informal 20-month crosswalk study by the Alhambra Department of Public Works. The study found that, in intersections not controlled by traffic lights, there were about as many accidents in unmarked crossings as in marked ones.
The Alhambra study contradicts results reached by surveys in several other cities, including one released recently by the city of Long Beach, that have shown over the past 25 years that pedestrian accidents are more likely to occur at uncontrolled intersections marked with crosswalks.
One study cited by officials of many cities that have begun eliminating crosswalks was published in 1972 by the San Diego Department of Public Works.
That five-year study, under which 400 uncontrolled intersections were monitored, showed that there were two accidents at marked intersections for every accident at an unmarked intersection. The data showed that marked intersections were used almost three times as much as those without markings, but that accidents involving pedestrians occurred almost six times as often at those intersections.
Bruce Frederickson, principal transportation engineer with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, said more accidents take place at marked intersections because pedestrians think there is more protection there. "Often they just walk right into traffic and don't look in either direction," he said.
Crosswalks have been disappearing throughout Southern California since the late 1960s when the cities of Long Beach and San Diego and county of Los Angeles released results of studies that indicated their preference for unmarked intersections.
When Valley Boulevard was resurfaced in June, 1984, the Alhambra City Council decided not to repaint 19 crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections. At the same time, the council asked the city Department of Public Works to conduct its own study.
Some Residents Complained
But some Alhambra residents complained, and the council repainted four of the 19 crosswalks that had been covered when streets were repaved.
Los Angeles, Anaheim and several other large cities in Los Angeles and Orange counties have a policy of not repainting marked crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections after streets are resurfaced.
"We (in Los Angeles) haven't actually taken out but perhaps two crosswalks, where fatal accidents have occurred . . . but we have not replaced a lot of them where streets have been resurfaced," Frederickson said.
San Gabriel and Monterey Park have continued to repaint crosswalks after streets are resurfaced.
The most recent Long Beach study showed that over a 10-year period during which accidents at every intersection in Long Beach were monitored, 440 accidents occurred within marked intersections, contrasted with 59 in unmarked crossing areas.
1972 San Diego Study
Although the Long Beach study did not take into account how frequently the crossings were used, its conclusions were based in part on results from the 1972 San Diego study, which showed that marked intersections were used 2.9 times as often as unmarked. Based on its findings and the San Diego data, the Long Beach survey concluded that there were 2.6 accidents at marked intersections for every accident at an unmarked crossing.
Tom Brohard, manager of the Transportation Engineering Department of Willdan Associates, the firm that conducted the Long Beach study, said his researchers did not count the number of marked and unmarked intersections, but knew that there were more unmarked than marked crosswalks in Long Beach.
In Alhambra, Terry L. James, the city's public services director, said that his city's study, which measured accidents at all Valley Boulevard intersections, showed that the absence of marked crosswalks did not make any difference in the number of accidents.
"The data wasn't really conclusive one way or the other," he said.
But James said that the results might have been different "if we had the time to do a lengthier study."
10 Accidents Since 1984