3rd pedestrian killed in two weeks, Bee jumps to blame victim

In all of 2009, four pedestrians were killed in Fresno.

Over the past 3 weeks, three were killed by motorists, and one by a train. This is actually the second time this very year in which three pedestrians were killed in such a short span of time. I don’t know the total, but I would wager it’s trending higher than the 14 last year.

The latest incident happened at an intersection adjacent to Fresno State. The person killed was a high-school special ed teacher, who apparently was also studying at Fresno State. It happened on Shaw, between the college campus and the student neighborhood, filled with apartments, frats, and some restaurants. You know, the kind of place one finds heavy pedestrian traffic.

 photo shaw5_zpsf4350547.png
ABC 30

Naturally, because the motorist ‘did not see the man,” he was free to go. No word on the height of the driver

Here’s how the Bee reported it:

A jaywalking pedestrian was killed Tuesday evening after a
driver struck him in front of Fresno State in northeast Fresno, police

That’s right, The Bee begins by accusing the victim of breaking the law in the very first line. I say accusing, because the rest of the story contracts this claim of “jaywalking”.

The man, described in his 40s, was walking across Shaw
Avenue from Jackson Avenue
about 6:20 p.m. when a driver of a Toyota
Matrix hit him, police Lt. Phil Cooley said.

Shaw and Jackson? That sounds like the intersection of two streets…. yup, sure looks like an intersection to me.

 photo shaw1_zpsdf08bbc1.png

The campus of course is visible on the north side. The area filled with student apartments is on the south side.

Does the law confirm that this is an intersection? Absolutely.

365.  An “intersection” is the area embraced within the
prolongations of the lateral curb lines, or, if none, then the lateral
boundary lines of the roadways, of two highways which join one another
at approximately right angles or the area within which vehicles
traveling upon different highways joining at any other angle may come in


 photo shaw2_zps2aa7970b.png

Pretty obvious right? It’s important because there are crosswalks at every intersection. So now that we know that this is indeed an intersection…

275.   “Crosswalk” is either:

(a) That portion of a roadway included within the
prolongation or connection of the boundary lines of sidewalks at
intersection where the intersecting roadways meet at approximately right
angles, except the prolongation of such lines from an alley across a


Then we have now confirmed that this intersection has crosswalks. As do all intersections, except alleys. Jackson is most certainly not an alley.

 photo shaw3_zps8bae6060.png

In this case, we have three unmarked crosswalks, even though it’s a very busy place for pedestrians to be. Doesn’t matter, a crosswalk doesn’t have to be marked to be a crosswalk.

21950.  (a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the
right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked
crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as
otherwise provided in this chapter.


It’s simple. Intersection means crosswalk, means pedestrian right of way. Driving 101.

So if the Bee article is correct on the location, then it looks like they’ve libeled the victim by starting the story off by naming him as a lawbreaker, when that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Isn’t it odd that they were so quick off the mark to do this? What was the last time you saw a story start like this:

“A murderous motorist racing along Shaw avenue slammed into a pedestrian….”

You don’t. Unless you’re reading the article in a tabloid, and the victim was a celebrity. The Fresno Bee is not a tabloid. They shouldn’t litter their article with accusations against the victim, and they should probably consult basic traffic law. You know, the stuff every driver is supposed to know, and one would expect the reporter would confirm before publishing.

The article was updated this morning, it now starts as follows:

An Edison High School special education teacher was
identified as the man struck and killed by a car Tuesday night while
walking across Shaw Avenue near Fresno State.

Alex Lark, 43, began
his career at Fresno Unified in 2005 as a special education aide. He
became a teacher in 2012 and taught at Phoenix Elementary Academy and
Edison High School.
Fresno Bee

No accusation. No “accident”. Much better. Not perfect though.

The wording has been changed to show that the real problem is the police officer on the scene. 

Fresno police said Lark was jaywalking across Shaw Avenue near
Jackson Avenue, in front of Fresno State, about 6:20 p.m. when he was
struck by a Toyota Matrix sedan. Lark was taken to Saint Agnes Medical
Center, where he died.

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/11/19/3620203/pedestrian-killed-crossing-shaw.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/11/19/3620203/pedestrian-killed-crossing-shaw.html#storylink=cpy

An article by the college paper goes into further depth.

The driver told police he didn’t see the victim, (Fresno police Lt. Phil) Cooley said, and it appeared to have been a tragic accident.

He said no charges were expected against the driver.

Cooley added: “There are a lot of pedestrians near campus. Please use the crosswalks.”
The Collegian

Assuming both articles have reported the location correctly, it appears that Lt. Phil Cooley has made a mistake. A serious one. Does Fresno PD not know what an unmarked crosswalk is?

Sadly, as we’ve observed before, that seems to be business as usual.

Earlier this year, Sgt. Richard Tucker blamed pedestrians for not wearing the right type of clothing when walking. That was in response for a child killed in a school zone that lacked sidewalks.

In that same article, “Capt. Andy Hall said the simple solution would be to hold pedestrians accountable.” Yup, the solution to an explosion in pedestrian fatalities is citing pedestrians following the law, or existing in a city which doesn’t always build sidewalks by schools.

Incidentally, here’s a map of collisions involving pedestrians and bikes for the year 2011 (only recent data I could find).

Looks like Fresno State has a serious problem they’re not addressing. Presumably, they’re busy focusing on innovative ways to expand parking lots.

 photo shaw4_zpsd8308a20.png

The other two incidents in these past two weeks were the “short driver” excuse, in which a Fed-ex driver ran over a pedestrian, fled the scene, and was not charged, and the following:

Hit-and-run near Fresno Rescue Mission kills pedestrian

A male pedestrian was killed Thursday night in a hit-and-run
crash near the Fresno Rescue Mission, and police are looking for an
older-model Ford pickup that fled after the crash.

Police were
dispatched to G Street and San Benito Avenue about a report of a truck
that hit a man about 8:15 p.m. and dragged him south on G Street.

found the man’s body in the middle of the road at G Street and
Belgravia Avenue about seven blocks south of the mission. Evidence at
the scene indicated the truck fled east on Belgravia Avenue.

The man was later identified by the Fresno County coroner as Jimmy Hill, 66.
Fresno Bee

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/11/14/3610046/southeast-fresno-hit-run-crash.html#storylink=cpy

After the jump, the original copy of the Bee article that inspired this post, which is no longer online.

Pedestrian killed crossing Shaw Avenue by Fresno State

The Fresno BeeNovember 19, 2013  

A jaywalking pedestrian was killed Tuesday evening after a
driver struck him in front of Fresno State in northeast Fresno, police

The man, described in his 40s, was walking across Shaw
Avenue from Jackson Avenue about 6:20 p.m. when a driver of a Toyota
Matrix hit him, police Lt. Phil Cooley said.
Officers found the injured man lying on the road. He was taken to Saint Agnes Medical Center, where he later died.

driver told police he did not see the man crossing the street. The
driver did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol,
Cooley said.

Shaw Avenue between Maple and Barton avenues were closed for a few hours.
It is unknown if the pedestrian had any affiliation with the university, Cooley said.

23 Replies to “3rd pedestrian killed in two weeks, Bee jumps to blame victim”

  1. Unfortunately, I believe the police are correct about the victim jaywalking. All photos and video I've seen from the scene show the vehicle involved pulled over to the median right at the beginning of the westbound left turn lane for the Shaw/Jackson intersection. Barring the unlikely event that the driver struck the victim in the intersection, traveled through and then backed up to the other side, it would seem that the victim was struck well east of the intersection.

    1. Do you have a source for the pictures or video? I was unable to find anyway, aside from the one I included.

      Also, as I noted at the end, even if that was the case, he wasn't jaywalking due to the presence of Jackson.

    2. Most local news outlets had a segment with video from the scene. The best shot I found comes right at the end of this report from KMPH. It's a very quick shot filmed from the northwest corner of the intersection looking east, but you can clearly see the vehicle involved along with two other vehicles stopped in the westbound left turn lane.

      I do have to concede the jaywalking issue. I had just assumed that any time a pedestrian was crossing the street outside of a crosswalk, that would constitute jaywalking. I had to dig through the CA Vehicle Code to learn that the only place that crossing is prohibited outside of crosswalks is between "adjacent intersections controlled by traffic control signal devices or by police officers". My mind is officially blown.

      And that's what I think it all boils down to: most people are simply ignorant of the law. I'm not entirely sure how to solve that issue, but step in the right direction would be mandatory testing every time your drivers license comes up for renewal and possibly shorter renewal periods as well.

    3. Robert, I agree, the current license system is garbage. I got a perfect score in the written portion after a cursory review of the booklet. The DMV guy was floored, as apparently getting perfect is rare. Super sad situation.

      I do agree one should have to do the written portion every renewal, especially because theres always new laws.

    4. I've wondered about what Robert is referring to myself after running across it. My primary concern has been what exactly constitutes "adjacent" intersections?

  2. Fresno is a car culture city. And this may be a harsh thing to say but tons of people including FPD do not know about unmarked crosswalks. So with that being said..eventhough the ped has the R.O.W. in marked or unmarked xwalks…he should have been aware of his surroundings and watched for on coming traffic. Just my opinion…

  3. A cultural change that would save lives like smoking and drinking reduction is for pedestrians to think and wear bright/reflective clothing articles when walking at night. In the darker winter months, just a white knit cap can be a lifesaver. We can't make pedestrians act in their own self-interest any more than forcing smokers to quit. But, we could do public interest campaigns encouraging pedestrians to wear lighter/reflective clothing and drivers to watch more vigilantly for those who don't. Vehicles, down to vulnerable 20lb bicycles are required to have lighting/reflectors at night, so its also a good idea for pedestrians. It doesn't matter if a pedestrian is in a crosswalk or intersection or not when they can't be seen well at night or other low visibility conditions. The alternative is pedestrian crossing signals everywhere at enormous expense that dwarfs spending on bike facilities. Improved street lighting is also an expensive middle ground.

    1. By all means play in traffic in all black, climb a mountain without ropes and barefoot, go boating without a life jacket, walk outside in freezing temperatures naked, use power tools without safety glasses, and have unprotected sex. Darwin will eventually beat you. Your comment demonstrates all the more education of common sense needed.

    2. Mark, your examples are all about forces of nature.

      Cars are not a force of nature. They're driven by a person, with a brain, making decisions. They're driven on roads built by engineers.

      Cars are not mountains, and the examples you chose says a whole lot about you.

      But yes, it's important to realize that seeing a car doesn't mean the driver can see you. However, if the driver can't see you, in a crosswalk, hes driving dangerously.

    3. Wow, I'm trying to get over the whole retro-reflective patches on me in place of adequate infrastructure. Or to put it in other words,"she found that pedestrians who wore retroreflective material on their ankles in addition to an ANSI Class II safety vest-the industry standard for construction and road workers-increased their conspicuity to the same level as someone wearing the most effective, 11-piece biomotion suit."

      Goody, I can't wait until the law requires me to wear something like this!




      It should be noted that retro-reflective materiel degrades substantially over a short period of time. Retro-reflective material looses a great deal of it's visibility over a short period of time, and the only real way to test it is with a trained professional and a light meter.There's some not so much commonly known information. Privately wearable retro-reflective materials are no realistic substitute for adequate and well maintained street lighting.

    4. "Improved street lighting is also an expensive middle ground." I ask, what sort of improved street lighting do you mean? And how is it expensive?

      "The alternative is pedestrian crossing signals everywhere at enormous expense that dwarfs spending on bike facilities." your example ignores middle ground in this respect. Pedestrian crossing signals can be fitted to select high pedestrian conflict zones such as in front of Fresno State or at school crossings,certainly not crossing guards everywhere, crossing signals only where they're needed most. More importantly, the lights in question don't even have to be full time traffic signals synced to the stoplight grid either.

    5. How about we ask why isn't all outerwear available with reflective piping or other added details, so that outerwear designed for stealth were the exception and not the rule? In Europe, brands like Engelbert-Strauss have such reflective materials in their casual outerwear, usually as piping. It doesn't scream in florescent colors, yet has greater visibility. An American brand could own such a market given how there isn't tasteful visibility available here. Weaving reflective threads into fabrics might even increase sales by looking more vibrant – its how laundry detergent sells with chemicals to make whites luminescence under UV wavelengths.

    6. Mark, do you live in Fresno? Most of the year, outwear means jeans, shorts and tshirts. Are you saying that ALL clothes should be reflective? It would add greatly to the cost of everything.

      Shouldnt the onus on not killing someone be the one driving?

      Animals, trashcans, debris etc also find themselves in the roadway. Should they be made reflective?

      Mind you, I own shirts with reflective material for night biking. However that should be the exception not the rule.

  4. I live in the Boston area where we had a string of nighttime pedestrian fatalities clustered around the winter solstice combined with little/no moonlight. I searched and found other communities like yours experiencing similar tragedy. At the moment, temps are just climbing above single digits after a 1-2 foot snowfall. I wish it were jeans and t-shirt weather here now, but wearing a winter coat is a necessity. October-February are the highest pedestrian fatality months in the US and those with the shortest days. For those of us needing to wear outerwear at night, having them visible by default could save lives during these darkest months, so why not? Reflective collars and leashes are available for pets and a good idea. Making everything reflective is a bad idea that would provide visual clutter and glare – make the important things like vehicles, people, and signs stand out most. As it is now, street name signs are reflective, yet pedestrians not, despite being more important to see. Reflective material is good for 50-200 washings, which isn't a problem for outerwear.

    1. I see where you're coming from, especially in terms of those large winter jackets which do tend to be black. I think many already do have reflective strips, at least my ski jacket does.

      You rarely see those in Fresno though. even when it's close to freezing, for most, winter-wear means a hoodie, or two hoodies. It would be impractical to demand that every hoodie be reflective.

    2. "Reflective material is good for 50-200 washings, which isn't a problem for outerwear." manufacturers can claim whatever they like, and it seems odd that they use 'washings' as a metric when years is the standard. What we do know about this sort of material in signage"The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices requires signs to be either illuminated or made with retroreflective sheeting materials and although most signs in the U.S. are made with retroreflective sheeting materials, they degrade over time resulting in a shorter life span."


      It should also be noted that varying environments can also have their own effect on the lifespan of said materials. The quality of the materials can vary leading to lifespans as low as 2 years.

      Why we're still talking about this. To put it in other words," The only people that don't have to be burdened by shiny clothing are the privileged,the automobile drivers."

      Btw, can you explain how effective street lighting is a 'costly middle ground'? Speaking of street lighting, the primary benefactors of street lighting are pedestrians. Motor vehicles are better served by well maintained retro-reflective markings because they have their own light source.

  5. Ski and snowboard wear are an exception when it comes to visible outerwear, being much better than average. If you got a chance to see any crowd video from New Year's in Times Square, NYC, see what is more typical for urban outerwear in the north. A white scarf here or a bright hat there were in the minority. Colors that look bright in light don't look noticeable in low light – as bad as navy or black hoodies. The more I think about how street name signs are made more visible (reflective) at night than pedestrians the angrier I get about priorities being upside down. Seeing people at night is more important than street names at night!

  6. Since the collision did not occur within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, the pedestrian is required to yield the right of way to all traffic approaching close enough to constitute an immediate hazard. CVC 21954

  7. Why would you walk out in front of a car expecting them to see you? Why not hold back until the traffic is clear?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *