Walking through the bends:Jaywalking a common practice downtown | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Walking through the bends:Jaywalking a common practice downtown

William Ferchland
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Jaywalkers wade through traffic from the Marriott complex to the Village Center on Thursday. Authorities advise against waiting in the middle of the road for a car to pass while jaywalking.

Kristine Silva hears car horns. Kathleen Hood listens to the frequent sound of screeching tires.

“It’s mad on the weekend but yeah, people cross there all the time,” said Silva about Heavenly Village Road between the Marriott Complex and Raley’s shopping center.

Entrances on both sides of the road experience heavy foot traffic from shoppers, tourists and gawkers. The area is bordered by two crosswalks at the intersections of Lake Tahoe Boulevard and near the city’s parking garage at Bellamy Court, creating a cluster of potentially dangerous pedestrian activity similar to a border crossing.

“This is a dilemma that deserves more attention,” said South Lake Tahoe City Manager David Jinkens.

Those interviewed at the complex and shopping center agreed the path should be marked with a crosswalk to protect pedestrians and vehicles on Heavenly Village Road.

“There has to be something there,” said Sam Haycox, a valet with Marriott who has a view of the danger zone.

Silva, an employee at The Tree House, a children’s clothing store, said some parking enforcement at the Raley’s shopping center should be less restrictive.

Shoppers at the Raley’s complex can only park in the lot for two hours before being ticketed.

The result is usually routine: People will park in one area, preferably where they won’t get ticketed or have to pay, and walk across the street to do their shopping and eating.

“They shop at both sides,” Silva said.

Hood, an owner at Wines by the Lake, is also aware of the jaywalkers. She sent a letter expressing her concern to the city months ago. Yet Hood is not sure if the area is a hazard waiting to happen since the most critical time of the year, winter, is almost over without an accident.

The foot traffic has even elicited the presence of a panhandler with a sign of “anything helps” written in black against a slab of cardboard. Although he declined to be interviewed, the man agreed the area should be marked.

South Lake Tahoe city officials are cognizant of the walking traffic and the possible hazards associated with it.

Brad Vidro, the city’s public works director, said putting a crosswalk at the area would be an interpretation that the city believes it’s a safe area for pedestrians, and open a door to litigation if someone is injured.

“Vehicles tend to expect people at the intersections and not in the middle of the block,” Vidro said.

And, as far as the city is concerned, it’s not a suitable place to put a crosswalk. Soft bends in road scrunch it between the two complexes, while snow can pile on the sides, obstructing vision.

No accidents have occurred on that portion of Heavenly Village Road in the past year, according to South Lake Tahoe police Lt. Terry Daniels.

Yet for some, it’s not a question of if, but when.

“It is kind of dangerous because of the people coming out of the car park,” said Jason Albery, a 21-year-old from Sydney, Australia who crossed with friend Alison Sugar.

On Thursday around noon, activity was light and steady. It’s the weekend when the high tide of foot traffic rolls in.

Jinkens, South Lake Tahoe’s city manager, wants to create a safe walkway for people – and understands it’s human nature to find the shortest distance between two points – but stresses people should use the existing crosswalks.

The issue of marking the area is continuing, he said, with ideas to install either signs, paint, stop lights or flashing lights.

– E-mail William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com

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