Sara Rubin here, thinking about how sometimes, problems can just recede our landscape—we get used to them and may lose motivation to find solutions. Sometimes, all it takes is one or two dedicated people to get enough momentum going that all of a sudden, a chronic problem becomes something local government can tackle.
A dangerous intersection in Pacific Grove is one such problem. People who walk, drive or bike through the five-way stop at Sunset Drive, Congress Avenue and Cedar Street, had largely just accepted it to be confusing—until consultants from Smart Growth America chose Pacific Grove as one of four cities nationwide to offer assistance to, thanks to interest from City Councilmember Chaps Poduri participating in the 2021-22SGA Champions Institute.
That consulting assistance from SGA is now in its early phases, and the subject of a news story by Pam Marino in this week’s issue of the Weekly. Her piece is about how P.G. came to be part of this program, funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control—motivated by an interest to encourage people to be more active (see: walking)—and also takes readers inside the first steps of assessing the problem and hatching possible solutions.
That includes Marino’s vivid description of a walking tour of the intersection led by SGA. Even if you’ve never encountered this five-way stop, reading her account gives you a sense of why it’s a mess: “Attendees watched the proverbial accident waiting to happen, as a car came within about six feet of a teenage boy on a bike in the middle of a crosswalk. They witnessed other cars entering the intersection, their drivers hesitating, not sure what to do as vehicles approached from other directions. One resident wondered aloud if befuddled drivers would even be able to notice pedestrians and bicyclists.”
Marino herself drives through this intersection regularly, and says she’s noticed it’s problematic —but seeing it through the eyes of experts helped her step back and see more clearly how bad it is.
But what makes this story most compelling for me is that it’s not just about the problem, it’s also about a solution. Some of that solution is already done, simply by getting SGA to notice Pacific Grove and offer assistance. But the real work remains. One idea is a roundabout—a piece of infrastructure that has historically generated controversy locally. But with an effective roundabout just about three-and-a-half miles up the road at Highway 1 and Holman Highway now established, maybe there will be more public appetite to try something new.
Whatever project ultimately does go forward, I’m excited to see local government take steps to notice and fix a problem like this.