Group aims to improve hostile Montclair ped environment
- Published Sunday, January 30, 2005, in the Oakland Tribune
Montclair traffic menaces walkers
Group wants more police presence to slow speeders, prevent illegal
By Laura Casey
OAKLAND -- Jim Dexter, leader of the Montclair Safety and Improvement
Council's Traffic and Pedestrian Safety team, has one wish for his
"I want to be able to walk," he said Thursday as he led a small tour
of his neighborhood sidewalks, or what pass for sidewalks.
He and 10 other people have been trying for a year to find ways to
improve the lives of Montclair residents by making their neighborhood
more walkable and less of a pedestrian nightmare.
They constantly see cars parked illegally, blocking walkways. They
see speeding cars on Moraga Avenue and Thornhill Drive.
According to his team's year-long study, most people want to walk
around Montclair, which boasts an upscale shopping district and an
always-full recreation center.
Yet, more than half of the 100 or so Montclair residents his group
polled said they drive. The reason: Walking isn't safe.
A stroll from Dexter's house on Merriewood Drive through Thornhill
Drive is like negotiating an obstacle course past roaring traffic and
down sidewalks that end at bushes. At some sections along Thornhill
Drive, pedestrians have to walk on the street because illegally parked
cars block the gravel path.
Dexter has tried to get police to ticket cars parked illegally, with
And speeders are rarely monitored or punished in the area, he
contends, calling it a "free zone" for people traveling up to 50 mph
in zones posted for 25 mph.
"If you want to speed here, there is nothing stopping you," he said of
Same thing goes for Snake Road, said team member Brian Vejby, who
wants to see more traffic police presence in the hills.
"There is just a lot of activity, people shopping, people trying to
cross streets and so on in Montclair," he said. "I think police
presence would be helpful."
Group members have had some success in getting the city to listen to
their concerns. Oakland Public Works crews recently installed a
crosswalk island on Mountain Boulevard at Cabot Drive to slow traffic
and help the children at nearby Montclair Elementary School safely
cross the street.
"It has really worked," said Stephanie Windle, whose two sons attend
the school. "All the parents in the neighborhood are saying it's such
a great improvement."
Dexter said he would like to see homeowners agree to a special tax to
build safe sidewalks and streets, and even bicycle lanes, all around
To learn more about the Montclair Safety and Improvement Council's
Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Team, visit the council at