Guerrilla Crosswalk Painter Arrested by Vallejo Police, Cheered By Neighbors

This story falls into the unusual but persistent overlap between pedestrian advocacy and vandalism. In Vallejo, California, last week, one man saw the need for a crosswalk at a dangerous intersection, and decided it was his job to make it happen.

Antonio Cardenas got arrested for trying to keep his community safe. Photo: ##http://ww3.hdnux.com/photos/21/77/36/4716438/9/628x471.jpg##NewsTimes##

Anthony Cardenas, 52, grabbed some white paint and got to work at dawn to create his own makeshift crosswalk at the intersection of Sonoma Boulevard and Illinois Street. And he did a pretty decent job, according to the news photos. Maybe the geometry wasn’t perfect, but Cardenas definitely got his point across. And then he got cuffed.

Acting on a tip from a witness, police found Cardenas in his home last Thursday, where the retired U.S. Marine freely admitted to his paint job and explained that his goal was public safety. The cops placed him in the Solano County Jail with a $15,000 bail. As one officer told KTVU, the rogue crosswalk qualifies as vandalism.

Cardenas still faces felony charges. A Streetsblog reader forwarded a statement from the Solano County district attorney, who said the case is under review and Cardenas will be arraigned later.

But it hasn’t turned out all bad for him. An anonymous donor bailed him out of jail and he got a hero’s welcome once he got home, with neighbors hooting in support and TV news crews heaping attention on his cause.

A bandana-masked Cardenas told reporters he was simply trying to make the intersection safer after witnessing several crashes and almost getting hit a couple of times himself. “I got tired of seeing people get run over here all the time,” Cardenas told CBS Sacramento. He said he’d tried to voice his concerns before to public officials, to no avail.

Many neighbors who spoke to the press supported Cardenas and agreed that the intersection – four lanes and “easy for drivers to barrel through” according to the KTVU video – is a real hazard for pedestrians. “All you see is accidents, all day long,” one woman said. Neighbors also say the DIY crosswalk was getting a lot of use before authorities caught wind of it. Vallejo police dispute that collisions are common there, saying none have been reported.

According to KVTU, Caltrans will “grind and repave [the] intersection to erase any remnants” of Cardenas’ paint job, and has no plans to put in a permanent crosswalk.

This isn’t the first time Cardenas has painted a guerrilla crosswalk. He told reporters that after his first attempt painting markings at the same spot about a year ago, he hid out in LA for a while to evade arrest. But he doesn’t plan to try again. “This is not worth it,” Cardenas told the Times-Herald. “Even though I hate for people to be hit … I am not going to pursue this.”

  • Ian Turner

    Wow, what an unbelievable misuse of government resources.

    I also came across this gem: “The Vallejo Police Department sent a cadet to the intersection to ensure public safety throughout the day Thursday. The cadets were there to tell pedestrians not to use the crosswalk.”

    http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Vallejo-Man-Arrested-For-Painting-Crosswalk-209733361.html

  • Its absolutely insane that theyll spend money to remove the markets. There is a legal unmarked crossing there, which in California has the same strength of law as a marked one. Why take it away?

  • Caltrans will “grind and repave [the] intersection to erase any remnants” of Cardenas’ paint job.

    Sounds like I need to go out to all my most hated potholes and paint myself a crosswalk on top of them!

  • Ryan Brady

    What sort of asshole reports a man for painting a crosswalk?

  • gneiss

    What’s even more bizarre that under California law, this this qualifies as a legal crossing that motorists are expected to yield to people walking across the street even without the paint on the road. So, for a cadet to tell people they can’t cross there is a violation of the law. They should instead be ticketing motorists who violate pedestrian right of way.

    “Right-of-Way at Crosswalks
    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.
    (b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
    (c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.

    (d) Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.”

  • It says this guy tried getting local officials to do it, but never responded. That still doesn’t mean you go out with a spray can or a bucket of paint and do it yourself.

    If people want to convert a two-way stop into a four-way stop next to a public school, people just don’t plant their own stop sign, it requires people to petition the local government to approve and get the sign installed. Same goes for people who think it’s their right to paint their own red, green, white, and blue curbs on public parking spaces, nope. Those illegally painted curbs won’t be enforced by the meter maids.

    I call it vandalism, regardless if the neighbors cheer the guy on.

  • Sal

    One of my neighbors painted red pain on the curb outside his home, hoping that people would then not park there.

    It didn’t work as we all knew he had done it. I’m not sure that would have been worth a felony rap, but realistically we cannot have people making up their own road markings. There is a procedure for getting crosswalks and stop signs installed and it should be followed.

    And there need to be penalties for a rule to have any force, so surely the question here is only whether the punishment is too harsh, and not that what he did is somehow OK?

  • Anonymous

    I don’t get it. Just why are they so unwilling to paint a crosswalk? How much can it cost? Officialdom being officialdom, I can see them saying it’s not a proper crosswalk, and that it should be done properly, and we can’t have upstarts taking it upon themselves, but why diss the need for a crosswalk altogether?

  • Phillip

    People paint phony red curbs all the time, never with a felony charge. The overreaction from the police, and barring of pedestrians crossing a legal (unmarked) crosswalk, says a lot about Vallejo’s administration.

  • Sal

    Yes, I don’t understand here why this kind of guerrila action is being supported.

    What if it were someone painting over a bike lane, erasing it? Would he be a hero as well?

    I’m seeing a double standard here. Taking unilateral action is OK as long as it is “our side” who is doing it.

  • Ryan Brady

    Big difference between changing a stop sign and adding a crosswalk. Adding a crosswalk is just a visibility improvement – it doesn’t change the required actions of any road users.

  • walkedmileseveryday

    Someone needs to publicize this: from below…..

    Right-of-Way at Crosswalks
    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.
    (b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
    (c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.

  • Daphna

    Shame on the witness who turned Cardenas in. Cardenas had the courage to do something good for his community. He cared enough to take an action to protect the public. His neighbors should have all kept quiet and been happy with their crosswalk (for however long it lasted) and been grateful to Cardenas.

  • Daphna

    Shame on the witness who turned Cardenas in. Cardenas had the courage to do something good for his community. He cared enough to take an action to protect the public. His neighbors should have all kept quiet and been happy with their crosswalk (for however long it lasted) and been grateful to Cardenas.

  • Turin

    So they have the time and resources to remove a crosswalk and send out someone to tell people not to cross there, but they have no time or resources to paint an offical crosswalk and actually make the intersection safer. These officials have screwed up priorities.

  • Daphna

    This was an unmarked crosswalk by California law. Cardenas just converted it to a marked crosswalk. He did not change anything. The parallels you draw, such as adding a stop sign, do not equate.

    However, if a stop sign is needed and the authorities are not responding, and it an unmarked crosswalk needs to be replaced with a marked one and the authorities are not responding – this is a problem. It shows that too many Transportation Departments are focused only on one type of road user, the driver, and are not sufficiently focused on pedestrians. The needs of all road users need to be balanced. Too often traffic engineers are focused primarily on maintaining the high speed movement of motor vehicles rather than designing complete streets that take into account all road users.

  • Ordinary paint cannot possibly be more resilient than thermoplast. Repaving is not even done when moving official lane markings (e.g. when construction is done nearby). Sounds like a make-work project concocted by an over-staffed Caltrans unable or unwilling to lay off unnecessary workers and intent on costing the taxpayers as much as possible. I feel truly sorry for Cardenas, Vallejo residents, and the taxpayers of California.

  • KillMoto

    Here’s a man who spent his own time and money, and put himself at risk of being run over, in an attempt to improve life and safety in his community.  Could he be released on recognizance?  Hellz, no!  He’s a flight risk!

  • Anonymous

    Here’s the location in Google streetview:
    http://goo.gl/maps/YIYBG

    There is no painted crosswalk, but there also isn’t any sign or barrier prohibiting crossing. So, this is legally an “unmarked crosswalk”, which as others have mentioned, is legally identical to a marked crosswalk in California (and most other States).

    When the Vallejo police had someone stand around and warn people not to cross there, they were making up their own laws, as well as wasting police time and tax dollars.

    I don’t understand why Caltrans won’t pain a cross-walk on the south side of the intersection, when the crosswalk is painted on the north side of the same intersection. There is no difference in the street configuration. http://goo.gl/maps/2RopW

  • lyqwyd

    The difference is that painting a crosswalk is beneficial to safety, while removing a bike lane is harmful to safety. The difference is quite clear.

  • lyqwyd

    Yeah, totally nuts… why not have the cadets help the people cross, rather than prevent them from crossing safely.

  • iskandr

    The cops involved should all be sacked. It is clear from the legal citations that the “citizen produced” crosswalk marking merely reminds drivers of what is already the law they are failing to obey. Cardenas is a hero and the folks who busted him should all lose their drivers licenses for a year.

  • Democratic process is fine, but it’s not worth letting pedestrians get mowed down over.

  • Mom on a bike

    Yeah, exactly. It’s really pretty pathetic that you think an unsafe scenario is analogous to a safety-enhancing one.

  • guest

    Maybe you should read the comments if you don’t understand the vehicle code. Didn’t you recently cop out of being a regular SF Muni rider to opt for driving? You ought to know the rules of the road.

    An unmarked crosswalk is still a crosswalk. Total baloney that you think this is vandalism; rather, it is taking a stand against motorists who are too dumb to know better.

  • guest

    Who gives a crap. That’s a parking enforcement issue, not a traffic safety issue. Mr. Cardenas was trying to save lives.

  • Why does Caltrans not want a crosswalk there? There is a similar intersection on my block, near a grammar school. One time a guy tried to run me down then cussed at me for not using the crosswalk on the other side of the street. 🙁

  • yodasws

    So, everyone in the neighborhood agrees they need a crosswalk, and they now have a free crosswalk, but the state and city will instead pay to remove it? WTF?!

  • But all he did was ‘mark’ an existing ‘unmarked’ crosswalk. He didn’t create a change of traffic restrictions by marking it. Changing your curb color to ward off parking is an attempt to change the applicable status of the curb.

    Best thing to do: call parking enforcement on the person parked at their fake red curb.

  • Remember, lots of people create their own safety infrastructure and get cool titles like “tactical urbanists.” And instead of throwing them in jail, sometimes the city thanks them for their contributions and makes them permanent. http://usa.streetsblog.org/2013/05/31/qa-with-jason-roberts-the-visionary-behind-the-better-block/

  • Anonymous

    The icing on the irony cake is that the zebra stripe crosswalk this guy painted is actually recommended for uncontrolled intersections like this, unlike the standard crosswalk the city installed. Apparently the “vandal” knew better than the “planner”.

  • poncho

    The bigger question is why the hell does some worthless traffic engineer get to decide whether a crosswalk should go in? There is no bigger junk science than traffic engineering, its failed at its job and ignores entire group of street users.

  • Adam Herstein

    $15,000 bail? Isn’t that a bit excessive? What, are they afraid he’ll go paint more crosswalks as soon as he gets out?

  • samizdat

    This is the era we live in: One in which citizens are often punished for the act of embarrassing public officials, no matter what the issue may be. Whistleblowers increasingly–and illegally, I might add–at the Federal level are targeted not because of wrongdoing, but because their actions are seen as an affront to the perceived Village ‘wisdom’. It’s somewhat akin to the corporate tactic of bringing a spurious SLAAP suit against opponents of a high rise, commercial strip, or providing public subsidies to a multi-billion dollar retailer (WalMart, anyone?)

    Our nation is rotting from the top down: from the drone-murdering President and criminal Wall St. banksters, all the way down to these tools in Vallejo,CA.

  • Alan Thompson

    I think the issue for the city is that the crosswalk (although nice) does not meet the standards in the MUTCD, opening up the city to liability if a pedestrian is injured in a collision while using the non-standard crosswalk.

    I am not saying that the crosswalk isn’t justified, but the potential liability of letting it remain in its current state is something the city can’t allow.

    Solution, put in a crosswalk that meets the standards..

  • pedro

    This guy is awesome. I’ve wanted to do this before, but was always too big a wuss–cops in PA would probably shoot you for this.

  • Ben Ross

    The police cadets who tell people not to cross are doing exactly what Mr. Cardenas is accused of doing — giving people false information about traffic rules. Should they be arrested?

  • Andrew

    But an unmarked crosswalk is still legally a crosswalk. The same laws apply, to both drivers and pedestrians, at unmarked crosswalks as at marked crosswalks.

  • M.A.D.

    I applaud Cardenas for taking an extreme step in the name of public (especially pedestrian) safety. Vallejo has many reckless drivers who have no regard for traffic laws, let alone the safety of others and their own. If a petition (or movement) is started to repair and maintain the streets for the sake of safety of the public, I’m on board. It will take the citizens of Vallejo to take the city back before it all gets out of hand. Some dont know how privileged they are to live in such an historic city. Gun violence, loitering, vagrancy, and sideshows are a whole other story…

  • Alan Thompson

    Agreed, but the liability issue remains.

  • solano family

    If the Solano District Attorney prosecutes this….he should get an asshole award for wasting more tax money. Everything in the DA;s office is about politics or gaming for the best record. There are more serious issues in this world.

    AJ
    http://www.solanofamilycourt.com

  • FL

    Wow. Another ignorant uneducated person who can’t understand science so it’s all “junk science”. Right. I guess you also think the earth is flat too. :eyes roll:

  • FL

    It’s not about cost. It’s about safety. Marking crosswalks have been shown at times to decrease safety. It’s been studied to death and many cities have adopted the crosswalk guidelines that were made in the Zeeger studies done around 2000-2005. I am not sure if Caltrans adopted them though.

    From the looks of Sonoma Blvd., it many be a borderline street.

  • FL

    That’s not what I see. It looks like there is slight jog in the street alignment to the south of the intersection. A parked car or other obstruction may obscure a pedestrian crossing on the south side of the intersection even though it has been daylighted. Caltrans painting the north crosswalk is recommending pedestrians to use that crosswalk so they can be seen better by drivers. However, if the pedestrian is cautious and competant, they can use the south side of the intersection if they so choose.

  • Nathanael

    Yes, they should be arrested. Because they are lying to citizens under color of law, they should have the book thrown at them. A few months in prison might straighten them out.

    But that’s just my opinion.

  • Nathanael

    It is junk science. Well, not all of it — I’ve seen some *real* traffic engineering, based on actual psych studies. Which says that it’s critically important to make roads appear narrow, boxed-in, and curving, because otherwise drivers will speed. But that’s never used by state DOTs, which prefer to use 1950s pseudoscience.

  • Anonymous

    As a traffic engineer I can tell you, how to slow down traffic is well-known amongst my peers. We all know that narrowing streets, creating a tunnel effect and curving lower speeds. However, this is part of “best practice”, not of road standards, so things like that are optional and dependent on individual engineers and their ability to ask their bosses to dedicate more money to their projects to do it (with no increased capacity in exchange for the higher costs).

    Ultimately, the knowledge that road geometry determines practiced speed is in fact commonly used instead to refuse demands to lower speed limits. People ask us to lower speed limits, but we refuse because it would create a speed trap as the road would incite people to drive much faster, resulting in more tickets, but failing at actually reducing speed.

    Finally, as a defense to my profession, the standards are not pseudoscience, they work… but they are designed with highways and transit roads in mind. Urban streets are different and should be treated as such. For example, trees near an highway increase the risks of fatal accidents as vehicles that swerve off the road can hit them, so the standard rules out fixed objects next to roads to lower the risk of fatalities, and it makes sense. However, on urban streets, trees on the border of the road reduce speeds and result in less accidents by better “defining” where the road ends.

    Unfortunately, a lot of people are lazy and simply apply highway standards to local streets without thinking.

  • Fantastic response! Thanks, valar84!

    -danny

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Traffic Engineers Still Rely on a Flawed 1970s Study to Reject Crosswalks

|
When St. Louis decided not to maintain colorful new crosswalks that residents had painted, the city’s pedestrian coordinator cited federal guidance. A 2011 FHWA memo warns that colorful designs could “create a false sense of security” for pedestrians and motorists. That may sound like unremarkable bureaucrat-speak, but the phrase “false sense of security” is actually a cornerstone of American engineering guidance […]

Pedestrians Caught in the Crosswalk

|
Finding a safe place to cross can be hazardous to your health. (Photo: jr????? via Flickr) Today on the Streetsblog Network, reports of obstacles for pedestrians from two states. First, from Massachusetts, some observations about crosswalk design. In theory, a crosswalk with a signal and a button for a pedestrian to activate the signal should […]

Poll: The Hunt for the Worst Intersection in America Continues

|
Earlier this week we looked at the intersection of Route 355 and Shady Grove Road near Rockville, Maryland, flagged by Ben Ross at Greater Greater Washington for being especially hostile to pedestrians, even though it’s the site of a bus stop. We asked if it might be the worst intersection in the country and put out a call for […]

Hans Monderman, Engineer of Livable Streets, 1947-2008

|
New Mobility Agenda‘s Eric Britton sends along sad news that Hans Monderman, the Dutch traffic engineer renowned for his innovative "shared space" plans emphasizing human interaction and negotiation over blind obedience to mechanical traffic control devices, died yesterday. He was a rare and radical traffic engineer who believed that the art and science of his […]