MELROSE, MA — David O’Donnell always used the crosswalk in front of his Yankee Clipper barbershop on West Wyoming Ave.
That was the case on March 9, 2018, when O’Donnell emerged from in between two stopped cars driving westbound. A van driving eastbound — battling solar glare, according to a police crash report — wasn’t able to stop in time when O’Donnell took his next steps.
O’Donnell was 79. His life was taken from him in front of the barbershop he owned since he was 38.
Solar glare is a serious problem the driving eastbound on West Wyoming early in the day, as it is on many streets that run east and west. The westbound traffic backed up through the crosswalk is another issue; Patch found almost the exact scenario laid out in the crash report when it visited the intersection at West Wyoming and Berwick Street.
Now, nearly 1,000 days since O’Donnell was hit, the city is taking steps to make the crossing safer.
DPW Director Elena Proakis Ellis told the at City Council Monday night the city was accepting almost $38,000, which represents two years’ worth of rideshare revenues for Melrose. (The DPW, under interim leadership last year, never brought it before the Council to be accepted.)
More than $11,000 of that money is going toward safety improvements for the West Wyoming crossing area at Berwick Street. The modifications include $8,000 for flashing lights and $3,500 for a flexpost median.
The Melrose Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee recommended the modifications. Chair Jonah Chiarenza told Patch the lights will be a— a light that flashes to let drivers know a pedestrian is using the crosswalk.
“Those are great because they alert someone to the presence of [someone walking] when they hit the button,” Chiarenza said. “It’s been shown to really increase driver yielding.”
If it had been up when O’Donnell was using the crosswalk, the driver of the van may have known someone was in the crosswalk behind the traffic.
The median will allow for a few feet of non-drivable area halfway through the crosswalk — “a refuge,” Chiarenza called it. The median will have flexible posts affixed to the ground. In an emergency, a fire truck or ambulance can drive right over them and they’ll spring back up.
If it had been there when O’Donnell was using the crosswalk, he may have had the opportunity to safely stop midway and see if cars were coming.
The Ped/Bike Committee was happy to help improve the area, which is on the North/South Bike Route and close to the Lincoln School. Chiarenza called it a prototypical design for a crossing with high foot and vehicle traffic.
“Anywhere that somebody’s injured is definitely a high priority for us,” he said.