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Hawaii News

‘This crosswalk is no good’

Dan Nakaso
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CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
A pedestrian sprinted through the crosswalk at King and Coolidge streets yesterday where 5-year-old Rikanin Kando was struck Sunday afternoon. On Nov. 3 a 79-year-old woman was killed while walking through the same crosswalk.
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STAR-ADVERTISER
DANGEROUS STRETCH OF ROADWAY
Eight pedestrians have been injured and one woman was killed in a series of accidents on a 1-mile stretch of South King Street from 2004 to June.
Red pins mark the locations of pedestrian traffic accidents.

A busy, mile-long stretch of South King Street in Moiliili saw eight pedestrian injuries and one death before a hit-and-run driver sent 5-year-old Rikanin Kando flying out of her slippers Sunday afternoon.

The swath of South King Street between Kalakaua Avenue and Kahoaloha Lane had eight pedestrian injury accidents between 2004 and June, according to state Health Department data. And in November a 79-year-old woman was hit, dragged and killed by a Ford Taurus on South King Street while using the same Coolidge Street crosswalk as Rikanin and her family.

"This crosswalk is no good," Coolidge Street resident Leilani Jose said yesterday, just before two men jaywalked across South King Street behind her. "It’s too dangerous."

The stretch of South King Street that includes the Coolidge Street crosswalk is a busy one-way corridor where pedestrians and vehicles sometimes fail to coexist.

The strip includes storefront businesses, lots of busy on-street parking, Old Stadium Park and bustling Moiliili Neighborhood Park.

And on Monday, thousands of additional cars, trucks and SUVs will pour into the area when classes begin at the University of Hawaii, said Ron Lockwood, chairman of the McCully-Moiliili Neighborhood Board.

"When UH is in session, Moiliili becomes the third-biggest city in the state," Lockwood said. "Our population goes from 23,000 to over 60,000, making us bigger than Hilo, bigger than Kahului, bigger than Lihue. And that makes it more dangerous for pedestrians."

Christina Ross of Kapahulu held her 2-year-old daughter a little tighter at the intersection of South King and Coolidge streets yesterday following Rikanin’s accident.

"I don’t know how anybody can do that to a child and just drive away," Ross said, hugging her daughter, Alea.

Rikanin originally was in intensive care at the Queen’s Medical Center, but her condition had improved by yesterday, said Brennon Morioka, director of the state Department of Transportation, who helped lead an enforcement and awareness campaign around the same crosswalk in December.

Yesterday, Rikanin’s auntie Teinin Singemasa said the 5-year-old injured her left leg when she was hit by the truck or SUV.

"Broken over here," Singemasa said in halting English, pointing to her own thigh.

Rikanin lives in a first-floor apartment on Coolidge Street, just makai of King Street, with her mother, auntie, uncle and three other children, who are all Micronesian, Singemasa said.

She was walking with her family in the makai direction of the Coolidge Street crosswalk just after 3:30 p.m. when vehicles in the closest, mauka lanes stopped to let the family pass, Morioka said.

TO HELP

Any witnesses to the hit-and-run can call the Honolulu Police Department Traffic Division at 529-3499.

Rikanin then darted ahead, just as the driver of a truck or SUV drove through the crosswalk, catapulting Rikanin across the intersection.

Honolulu police continued to look for the driver yesterday.

The crosswalk is so treacherous that Jose, the Coolidge resident, refuses to use it. Instead, she walks to the lighted, controlled intersections at Isenberg Street or University Avenue to get to the other side of King Street.

Jose works at H.K.’s Restaurant up the street from her home and right in front of the Coolidge Street crosswalk. Every week, she sees close calls in and around the crosswalk.

Jose blames both inattentive drivers and equally inattentive pedestrians, who often jaywalk. Cell phone use by both drivers and pedestrians merely adds to the dangerous mix, she said.

With two serious accidents in the same crosswalk in less than a year, Morioka said the message is "that we need to continue our efforts."

His department is leading island-by-island discussions that will lead to a statewide "pedestrian master plan" next year that will set priorities and policies for pedestrian safety projects.

Transportation officials just concluded one round of workshops with island communities and will begin a second round in October to address areas with high rates of accidents and learn about others that worry residents, Morioka said.

In December, Lockwood put on a Santa suit and lined South King Street with Morioka and representatives of Walk Wise Hawaii to make both pedestrians and drivers aware of pedestrian safety.

They were joined by plainclothes and uniformed Honolulu police officers, who — in just 90 minutes — issued 45 tickets to drivers for failing to yield the right of way to pedestrians; 15 citations to drivers for using a cell phone while driving; 14 seat belt citations; and a dozen miscellaneous citations, including one to a woman who jaywalked right in front of a knot of police officers.

Even before the accident, Lockwood had been organizing a sign-waving event to be held 10 to 11 a.m. tomorrow in front of Old Stadium Park, as part of Hawaii’s "pedestrian safety month" activities. On Sunday, Lockwood was driving down South King Street, just two blocks Diamond Head of tomorrow’s sign-waving, when he came upon the scene.

"The fact that it’s a child is horrific," Lockwood said. "A woman was just killed there. It reminds us that we have a terrible, terrible problem."

Today, volunteers with Walk Wise Hawaii will walk through Chinatown from noon to 1 p.m. asking people to pledge to be good drivers and pedestrians as part of pedestrian safety month.

"We need to change this behavior," said Lance Rae, who represents Walk Wise Hawaii. "This all can be prevented."

 

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