I visited the “Shops at Nob Hill” and surrounding intersections this past weekend, site where cyclist Stanley Atkinson was killed a week ago today. It was eye-opening.
Not living in the area, I don’t much frequent this shopping center that includes a Sprout’s grocery and Weck’s restaurant. While I had heard from others about its dangers and know personally that having anything to do with Lomas and San Mateo is generally bad, it takes a personal visit to get a truer sense.
What a fucked-up situation.
Below are a few photos and bits of description that try to capture at least some of the many reasons trying to travel by, enter, or leave the Shops at Nob Hill is highly dangerous for all roadways users. Apologies in advance that the photos and descriptions don’t do the level of danger justice. It’s even worse than inadequately depicted here.
After years of Average Daily Traffic numbers in the mid 10,000s, Lomas Boulevard’s latest estimated traffic count, from MRCOG in 2017, was 21,000 a day. This 2017 increase was almost certainly a by-product of Albuquerque Rapid Transit construction on Central, and moving traffic from “The Mother Road” to Lomas has always been an intention. With 4-6 driving lanes and a running left-turn median throughout, Lomas’ capacity for traffic in the area is actually higher than Central’s, even before A.R.T. came along.
Well, the traffic is here now. Again, the photo above doesn’t capture it well, but there are plenty of drivers zooming Lomas. The main point of the photo above is that left-turn lane you see. Regardless of the many maddening traffic dangers one experiences exiting onto Lomas from the “Shops…” parking lot, you, as driver, can see that left turn lane quite clearly. You should be able to see what/who might be standing/waiting in that left-turn lane.
So let’s say your driving this white car in the photo above. You’ve turned from westbound Lomas and are trying to evade getting creamed by the traffic coming eastbound. You get to the “Shops…” entrance and you have to slow down because of the entrance’s slope.
You don’t want to slow down in front of traffic on Lomas. You really don’t want to do that.
One thing you’ll also notice above is that the parking lot is pretty full. This is Saturday morning and not only is Sprout’s busy, but the Weck’s is also full of folks hankering for giant piles of hash browns covered in green chile.
Note the list of “Shops…” tenants. My personal experience of this area is living in an apartment not far from here WAY back circa-1995. At that time, I recall what is now Sprout’s was a really bad John Brooks grocery store that nobody frequented and the True Value was, as I recall, a sparsely-shopped thrift store. There was no Weck’s.
Hence central to the danger here is a running theme found in many such dangerous situations: infrastructure has not kept up with growth and popularity. Just ask anyone trying to get in/out of the Sprout’s parking lot. Please. Ask them. From what I saw in a few minutes Saturday and hear from various sources, these folks have a great deal of information they would like to impart to anyone will listen.
Okay, you survived the slowdown to enter the “Shops…” parking lot and are now ready to face the daunting parking situation. But wait, first you have to very slowly crawl past the big “Shops at Nob Hill” sign because the sign serves as massive blind spot, one made even more dangerous by the skinny “driving” lanes in the parking lot.
One additional problem created thus (not captured by a photo, but observed by your humble blogposter) is that while you slowly crawl past that blind spot, other drivers are trying to enter “Shops…” right behind you. These drivers are trying to simultaneously balance:
- Not rear-ending you in the red car above.
- Navigating the slope on the entrance without bottoming out.
- Most importantly, trying to avoid the ever-present onslaught of eastbound Lomas drivers.
The repeated playing out of this scene was extremely nerve-wracking to watch Saturday. I can only imagine how nerve-wracking it must be to actually navigate. One considers this mental state in thinking back to Mr. Atkinson’s death. The driver should have easily spotted Mr. Atkinson in that left-turn lane. But stress impacts decision-making, doesn’t it?
To get a complete picture of what all roadway users face navigating Lomas in front of “Shops…,” one has to also consider the frequently used bus stops directly across from each other. The instance of mid-block crossing depicted above is only one natural occurrence exacerbating the tension at this intersection. There’s also the frequent stopping of #11 buses at these bus stops, causing drivers behind to often quickly change lanes to pass them, backing up traffic in front of the entrance to “Shops…,” etc.
So let’s return to the driver’s point-of-view and list everything potentially going on in trying to exit “Shops…” parking lot.
- First, you’re trying to turn left here, which is something nobody should ever be allowed to do legally (see points below).
- There are westbound drivers trying to turn into the parking lot. They will try to turn in quickly enough to escape zooming eastbound Lomas drivers but slowly enough to not bottom-out their vehicle.
- It’s very hard to tell from this viewpoint which westbound drivers are turning into the parking lot and which ones aren’t, partially because of poor lane design and partially because nobody uses their fucking turn signals here.
- You’ve got some cases, as seen above, of drivers turning westbound from Truman into Lomas. If you’re trying to turn left here, which you shouldn’t and which should be illegal, that matters.
- There are eastbound drivers, plenty of them, zooming up Lomas toward San Mateo.
- There are bus stops on either side of Lomas potentially causing drivers to stop behind the bus at short notice and/or change lanes quickly, both east and westbound.
- You’re leaving the “Shops…” parking lot in something of a frazzled state because of how nerve-wracking the experience of getting into and out of this parking lot has been.
All of which combines to create a wholly unacceptable set of roadway circumstances. The current engineering, design, and implementation of roadway features at the intersection of Lomas and Truman not only makes it easy to argue such engineering played a sizable role in Mr. Atkinson’s death a week ago, it also of course cries out for changes subsequent to Mr. Atkinson’s death.
Nevertheless, one wonders if those desperately needed changes will ever occur if law enforcement continues to blame victims, such as has been the case in the crash report regarding Stanley Atkinson’s death. It is hoped that at least a few decision-makers from the City and “Shops…” developers/tenants will take a few minutes, as I did Saturday, and observe the current situation, keeping Mr. Atkinson in mind as they do so.