Pedestrian killed while crossing El Camino in Atherton is identified | News | Almanac Online |


Pedestrian killed while crossing El Camino in Atherton is identified


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By Dave Boyce

Almanac Staff Writer

One of two men who were crossing El Camino Real in an easterly direction at about 6:15 a.m. this morning (Friday, Oct. 15) was struck and killed by a car in the middle southbound lane near the intersection with Watkins Avenue in Atherton, police said.

Honofre Mendoza, a 55-year-old homeless man, was pronounced dead by medics from the Menlo Park Fire Protection District almost immediately upon their arrival on the scene, Lt. Joe Wade told The Almanac.

Mr. Mendoza was a familiar presence in Atherton and known to the police. "It was not out of place for him to be there," Lt. Wade said, adding that the roadsides of El Camino are popular with homeless people traveling between Redwood City and Menlo Park.

Mr. Mendoza's companion, the only witness to the incident, was not injured and was interviewed by police, Lt. Wade said.

The driver of the car, a Toyota Camry, had been traveling alone and volunteered to be tested for drug or alcohol abuse. Test results were negative, Lt. Wade said.

The driver is a 44-year-old man and a resident of Atherton, Lt. Wade said.

Police closed traffic on El Camino for four hours in the southbound direction and three hours northbound while investigating and recording evidence at what had been designated as a crime scene.

"That's what we classify it as when we have a fatality," Lt. Wade said. "Just to make sure that all the evidence is preserved as best as possible."

Police reported around 10:50 a.m. Friday that El Camino Real has reopened.

This is the second fatality on El Camino Real in Atherton in the past three weeks. On Sept. 30, Christopher Chandler was killed while riding a bicycle across El Camino Real at Isabella Avenue.

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Like this comment
Posted by Corinna
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 15, 2010 at 8:29 am

El Camino through Atherton and Menlo Park is a very dangerous stretch of road, especially for cyclists and pedestrians. Foliage and walls close to the traffic lanes, bus stops, poorly lit crosswalks and fast traffic all combine for a dangerous environment. There are several schools and a college in the neighboring community, and many people have no choice but to walk along or cross El Camino to get to work and school.
Please please be careful driving through this area!

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 15, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Don't expect the privileged citizens of Atherton to do anything for safety, especially for the safety of non-Athertonians.

Several years ago the city decided to place "bots" dots and striping on numerous streets to better define the two traffic lanes (one in each direction). Unfortunately the aristocracy of Atherton complained that they impinged upon the Atherton aesthetics and the city removed all of them.

In any case El Camino is under state of Calif control. How about a traffic signal at Watkins? Call your local state senator and assemblyperson(s).

Like this comment
Posted by Kelly
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Oct 15, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Gee Bob, sounds like you have a real chip on your shoulder.

Like this comment
Posted by Horst
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 15, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Bob's correct, regardless of how he "sounds". Stick to the issue.

Like this comment
Posted by Midnight
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 15, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Very sad event! My condolences go out to Mr. Mendoza's family and friends.

This is the second time in a month that there has been a fatality on El Camino between Atherton Avenue and Valparaiso. The city of Atherton should implement one or all of the following: build a cross walk with lights at Watkins Avenue, implement a bike lane on El Camino and reduce the speed limit to 25 MPH.

Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of another community
on Oct 15, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Clearly, something needs to change on El Camino Real. It is a freeway between 5th and Encinal, with only a single stop light to slow things down.

Unfortunately, El Camino is maintained by CalTrans. It is a state route. Atherton has no right or ability to put up anything on El Camino.

Atherton's Council, however, needs to raise a stink about the situation. That might just carry some weight. A resolution? Calling the head of CalTrans to speak at an investigatory council session? A letter from the City Attorney??

Given the new building at Watkins, the cross-traffic at that intersection, and now two tragic deaths (and also a near death), it is TIME TO ACT.

Go to an Atherton Council Meeting and speak out about this nightmare during the open comment period. It's your right; it's your obligation.

Like this comment
Posted by Petunia
a resident of another community
on Oct 15, 2010 at 4:02 pm

This area has been famous since the 60s for relatively strict enforcement of speed limits but it clearly takes more than that to ensure the safety of people not "encased" "safely" in vehicles. I would agree with suggestions for traffic signals and bike lanes -- and when it comes to public safety, I think aesthetics should take a back seat.

Like this comment
Posted by Don
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 15, 2010 at 6:21 pm

As a resident of Atherton, and one who has been involved in a serious accident at this same intersection, I am appalled that in light of these very serious problems there, nothing gets done. Watkins and El Camino has needed a control signal for years. A few months ago a no left turn between 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. sign was installed on Watkins, yet scofflaws continue to ignore it and I've never seen anyone ticketed there. The over-staffed Atherton Police Department is a farce, placating its own ego by continued harassment of citizens like Brian Bothun and ignoring the real issues of this town.

Like this comment
Posted by Vicky
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 15, 2010 at 6:51 pm

My condolences go to the driver too. It was still dark out at that time of day and the road is not all that well lit. It's easy to imagine myself in his shoes: how terrible to be in an accident like this.

Like this comment
Posted by Corinna
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 15, 2010 at 10:26 pm

I agree with Vicki - a tragedy for the victim and his companion, and most certainly also for the driver, whose life is forever changed.

Like this comment
Posted by dharma
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 15, 2010 at 11:11 pm

Sad to hear of this. But air bags and universal healthcare do not take the risk out of real life, and you can't cross El Camino just before dawn without care. Also yesterday an 85 year old man was killed in San Mateo, he parked on ECR and then J-walked in front of an SUV. Life and risk are real. From the SMPD: Preliminary investigation revealed that the pedestrian had just parked his vehicle on the north side of 25th Avenue and was crossing the street southbound outside of the marked crosswalk. He entered the pathway of an oncoming SUV and was struck. The SUV was being driven by a 58 year-old female resident of San Mateo. Alcohol was not a factor in this collision. No arrests were made and no citations were issued at the scene.

Like this comment
Posted by citizen
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 16, 2010 at 10:06 am

dharama has a good point, HOWEVER, pedestrians need to be accountable
as well ! jay walkers, people crossing against both walk/traffic lights "because I can make it", doesn't let them off the hook either. It is a terrible tradgey, both drivers and pedestrians need to take heed as well. ECR is a race track and especially in the early AM.Drivers need to slow down & pedestrians need to cross at the light, a combined effort.

Like this comment
Posted by Tax payer
a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Pedestrians have the right of way



(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 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 unmarked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

Notice these subdivisions do not necessarily require a motorist to wait for a crossing-walking pedestrian to completely leave the crosswalk and step onto the curb before a driver may lawfully pass. Instead, the statute requires only that a driver yield the right-of-way to pedestrians [subsection (a)], and to exercise "all due care," [Subsection {c}. Vehicle Code 525 defines right-of-way as "the privilege of the immediate use of the highway."

In People vs. McLachlan (1939) Cal. App. 2d Supp. 754, the defendant driver approached a crosswalk after two pedestrians had already passed in front of them. While the defendant was approaching, the pedestrians leaped backward into defendant's path. Defendant braked but was unable to avoid hitting them. The court held that defendant did not have a duty to stop before reaching the crosswalk, and he was not required to anticipate that the pedestrians would turn around. Although the crossing pedestrians were still in the crosswalk, the motorist had a right to pass at a safe speed and at a safe distance from the pedestrian. Please note - This understanding is consistent with the California Drivers Handbook which has some 26 references to "crosswalks," but nowhere warns motorists that they must wait for pedestrians to completely cross.

Thus, the practical rule requires officers to assess the facts at hand in light of their training and experience. When a pedestrian crossing a roadway on a crosswalk is so far from the path of an approaching automobile and proceeding in such a manner that no interference between them is reasonably to be expected, the motorist is not required to wait under Vehicle Code 21950.

In People vs. Hahn (1950) 98 Cal. App. 2d Supp. 841, the motorist was lawfully stopped at a signal when the pedestrian was lawfully crossing the crosswalk. The signal for the motorist then turned to green, which means, "proceed when safe." The driver then proceeded to pass into the crosswalk but was cited for failure to yield the right-of-way to the pedestrian. This conviction was upheld because the defendant had a duty to wait for the pedestrian in order to avoid interference with him.

Hahn explained it would be alright for a motorist to pass where the crossing pedestrian is so far from the vehicle that "the latter can proceed to make use of that portion of highway lying within the crosswalk without interfering with the right of the pedestrian to use it when he reaches it." In such a case, reasoned the court, "the duty upon the driver is not so expressed that he is required to wait until the crosswalk is clear; his duty is to wait only if necessary to avoid interference with the pedestrian. Thus the standard is "reasonable expectations." If interference between the driver and the pedestrian is not reasonably expected, the driver is not required to wait for the pedestrian.

Hahn said the two key factors are (1) distance that the pedestrian is from the path the vehicle will take, and (2) the speed of the vehicle. "In some cases the pedestrian will have been so close to the waiting motor vehicle that beyond any speculation the vehicle could not proceed without interfering with the pedestrians's right-of-way. In other cases, the pedestrian will have been so far away that no doubt exists that the vehicle's movement did not interfere with that of the pedestrian." Finally, there are the in-between situations where police will have to make and justify reasonable judgment calls based on their observations in light of their training and experience.


Pedestrians also have a duty to exercise due care. [Vehicle Code 21950 (b)]. The statute prohibits pedestrians from suddenly walking or running into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard, and from stopping or delaying traffic in a crosswalk. As Sgt. Billy Tyler of the Temecula Police Department correctly said in a recent news article, "in order to have the right-of-way, someone must yield." At a crosswalk, "when a pedestrian has the green light to walk, they have the right-of-way. However, if the vehicle has the green light, the pedestrian must yield to the vehicle and must obey the pedestrian signal. When there is no light, the pedestrian must use caution and wait for traffic to clear or stop before crossing. Common sense has to come into play."

A pedestrian crossing the street on a crosswalk must use ordinary care to prevent injury from automobiles. "The care required must be in proportion to the danger to be avoided and the consequences that might be reasonably anticipated...Pedestrians must be alert to the fact that vehicular traffic approaching in multiple lanes, ebbing and flowing with signals, is always dangerous, and doubly so in the night time." [Mendelson vs. Peton (1955) 135 Cal. App. 2d 390.]

Furthermore, pedestrians are required to yield the right-of-way tovehicles already in the intersection when the "walk” signal is first shown. [Vehicle Code 21451(c); Myers vs. Carini (1968) 262 Cal. App. 2d14]


Nearly one-half (48 percent) of all pedestrian fatalities occurred on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday: 17 percent, 18 percent, and 13 percent, respectively. (Stats provided from the National Center of Statistics & Analysis, Washington D.C.)

Like this comment
Posted by Don
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 16, 2010 at 11:23 pm

This is indeed tragic; wait to see what happens to El Camino traffic if Measure T passes.

Like this comment
Posted by David Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on Oct 17, 2010 at 3:12 pm

David Boyce is a registered user.

The report from the Atherton Police Department makes no mention of a crosswalk in connection with this accident, which happened on ECR just north of Watkins Avenue.

I was there while police were gathering evidence and do not recall seeing a crosswalk, nor does one appear in the photos I took.

Likewise, an overhead view of the site using Google Maps does not show a crosswalk.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 17, 2010 at 10:32 pm

From the California Vehicle Code:

V C Section 275 Crosswalk
275. "Crosswalk" is either:

(a) That portion of a roadway included within the prolongation or connection of the boundary lines of sidewalks at intersection where the intersecting roadways meet at approximately right angles, except the prolongation of such lines from an alley across a street.

(b) Any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface.

Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, there shall not be a crosswalk where local authorities have placed signs indicating no crossing.

Since there is now a sidewalk at Watkins, there exists an unmarked crosswalk. A crosswalk is not required to be marked.

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 17, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Menlo Voter -
Is there any distinction between a full intersection and a T intersection such as Watkins?
Also, must there be a sidewalk on both sides of the street as there is none on the west side of El Camino.
Also, was the El Camino being crossed on the north side of Watkins where there is no sidewalk?

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 17, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Don, yep if T passes we'll have to watch out for that 1 (one) car increase every 24 hours at that section of El Camino.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 17, 2010 at 10:55 pm


I don't know the answer to your last question as I'm not privy to the police report, but by definition, at a perpendicular intersection with a sidewalk, the extension of the sidewalk lines forms a crosswalk. Watkins now has a sidewalk on the south side, thus there is an unmarked crosswalk there. The code makes no distinction as to T intersection or four way intersection. A sidewalk is not required on the El Camino as the crosswalk is an extension of the sidewalk lines that are perpendicular to the other street. In this case, again, because there is a sidewalk on the east side of El Camino at Watkins there is a crosswalk crossing Watkins as well as one crossing El Camino. I'm not sure that's clear, but I hope so.

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