Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A fully-avoidable horror story

How much do we value human life?  How big of a priority to we, as a local society, place upon the safety of our children?  These are the questions I encourage you to contemplate as you read this post.

A precious, irreplaceable little girl was struck and killed by a motor vehicle yesterday morning in Texas City as she waited for her school bus to arrive. 
Christina Lopez, age 11, photo screengrabbed from this Galveston County Daily News article.
The circumstances of her passing included exactly those same contributing factors related to infrastructure about which I have absolutely railed in previous blog posts.

The road was narrow and unimproved, with no sidewalk.
According to published reports, this is the approximate location where she was struck.  No sidewalks, no shoulder, just a narrow strip of blacktop over grade.  Who knows what construction standards were in force when this residential street was installed?  Whenever that occurred, the standards included absolutely no provision for pedestrians. 

Screengrab from Google street view.
The lack of essential infrastructure shown above is not rare and is certainly not limited to Texas City.  In a May 2011 blog post titled "Municipal Shame", I showed a dash cam screengrab of a young boy who d*mned-near fell under the wheels of my own car because his foot slipped off the curb as he was walking.  There was no sidewalk available at this densely-populated location in the City of Webster, and he was doing the best he could to walk in the narrow strip of grass between the street and this adjacent private property - but it almost cost him his life, and here once again is my memorable photo of that event:
See his body tipping toward the roadway as he struggled to maintain his balance. 

I was traveling 35 mph when this was taken - if he had fallen, I would have almost certainly struck and killed him because, at such close range, there would not have been time for evasive action. 
And what I spent considerable time railing against wasn't just that incident, or that boy, or that municipality.  This failure to meet the basic needs of our local pedestrian population is endemic:
I still don't have an answer to who the hell in League City approved the plans for the Sportsplex WITHOUT a sidewalk in front of it to connect with the other sidewalks that already exist in front of Star Toyota and also re-commencing at West Walker. 

How F-ing difficult is it to require sidewalks?!  This is NEW CONSTRUCTION - this should have been a no-brainer.  Which one of our municipal wizards was asleep at the approvals wheel when this particular development design was rubber-stamped? 
But of course, as I've also bitched out loud before, we can't even seem to make our own municipal complex into a walkable area!!  No sidewalks here, either, despite the fact that kids converge on the public swimming pool located within this complex!!
In this other post, called "The Bravest Leaguer", the situation was especially telling: a tiny speck of another precious little girl, wobbling down one of the miserably-unimproved streets in Old Town as she tried valiantly to learn to ride her bike.
Where is the simplest public infrastructure that would be necessary to pay even the most basic level of respect to this child's life?

Where is the sidewalk that this child should rightfully have access to? 

There's nothing.  Most of Old Town is characterized by crumbling pedestrian-unfriendly narrow strips of asphalt with nothing but deep muddy ditches on each side.
And it's not just the children who are denied basic safe pedestrian access to our outdoor areas.  Here's a very telling picture that I took just two days ago, because I was fixin' to blog again about this larger issue even before Christina was killed:
Sunday, September 23, 2012, fairly early in the morning.

Do you see that car parked at the terminus of Centerpointe Drive?

Do you ever wonder why cars are frequently parked in this location at the very back of our subdivision, especially in the mornings?
I'll tell you why cars are frequently parked there:  it's because the people driving them have no basic access to safe public infrastructure that includes sidewalks

Wrap your head around this, now:  Those people come from other neighborhoods so that they can avail themselves of our one isolated sidewalk segment which I nicknamed Centerpointe's "Bridge to Nowhere". 
If you pay careful attention to what's actually going on, you'll frequently see people stop here so that they can walk, jog, and/or exercise their dogs.  This one-mile segment (two miles if you do the loop) seems to be one of the few good accessible sidewalk opportunities for some League City-ers.
How does that grab you?!  How do you feel about your wider society when you contemplate the fact that some of those people who park at the end of Centerpointe Drive are doing that because that's all they've got.  That's the best they can achieve for themselves in the way of obtaining a simple, safe walk outdoors. 

A week and a half ago, military personnel apparently asleep at the wheel failed to stop a Taliban attack that cost American taxpayers $200 million.  We as a country effectively p*ss away that kind of money in the blink of an eye, and yet we can never seem to find the kind of funds that would provide the most basic public infrastructure - simple sidewalks - for our little children and adults.  It *disgusts* me. 

Those of you who are reading this who hold political positions:  Please take note of what I'm saying and the importance of it, because the decisions you make today could very well indirectly factor into the death of a child tomorrow, unless those decisions are well made.  This is not a joke or a hypothetical scenario.  Galveston County residents are needlessly put at risk of their lives for lack of basic infrastructure such as sidewalks in residential areas.  They die because, without sidewalks, they have to share the road with motor vehicles and, in a conflict for space, the motor vehicles always win.  It's not right. 

My heart goes out to the Lopez family for their incalculable loss.  I'm the mother of a daughter just a few years older than Christina was.  My daughter, too, takes a school bus each day.  My daughter has access to sidewalks now that we live in Centerpointe, a sidewalk available for her and the other subdivision children as they wait for their bus, but that was not at all the case when we lived in Old Town League City.  When we lived in Old Town, she waited on the open unprotected street pavement just as Christina did yesterday.  What happened to Christina yesterday is not right.  For the sake of our people, I hope we can each contribute something to fixing those inexcusable underlying infrastructure conditions that so obviously contributed to her unthinkable death. 
Screengrab from this post in which I talked about the phenomenally high number of people killed in our area in traffic events.  The map shows an excerpt from the ITO database of traffic fatalities, 2001-2009.  The blue ones are pedestrians.


  1. Thank you for including and thinking of my daughter. We have full intentions of attending the school districts open forum demanding the funds to provide safe bus stops for our school bus stops. If Texas City can have the funds to redo 6th st and provide safe covered bus stops for public transit why not invest in our children's safety?

  2. Godspeed to you and your family, Mrs. Lopez. Christina will remain in the hearts and prayers of countless people. Let's hope some of them are local politicians who can actually help make something happen to fix these unsafe conditions.


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