- A woman crossing the street on the stretch of University Blvd. where Cubias Rivera was killed. (TBD)
As reported here earlier, 40-year-old Jose Daniel Cubias-Rivera was killed in a hit and run on University Boulevard in Adelphi last month. Apparently there were two drivers involved in the crash -- a Crown Vic taxicab that hit Cubias Rivera and threw him into the next lane over, where he was hit by another car, perhaps a dark-colored Toyota Camry. Both drivers took off.
Hit-and-run crashes aren't easy to solve, and Prince George’s County police say they haven't had any breaks in the case. Considering the time that's passed, it's looking increasingly likely that these two drivers won't be held accountable for leaving a homeless man to die in the road.
When a pedestrian is maimed or killed by a car, you’ll often read that the victim was “not in a designated crosswalk” at the time of the crash. There’s a strong undercurrent of culpability in such a statement. I don’t know exactly where Cubias-Rivera was walking when he was hit. But judging from where the on-scene investigation was held the night of the crash, he probably wasn’t in the crosswalk.
That is an important detail -- but only because of what it tells us about how this part of Prince George’s County was designed.
The stretch of University Boulevard where the crash occurred was built for automobiles rather than people. But these days there are plenty of people living in that area who unfortunately don’t own cars. Many of them are immigrants who rely on public transportation to get around. They travel down long sidewalks overgrown with grass and weeds; they cross six-lane highways to get to the grocery store; and they do battle with cars as they simply try to get to the bus stop.
Many residents cross the road here where they’re not supposed to, as they do throughout highway-heavy Prince George's and Montgomery counties. Frankly, I would do the same. There’s a crosswalk at University Blvd. and 23rd Avenue, not far from where Cubias-Rivera was struck and killed. The next crosswalk up the hill is nearly half a mile away. Between those two crosswalks are a number of bus stops on either side of the road.
Prince George's is riddled with highway intersections where cars are given cut-throughs to make turns but pedestrians aren't afforded crosswalks. People illegally cross the grass median on these highways because they’re trying to get to their stops without squandering half their day. On a recent morning I watched women pushing strollers across the highway in Hyattsville as cars whizzed by. It made me cringe. And yet the only visible crosswalk was a couple of football field's lengths away.
Suburban places like Prince George's have had a hard time "retrofitting" themselves, as the planners say, to accommodate their citizens who don't have cars to get them around these days. I don't pretend to know the solution here, but I don't think it's a jaywalking enforcement campaign. The streetscape of University Boulevard where Cubias-Rivera was killed simply doesn't meet the needs of the people who now must walk along it.
If you don't give folks safe places to cross the highway on foot, they're going to cross it anyway.