Calls for safety improvements to San Rafael road after teen jogger killed

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (KTVU) - The death of a teenage jogger in San Rafael has inflamed criticism of the road she was on, with some residents demanding safety improvements.

"It's just awful. This should not have happened," Martha McNear told KTVU, "and I don't think it had to happen."

McNear is a volunteer at San Pedro Elementary School, directly across from where 17-year-old Aura Machado was struck.

A shrine of flowers, cards, and chalk messages marks the spot. It was something teachers had to explain to students during their final days of class.

"A lot of our kids were freaked out about it," kindergarten teacher Mia Carella told KTVU, "since they're only five, they didn't really understand, just that somebody died, so we had to talk about that."

The accident happened June 2 at about 7 p.m., when Machado made a misstep that cost her life.

A dead tree had fallen into her path, so she darted off the sidewalk on Point San Pedro Road and into the westbound traffic lane.

A minivan coming from behind her, hit and threw her some sixty feet. Machado hit her head and was taken off life support four days later.

"Yes, she ran into the street, but children are children, people are people," exclaimed 3rd grade teacher Debra Hayes, as she packed her classroom for the summer.

She and other longtime critics of safety on the road wonder if speed or inattention kept the driver from avoiding Machado.

"When I see dangerous things every single day here, every day, and then that happens, what am I supposed to think?" posed Hayes.

Point San Pedro Road runs along the Bay, connecting downtown with East San Rafael neighborhoods. There are two lanes in each direction with no stops, which seems to encourage speeding.

"It's dangerous, and it has been for years, and it hasn't gotten any better," complained Hayes, standing with McNear and watching cars whiz by.

The speed limit is 35 mph, except in the school zone, where it drops to 25 mph, which is often ignored.

"I give them the two-five, two-five sign, " demonstrated McNear, holding up her hands toward drivers," and they just honk at me and flip me off."

Teachers, parents and students navigate the busy road, forced to park on it, and scurry out of their cars, because the campus parking lot is small.

An underground tunnel enables pedestrians to cross below the four traffic lanes, but many users say the tunnel seems unsafe, especially after dark.

The 69-year-old man driving the van has not been cited, as the crash is investigated.

Regardless of the outcome, critics would like the city of San Rafael to consider such safety measures as speed bumps, stops signs, or lights, especially in the school zone.

"We know some people who knew her, so we thought we'd bring some flowers, " runner Stefanie Farina told KTVU, as she placed a bouquet on the roadside memorial.

Farina and her aunt jog along the road often, and say they are always concerned about speeding vehicles.

"She was way too young and it's senseless," added Cynthia Farina, "so we just wanted to share flowers with her."

Aura Machado was on the track team at San Rafael High School, located less than a mile from where she was hit.

She was entering her senior year, and her father told KTVU her future was bright: a talented artist, friend to all, and deeply missed.

He added, she especially loved running and said to her, it felt like flying.