Tragedy struck on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard as a yet-unnamed man was hit by a passing vehicle. Unfortunately, this resulted in the pedestrian’s death shortly after the collision.
The incident occurred in the 300 block of the busy Bakersfield road and is reported to have taken place outside of a designated crossing area. The southbound vehicle struck the pedestrian Saturday at 5:32 p.m. Given the timing, 45 minutes after sunset on Saturday, the scene would have been dim. While the identity of the pedestrian is still unknown, the official police statement revealed only that the vehicle was heading south.
Given the residential nature of the 300 block, it is likely that the pedestrian was a resident, visitor, or possibly attendant of the Saint Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church. Those familiar with the area will know that the view of the street is often unimpeded and follows a straight line with the grid of Bakersfield. Sadly, conditions like these are the most likely to create lethal scenarios for pedestrians. According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), open roads (no cross-walk) in urban areas are particularly dangerous. This is especially true when the area is dark, such as after sunset.
So close to the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, there was almost certainly little light for cars or pedestrians to see each other. While the police did not reveal if the driver was using their headlights, there is a dramatic lack of overhead lighting within the 300 block of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. With only sparse streetlamps providing inconsistent and inadequate lighting, such accidents will likely continue.
The city does acknowledge this as an area of concern, as the Bakersfield budget for the fiscal year 2020-21 highlighted spending on the “First phase of new streetlights in underlit areas of the City” as a major priority for community development.
Despite including this as an area of focus being highlighted in the budget proposal, the budget for the City of Bakersfield Public Works Department does not indicate streetlights as a priority. Under their “FY 20/21 ACTION PLAN” no mention of lighting improvements is made, and the phrase “Streetlights” appears only twice. The first instance is congratulating the department on completing 1,700 repairs of streetlights in the past year, but the second states there will be a “Street Light Upgrade F Street between Golden State Highway and 24th Street”.
Do you believe the City of Bakersfield has done enough to develop streetlight infrastructure? We invite you to write us with your comments.