Hit-and-run kills pedestrian on Berkeley overpass

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The hit-and-run fatality happened on the University Avenue overpass over Interstate 80 early on the morning of Monday, July 15.

Update, July 17: The pedestrian killed was identified by the Alameda County coroner’s office as John Patrick Miller, 46. No residence was provided. He died of “extensive blunt trauma.”

Update, 11:01 am: As of 10:44 a.m. the Berkeley Police Department’s fatal accident investigation team has cleared the scene of the fatal collision on University Avenue. The roadway is now open in both directions. The investigation continues. No information has been released on the victim and there is no possible suspect information.

Original story: Berkeley police are investigating a fatal hit-and-run accident that happened on the University Avenue overpass over Interstate 80 this morning.

A Berkeley Police officer was driving over the overpass when he “discovered a person down here in the lanes,” said Berkeley police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats. The officer discovered the man at 5:10 a.m.

“Preliminary investigation indicated it was a hit-and-run accident,” said Coats.

Screen Shot 2013-07-15 at 9.45.16 AMThe driver had left the scene, according to the police.

The University Avenue on-ramp to I-80 is closed, although motorists can exit the freeway. University Avenue is also closed from Sixth Street to West Frontage Road.

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  • PragmaticProgressive

    Are there signs on University informing pedestrians and cyclists that a safer bridge over the freeway exists just to the south? If not, why not?

  • lsdkfk

    Signs!? Yeah, that will help. There are signs on every corner of Shattuck saying no smoking as it impairs the health of everyone. Do you think anyone obeys them, or even reads them?

  • curiousjorge

    how about a sign that says if you hit a person with your car, don’t leave the scene.

  • Charles_Siegel

    The pedestrian/bike bridge also is not on the map, which I assume is from google maps.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    excellent point

  • Guest

    It’s there–look closely. It’s labeled “San Francisco Bay Trail.” It’s just that Google Maps’s representation of pedestrian paths is a fairly thin grey line. Unfortunately, though, their walking directions do not use it. Their BIKING directions do. Weird.

  • Guest

    I just submitted the following using Google Maps’s “Report a problem” link:

    “The walking directions suggest using University avenue to cross interstate 80. This is incredibly unsafe–a pedestrian was killed in a hit-and-run accident this morning doing exactly that. See http://www.berkeleyside.com/2013/07/15/hit-and-run-kills-pedestrian-on-university-ave-overpass/. The walking directions should suggest using the bike and pedestrian bridge a couple of blocks to the south. The BIKING directions already do this properly. This is a real safety issue–I hope it gets fixed soon!”

  • Charles_Siegel

    Now I see it. It does go over the freeway, but it is such a thin line that it is hard to see, and the label San Francisco Bay Trail doesn’t make it clear that it includes an overpass.

  • dsd510

    If someone literally didn’t know there was another way to cross and wasn’t taking that as a shortcut, signs informing of the safer bridge could be life-saving.

  • The_Sharkey

    There are not signs stating that pedestrians are not to use the overpass. I know this because I started to walk part way across it (heading East from the Sea Breeze Cafe) just a few days ago and saw no signs. I ended up having to double back and go to the footbridge once I realized that it was clearly unsafe and not a suitable place for pedestrians. But if I hadn’t known about the footbridge, there was nothing on the overpass indicating that pedestrians were prohibited or that there was a better route nearby.

    As to why the bridge has no signage prohibiting pedestrians, one can only speculate that it is negligence on the part of the city that will eventually result in a multi-million dollar lawsuit.

  • The_Sharkey

    If someone sees a sign and chooses to ignore it, that’s a decision they’ve made and the consequences are their fault.

    If there is no sign and someone does not know that what they are doing is dangerous/prohibited, then in cases like this the fault falls to the city for not providing adequate signage.

  • Mbfarrel

    While the Google Maps instructions leave much to be desired, the route is the shortest way to the Marina. It is not lovely but it is not particularly dangerous. A reference to the Bike/Ped bridge should be noted in the initial directions.

    The confusion is that only the portion of the overpass that crosses the freeway has a pedestrian walkway. The tracks are crossed via Addison or Hearst. Formerly one could cross the tracks by continuing down the surface part of University. That was blocked as part of the construction of Berkeley’s railroad “station.” Presumably in the interest of safety.

    The pedestrian walkway over the freeway is connected with a staircase.

    There is a sign at the east entrance to the overpass that says “Bicycles and Pedestrians Prohibited”

  • TN

    You can walk part of the way from Sea Breeze on the overpass, over the freeway. There is a sidewalk. After you’ve passed over the freeway, there is a staircase down from the overpass which leaves you at ground level. Unfortunately, it leaves you to cross the I-80 East exit ramp onto the frontage road at a point where there is no stop or yield to pedestrian signs. And it is very dark there.

    This was the very dangerous route for pedestrians and bicyclists to go back and forth to the marina area before the new bridge was built. Not surprisingly this route was never popular.

  • Abigail S.

    I came close to hitting an older man on a bicycle on that very overpass just a couple weeks ago in daylight. He was going the wrong way, carrying crutches, and having a hard time staying balanced. There was no way for me to stop safely to urge him back down off the overpass. I just prayed he made it across alive, which I assume he did, but scary. Signs may not work 100%, but it’s the least we could do.

  • chip

    I’m pretty sure there is a sign on the west bound direction (between 6th and 5th) that says pedestrians and bicycles are prohibited. I don’t know about the other side.

  • David D.

    There is signage on the bridge. The westbound direction, where the accident occurred, has this: http://goo.gl/maps/k1ZrQ

    The eastbound direction has this: http://goo.gl/maps/Bnihv

  • David D.

    I checked on Google Map Maker, and the metadata for the overcrossing has been corrected. However, Google claims that changes to roadway segments take up to 30 days to roll out into the directions feature.

  • Mbfarrel

    If someone doesn’t realize that walking onto the overpass westbound is stupidly dangerous, they probably aren’t reading any signs.

  • berkopinionator

    The narrow strip of pavement next to the road makes people think you can walk across. The bridge should be retrofitted to add a cantilevered pedestrian path. We can afford to spend 1% of the money dedicated for cars on pedestrian improvements. ACTIA / ALAMEDA CTC has collected our tax money for this purpose and should spend some of the money to add pedestrian/bike access to this overpass. http://www.alamedactc.org/ This is where 1/2 cent of your sales tax on every transaction goes. They can afford to spend our money on this project.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    cool, thanks.

  • The_Sharkey

    I didn’t even make it that far, as the area leading up to that was clearly incredibly unsafe.

  • The_Sharkey

    That’s further than I got, from the Eastbound direction. The bridge is very clearly unsafe for pedestrians leading up to that area and it didn’t seem worth the risk.

    The signage just isn’t sufficient for people who aren’t familiar with the area.

  • The_Sharkey

    Perhaps they do realize it’s dangerous but don’t know of any other routes to get across the freeway to the Marina.

    Crossing the overpass is dangerous as hell, but less dangerous than trying to run across the freeway itself.

  • The_Sharkey

    Or just blockades to prevent pedestrian access, and better signs with maps directing people to where the pedestrian overpass is.

    It’s a very confusing area for people who aren’t familiar with it.

  • David D.

    I agree that the approach from the west is uncomfortable. I did it once on my bike out of curiosity and felt like a fish out of water. While I consider the prohibition signs sufficient, I believe better signage is needed to direct people to the pedestrian bridge. This is especially necessary on the east side where the structure isn’t visible from the intersection of University & 6th.

  • David D.

    Those smoking signs are ridiculous. I think the city put them up to feel good about itself. They certainly don’t get to the point, assuming there is one.

  • jjohannson

    And human empathy gains a treacherous foothold on the thread…

  • Chris

    Is it possible the person didn’t realize they hit something?

  • Anon

    If they honestly didn’t, they shouldn’t be driving.

  • TN

    This death isn’t the only one recently where there are questions both about the adequacy of the signage and the possibly questionable mental state of the victim.

    On June 1, a bicyclist was killed trying to cross the freeway on the surface near this very spot.

    http://www.berkeleyside.com/2013/06/01/bicyclist-killed-on-i-80-in-berkeley/

    I know that there have been encampments along the brush besides the off ramps and in the brush in the soil storage area behind Sea Breeze. Since the population of people using the encampments tend to fluctuate and many keep a very low profile, I can’t tell whether the numbers are increasing or not. But I have noticed some new activity when I walk across the pedestrian bridge. A couple of the people I saw didn’t seem too well connected to reality.

    Has there been an increase in mentally impaired people living in the area on the bay side of the freeway? Is this why there may be an increase in the number of people acting without sufficient regard to their own safety?

  • Flutterby

    How did this person get over to the east side in the first place?

  • The_Sharkey

    People also camp underneath the overpass on the eastern side of the freeway, and when shooed along by BPD will sometimes wander over to the western side.

    Signs might not help, but they couldn’t hurt and wouldn’t cost more than a couple thousand. Much less than the cost of a negligence lawsuit brought against the city by a homeless rights advocate.