Accident happened less than a day after crosswalk lights replaced
Mike Lo Vuolo says he spent months trying to get the city of Dallas to replace burned-out lights in the pedestrian crosswalk on Cedar Springs Road near Reagan Street.
On the morning of Saturday, Feb. 14, Lo Vuolo’s efforts finally paid off, and a city crew replaced the bulbs in the crosswalk, only a few of which had been working.
Ironically, just hours later, with the new lights activated and blinking, a pedestrian was seriously injured after being struck in the crosswalk by a hit-and-run driver, according to Dallas police reports.
As of Wednesday, Feb. 18, police had not located the driver, whom they described as a white female with blonde hair in her early to mid-20s. The woman, who reportedly was driving a four-door silver or gray BMW, also struck another vehicle at Cedar Springs Road and Throckmorton Street before hitting the pedestrian.
Lo Vuolo, who’d been on the strip shortly before the pedestrian was hit, said it seemed more motorists were heeding the crosswalk because of the new lights. Still, he said he wasn’t surprised to hear about the incident.
"I don’t know what else can be done. The city’s done their job," Lo Vuolo said. "People need to slow down — or we need to start shooting at the motherfuckers. It’s ridiculous."
Lo Vuolo, an LGBT community activist who helped initiate a recent traffic enforcement crackdown on Cedar Springs, added that pedestrians also need to pay close attention when crossing the street — whether it be at the crosswalk or one of the nearby intersections.
The pedestrian who was hit, 40-year-old Manoj Kumar, suffered a broken collar bone and a severe cut to his head when he rolled off the vehicle and landed on the pavement, according to police reports. He was taken by ambulance to Parkland Memorial Hospital.
Kumar said this week he was recovering at home but was unable to work and could barely walk due to soreness in his legs. Kumar, who lives on Hall Street, said he was walking home from a nearby bar at about 12:30 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 15 after having a few drinks with a friend.
While he remained conscious throughout the incident, Kumar said he didn’t get a good look at the vehicle or driver because it happened so fast. He speculated that the driver was under the influence of alcohol.
According to police reports, moments before Kumar was hit, the woman in the BMW rear-ended a vehicle that was stopped at a red light on Cedar Springs Road at Throckmorton Street.
After the collision, the woman pulled up next to the vehicle she’d hit and told the driver, "We’re having some issues," before speeding off and striking Kumar, according to police reports. An unknown person later contacted police and said the first three digits of the woman’s license plate were 927.
Despite widespread reports of close calls, Scott Whittall, president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, said it marks the first time in at least five years a pedestrian has been hit in the Reagan Street crosswalk.
Whittall, who owns Buli CafÃ© nearby, said he was glad to see the lights replaced and added that it’s "as safe as any crosswalk could possibly be."
But Whittall also criticized the recent traffic enforcement operation, saying it hurt business on the strip and was initiated by "rogue" groups that didn’t consult with the Merchants Association beforehand.
Whittall said most crime in the area occurs at night, while the traffic enforcement took place during the day.
"We’re all for enforcing the law, but at some point it gets to be ridiculous how it was being handled, we think," Whittall said. "We would love to see that type of attention to our street in the evening hours."
Michael Robinson, founder of United Community Against Gay Hate Crimes, who along with Lo Vuolo requested the traffic enforcement, said nothing requires him to consult with the Merchants Association before contacting city officials and police.
Robinson also said no one from the Merchants Association has contacted him directly about the traffic enforcement.
Robinson and Lo Vuolo requested the traffic enforcement during a meeting at City Hall last month attended by a deputy chief from the Dallas Police Department, as well as two members of the City Council.
Robinson said he believes the recent pedestrian incident highlights the need for more law enforcement and traffic control on the strip, but he added that it’s up to DPD to ensure patrols are conducted at all hours and not just during the day.
Robinson said he’s amazed that despite hundreds of people on the strip at the time Kumar was hit, no witnesses have come forward with good information about the suspect or vehicle.
"It’s almost like an ‘I told you so’ kind of thing," Robinson said. "That’s just how oblivious people are down there. It blows me away."
Lt. Paul Stokes, acting commander of DPD’s Northwest Division, said the traffic enforcement on Cedar Springs, which included as many as three additional officers during the day, was slated to end this week.
But Stokes said DPD will continue to have an unmarked car assigned to the strip at night. Like the traffic enforcement, Stokes said, the unmarked car was placed there in response to the City Hall meeting.
Anyone with information about the pedestrian incident should contact DPD at 1-877-TIPS(8477) or 214-670-5817.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 20, 2009.