To see the Register's coverage and see the context of Mr. Fleming's remarks, please click HERE.
What caught my attention in the remarks was the idea that customers were unprotected because of some code requirement for ADA compliant parking. The entire frontage of the restaurant is taken up by five parking spaces, of which four are marked ADA spaces which point directly at the building entrance and seating areas. Here is a photo taken some time before the accident last Friday night showing the layout -- Ms. Malin was struck and killed at the bench on the far right.
The Register attributes the following remarks to Mr. Fleming:
"Fleming said a new law requires that handicapped parking spaces, located directly in front of the restaurant’s front door, be level with the building. During construction, Fleming said, a curb in front of the parking spaces was removed to comply with the law. He believes that, had the curb been there, it may have slowed the car that killed Malin. He also said he’ll be speaking with the city to see what can be done to improve safety at the restaurant."
I have two objections regarding these remarks.
First, they are inaccurate. I checked with Mr. David Vogel of Parking Design Group about these claims, and his reply was clear: "Accessible spaces are not required to be level with the front door. The unloading zones of the accessible spaces need to lead to an accessible path of travel which may include a curb ramp (max. slope of 8.33% with max. 2% cross slope). This curb ramp cannot be within the accessible space unloading zone but can be located along the accessible path of travel with detectable warning strips. Curb ramps and detectable warning strips are covered in the Californian Building Code (CBC) Sections 11B406-2 and 11B705."
Second, if Mr. Fleming was concerned about unprotected customers, he should have put crash-resistant bollards or barriers in place to protect them instead of the ineffective wheel stop and flimsy railing that were installed. Nothing prevented the installation of such barriers in front of the parking spaces to protect waiting customers. I will say it again; no ADA requirement, no building code, no architectural guideline of any kind prevented Farrell's, the parking lot designers, the building architects, or Mr. Fleming, from making sure that there was an effective barrier in place to prevent an accident exactly like this one from happening.
How do I know this? Look again at the photo above. Look at the entrance of the restaurant on the left side of the photo. No flimsy little fence there -- the entrance is protected by two sturdy six inch diameter steel bollards filled with concrete. This clearly marked and ADA compliant accessible space and unloading zone has two steel bollards in front of them, and yet are in full compliance with the "new law" that Mr. Fleming indicated as a contributing factor in the accidental death of Marisa Malin and injuries to six others.
Here is a close-up shot of the two bollards which I took this afternoon during my site visit:
One final point: Mr. Fleming made it very clear that he has heard about storefront crashes such as this accident, and was aware of accidents such as this one happening frequently. Again, quoting from the Register coverage:
“This is one of those tragedies I’ve read about over and over again,” Fleming said. “And this time I lived it. It was horrific.” He said that all Farrell’s locations are flying flags at half-staff in memory of Malin.
I submit two things;
First, if you feel the need to protect your entrance with steel bollards because of the hazard of a vehicle incursion accident, why would you NOT protect the customer waiting area and benches exposed to exactly the same hazard?
Second, if you have read about these types of accidents happening over and over again, why would you NOT take basic steps to prevent a needless death at your new restaurant?
This accident will now fade from the news and results of investigations will be released. I expect that soon the lawsuits will start to be filed. The case will eventually wind through the courts and liability will be determined and injury claims paid out. It is so sad -- sad for the Malin family, sad for the families of those injured, sad for the driver and his family, and especially sad because this event was entirely preventable and predictable.
The restaurant industry is on notice: pedal error accidents occur every day. Join the Storefront Safety Council, take a stand for safety, and protect your customers and employees against the known and frequent hazard of vehicle incursion accidents. This is not rocket science, and this will not cost a fortune. Safety is the New Green, and safety is good for business.