"I used to watch him cross the street and raise his cane," said Peterson. "I thought it ought to have a red flag on the end of it."
So Peterson bought the all-weather red material, had a local seamstress stitch it into flags, and attached them to PVC pipes.
"The first ones I put out were on wooden dowel sticks," Peterson said. "But kids had fun breaking and stealing them."
He switched to PVC pipes; these were also broken until Peterson came up with the current length, which is not so easy to break.
Peterson can keep an eye on the crosswalks - and the flags - from the flower shop.
"I see them used every day, all the time," he said. "I keep an eye on them to make sure there are some on both sides of the street."
Residents have complained for years that drivers speed through Alamo and do not see people trying to cross Danville Boulevard. In November, Orchard Court resident Tonya York was struck by a truck and thrown 38 feet in the air; she suffered a broken back and a concussion and is now campaigning to make the street safer for pedestrians.
The county is responsible for the streets in Alamo, which is unincorporated. District 3 Supervisor Mary N. Piepho and her predecessors have held meetings for years to hear complaints and suggestions to make the downtown safer. Pedestrian-activated flashing lights were put in at the Jackson Way crosswalk during the past year as part of a project that also created two left-turn lanes onto Stone Valley Road from Danville Boulevard going south. More recently, the speed limit was lowered from 30 mph to 25.
Peterson credits Piepho with finally getting these improvements in place, and he said a stoplight is needed at Orchard Court to make it safer.
"I've been to so many meetings on that, I'm tired of it," Peterson said.
Originally he only placed flags at Jackson Way, then he moved them to Orchard Court when the flashing lights were installed.
"I didn't think they needed them but people who'd been using them came in and gave me hell," Peterson said. "They wanted to use them."
So he provided flags for both crosswalks and maintains them.
"I think it's a very clever, thoughtful effort," said Piepho. "Jim's doing his part to protect his community. His participation is extremely helpful to Alamo."
"Lowering the speed limit will hopefully help, too," she added. "I've heard it's set a different tone."
Jim's wife Connie Peterson said the California Highway Patrol has been more of a presence lately.
"The traffic slows down just to see their cars out there," she said. "People that drive through Alamo are slowly getting educated."
Director of County Public Works Maurice Shiu said in February that his department acts quickly when it considers an area hazardous, by putting in signs or speed bumps. But he said the county does not consider Danville Boulevard to be dangerous.
"It's important but it's not an emergency," he said.
The Alamo Improvement Association wants a roundabout put in at Orchard Court to slow down traffic but many others say a traffic light is the solution.
In the meantime, Peterson urges pedestrians to avail themselves of the red flags.
This story contains 623 words.
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