Drivers Are Crashing Into Outdoor Dining Spots For All kinds of Reasons -- But Reasons Don't Matter To Patrons That Are Injured or Killed
Vehicles crashing into outdoor dining or curbside dining spots have become more and more common as more and more permitted and un-permitted restaurants open up seating areas closer and closer to traffic. Encouraged by cities and business districts eager to get pedestrians and patrons back after lockdown, we have seen all sorts of set ups and all sorts of dangerous locations spring up in cities large and small.
Tragically, the increase in outdoor dining has brought with it an increase in vehicles colliding with seating areas and seated diners. We have seen a number of such accidents since June -- most of them preventable. Most recently, a driver trying to park his SUV crashed into outdoor dining tents set up outside of the Dynasty Chinese Seafood Restaurant in San Jose California. 7 were injured, and one killed.
As an expert at preventing deliberate vehicle attacks and accidental vehicle incursions, and as an someone who testifies as an expert witness when vehicles crash into storefronts, restaurants, and outdoor dining areas, I can see that the restaurant owners failed to make safety a priority for patrons -- they were completely unprotected. But the shopping center owners should have exercised control, and mall management should have taken immediate steps to require that any such outdoor facilities should be made safe for diners. All of these -- the restaurant, the property owner, and mall management -- FAILED the customers in those tents. Safety cannot be delegated -- one or all three should have consulted with an expert or asked for a review by the city or by the police department. Seven injured, one killed -- foreseeable accident, preventable accident.
We are all going to have to become "Curbside Experts" as a result of the competing demands for outdoor dining, retail pickup and drop off, rideshare services, and much more.
The rush to reopen restaurants has resulted in large numbers of documented cases where vehicles have crashed into outdoor dining and curbside dining spots in New York and a half a dozen other states. We have been tracking these incidents and including them in the Storefront Safety Council database. I was given a chance to offer a viewpoint about how the Covid pandemic has changed how property owners use their parking lots, how stores and restaurants use the sidewalk and curbs right in front of their entries, and how Big Box retailers and others have had to adapt to offer curbside delivery, drop off/pickup, and so many other forms of physical distancing.
Thanks to Kim Fernandez of Parking & Mobility Magazine for the chance to contribute and to post that viewpoint here.
Parking Lots, Public Spaces, Social Distancing, and Safety
By Rob Reiter
Six months into dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are finding ways to keep commerce moving amid many restrictions on use, occupancy, and physical spacing. In addition, the sharp drop in the use of public transportation has increased the pressures for re-purposing some very valuable real estate — curbs, parking lots, and parking structures.
Restaurants are expanding out onto sidewalks and curbside locations all over the United States; more than 8,000 permits have been issued in New York City alone. Exposure of diners and waitstaff to passing vehicles has already been documented with security camera footage from more than a half-dozen injury accidents since late June.
Restaurants are also expanding into their off-street parking areas–physical distancing requirements along with the attraction of fresh air and sunshine for people who have been staying home for so long have made such arrangements very popular. Some restaurants are handling this better than others.
Retailers of all stripes have jumped onto the curbside bandwagon at shopping malls, regional centers, and basic strip centers. Companies providing services for retailers report doubling and re-doubling of retailers offering it along with customers taking advantage of the convenience and safety that the service offers.
I expect that 2021 will see the start of a national campaign where “Share the Curb” will become a battle zone between restaurants, retailers, rideshare providers, and local merchants like salons and small retailers who want to keep parking near their stores convenient for their customers.
Read more about what this means for the parking industry and why safety is a big concern in this month’s issue of Parking & Mobility magazine.
Rob Reiter is co-founder of the Storefront Safety Council