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Safety of Five Corners intersection scrutinized

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A scary incident at an unusual intersection on Charleston's West Side spurred a city councilman into action this week.

A boy was riding a bicycle behind his sister on an electric scooter Tuesday evening when they darted across Virginia Street in the Five Corners intersection. Witnesses said neither child looked before crossing the busy street.

The girl made it across unscathed, but the boy ran into the side of a Buick Riviera. He was taken to a Charleston hospital with non life-threatening injuries, but family members said he was bruised and in pain.

The incident led residents and business owners to call for better safety precautions like crosswalks or pedestrian lights.

Councilman Ed Talkington, a Democrat who represents that area, said he called the city's traffic engineering department Wednesday morning after reading news reports of the incident. He said he wants engineers to review the intersection and recommend ways to improve safety there.

He said the intersection is unique in Charleston.

"It's kind of an odd intersection," he said Wednesday afternoon. "It's probably the only one like it in Charleston."

The spot is where two-way Virginia Street and Central and Delaware avenues meet one-way eastbound Virginia Street, which continues through downtown and the East End.

Talkington said no one has ever brought up the need for crosswalks or better traffic signals in that location to him.

"I don't think it would hurt to have (a traffic engineer) review it," he said.

Calls to the traffic engineer's office, which falls under the city's Public Works Department, were referred to Mayor Danny Jones.

Jones said the intersection is tricky and has been since he was a boy, although there was more traffic at the time.

"I don't think any of that would have precluded what happened," Jones said of the boy's injuries when asked about crosswalks and traffic lights. "But we're looking at that."

The driver, who was not identified, initially left the scene but returned minutes later. He was not charged. The man swerved to avoid the girl but could not have avoided the boy, police Lt. Mark Abbott said Tuesday night.

"He was not at fault whatsoever," Abbott said. "The brother and sister rode out into the street. He was swerving to miss her when he hit him."

Beth Kerns, who has lived on the West Side for more than 30 years, was eating dinner at Five Corners Cafe Tuesday evening when the incident occurred. She said she saw the girl cross and then saw the boy run into the side of the vehicle.

Mark Snodgrass owns Five Corners Cafe. He said he has seen a lot of crashes and incidents in the two years he's been in business.

Snodgrass said he recently saw a vehicle strike a shopping cart being pushed across the road by a woman. The impact ripped off the woman's fingernails, he said.

Kerns and Snodgrass both said crosswalks or better traffic signals or pedestrian signals would improve the intersection.

"Even as a pedestrian you don't know which street has the signal," Kerns said. "You don't know who has the right of way."

Jones said engineers are looking at crosswalks at various locations around the city but would not be specific as to where those other crosswalks were.

Jones said pedestrians should be careful in the area and probably shouldn't try to cross on the Virginia and Central side.

Talkington thought the traffic engineer's office could complete a thorough review of the area quickly.

"We'll look into it and figure out what we need to do for the safety of the public," he said.

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at or 304-348-4850.

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