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Guerrilla Crosswalk Painter Arrested by Vallejo Police, Cheered By Neighbors

This story falls into the unusual but persistent overlap between pedestrian advocacy and vandalism. In Vallejo, California, last week, one man saw the need for a crosswalk at a dangerous intersection, and decided it was his job to make it happen.

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Anthony Cardenas, 52, grabbed some white paint and got to work at dawn to create his own makeshift crosswalk at the intersection of Sonoma Boulevard and Illinois Street. And he did a pretty decent job, according to the news photos. Maybe the geometry wasn’t perfect, but Cardenas definitely got his point across. And then he got cuffed.

Acting on a tip from a witness, police found Cardenas in his home last Thursday, where the retired U.S. Marine freely admitted to his paint job and explained that his goal was public safety. The cops placed him in the Solano County Jail with a $15,000 bail. As one officer told KTVU, the rogue crosswalk qualifies as vandalism.

Cardenas still faces felony charges. A Streetsblog reader forwarded a statement from the Solano County district attorney, who said the case is under review and Cardenas will be arraigned later.

But it hasn't turned out all bad for him. An anonymous donor bailed him out of jail and he got a hero's welcome once he got home, with neighbors hooting in support and TV news crews heaping attention on his cause.

A bandana-masked Cardenas told reporters he was simply trying to make the intersection safer after witnessing several crashes and almost getting hit a couple of times himself. “I got tired of seeing people get run over here all the time,” Cardenas told CBS Sacramento. He said he’d tried to voice his concerns before to public officials, to no avail.

Many neighbors who spoke to the press supported Cardenas and agreed that the intersection – four lanes and “easy for drivers to barrel through” according to the KTVU video – is a real hazard for pedestrians. “All you see is accidents, all day long,” one woman said. Neighbors also say the DIY crosswalk was getting a lot of use before authorities caught wind of it. Vallejo police dispute that collisions are common there, saying none have been reported.

According to KVTU, Caltrans will “grind and repave [the] intersection to erase any remnants” of Cardenas' paint job, and has no plans to put in a permanent crosswalk.

This isn't the first time Cardenas has painted a guerrilla crosswalk. He told reporters that after his first attempt painting markings at the same spot about a year ago, he hid out in LA for a while to evade arrest. But he doesn’t plan to try again. “This is not worth it,” Cardenas told the Times-Herald. “Even though I hate for people to be hit ... I am not going to pursue this.”

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