September 5, 2002 - San Jose Mercury News: CAR RPCV Stephen Ferro is an activitist for safe walking

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Central African Republic: Peace Corps Central African Republic : Peace Corps in the Central African Republic: September 5, 2002 - San Jose Mercury News: CAR RPCV Stephen Ferro is an activitist for safe walking

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, October 20, 2002 - 1:46 pm: Edit Post

CAR RPCV Stephen Ferro is an activitist for safe walking

Read and comment on this story from the San Jose Mercury News on Central African Republic RPCV Stephen Ferro who, in the aftermath of a tragic accident that left his son dead, became an activist for safe walking at:

Safe walk activist lives with tragedy*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Safe walk activist lives with tragedy

By Joe Rodriguez

Mercury News

In the outskirts of the unwalkable city, a quiet man has turned tragedy into a walk for life.

Stephen Ferro had every reason to abandon this car-happy, speed-crazed city after his youngest son was run over and killed four years ago, but he became an activist for safe walking instead.

I have brought my summer project, San Jose on Foot, to Westmont, a fingertip of a neighborhood poking into suburban Campbell. Ferro opens his door and asks, ``Would you like a glass of water first?''

I accept and am introduced to his wife, Christine. She looks a little nervous and, no, she won't be joining our walk. (I would learn why later.)

Ferro and I head east on small streets where the city line seems to change every block. Where there are no sidewalks, we must be in Campbell. If the streets are cracked, it's San Jose. Westmont offers another pleasant, ordinary walk through Silicon Valley suburbia, but San Jose on Foot has been there, done that.

Site of accident

I actually met Ferro a few months ago through Walk San Jose, a new citizens group trying to make the city safe and friendly for people on foot and bicycle. He's beginning a third year as treasurer.

Before I know it, we've arrived at the intersection of Roundtree Drive and speedy, curving Westmont Avenue, where Ferro's wife and 7-year-old son were attempting to cross with their bicycles on Aug. 6, 1998, when a motorist ran through the stop sign.

``David was carried that far,'' Ferro says, pointing to a spot several yards ahead. ``Christine was also hit . . . she doesn't like to talk about the accident.''

He shows me a granite stone inscribed with the words: ``The Westmont Community Dedicates This Tree to David Ferro.''

A traffic official attributed the accident to ``driver error,'' but the city eventually erected four island barriers and four stop signs at the intersection after intense neighborhood pressure. Stephen Ferro, however, wanted to do more.

``I was looking for a way to help after the accident,'' he said, when he heard about Walk San Jose, whose mission he describes as ``closer to home.''

Quiet inspiration

We take our walk north to an elementary school with access to San Tomas Aquino Creek and its lovely but unofficial trail. That means you walk at your own risk.

By now I see he's given to short, direct answers and zero self-promotion. Still, I manage to learn he migrated to Silicon Valley in 1978 after graduation from Tufts University and a stint with the Peace Corps teaching French in central Africa. He's now a production manager at Intel. The Ferros have another son, 18-year-old Adam.

Almost every member of Walk San Jose I contacted told me that the quiet Ferro has been an inspiration to everyone in the group. But true to his nature, he downplays his leadership.

``The timing was right for Walk San Jose,'' he says. ``People had become frustrated by not being able to walk in their neighborhoods. They couldn't do simple things like getting a stop sign put up. You can't do it as an individual. It's impossible.''

He's absolutely right, and too modest. One man can't get a stop sign put up in the unwalkable city, but one man can show others how to put up a thousand stop signs on a thousand streets.

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