Friends of student killed in accident petition for safer streets

Shane Smith, left, a senior public relations major, and Dillon Mitchler, a senior English major, hope to make Chico’s streets safer for students following the tragic death of Nickolas Klein. Photo credit: George Johnston

Two Chico State students have teamed up after losing a friend to demand change so no one else will experience losing a loved one to accidents on the streets of Chico.

On a daily basis, cars honk at each other and slam on brakes as students speedwalk through intersections, hoping not to come in contact with a moving car in the residential neighborhoods downtown.

Chico State student Nickolas Klein died on March 28 when he was struck by a car near the intersection of Seventh and Hazel streets.

Dillon Mitchler, a senior English major, lived with Klein in the dorms their freshman year.

“He was someone I always cared about,” Mitchler said, “and someone I will always call a good friend.”

Two days later, Mitchler and Shane Smith, a senior public relations major, were sitting in their living room watching television when the idea to create a petition came to mind, Smith said.

The petition asks that stop signs replace the yield signs in residential areas downtown.

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, “a three-sided red yield sign indicates that you must slow down and be ready to stop, if necessary, to let any vehicle, bicyclist or pedestrian pass before you proceed.”

“Even if this petition isn’t directly relative to the cause of death, it is still in Nick’s honor and could definitely contribute to saving lives in the future,” Mitchler said.

The petition was created March 30 on the website Now, there are more than 1,000 electronic signatures, and it is being shared over social media.

“I think it’s absolutely insane,” Smith said. “We didn’t expect such a huge response in such a short amount of time. The Chico community is like a family. We should all be watching out for each other and helping in any way we can.”

Mitchler says the petition continues to rise with every milestone.

“First it was a 100, then 500, and now it’s at 1,000,” Mitchler said. “I don’t think there is a set limit. All I know is the more signatures we get, the better. I can only hope this gets to the point that we have enough signatures to convince the city to change the yield signs.”

The downtown streets can be a dangerous place for both pedestrians walking and cars cruising through the blind intersections. The sidewalks have parked cars along the curbs that create blind spots, Mitchler said.

“You never really know who is coming until you creep out more than halfway, so people who just assume they’re clear, drive out, and it becomes superdangerous for everyone,” Mitchler said. “I’ve been apart of too many near-accidents in these streets, and I know everyone else has dealt with the same risk.”

Living in the heart of downtown, Smith witnesses close calls regularly.

“Every single week I see at least two people almost getting into accidents right by my house,” Smith said. “This is something that’s very long overdue.”

Klein’s death encouraged these two students to try and bring about change on the streets of Chico, aiming to avoid another accident from happening.

“His death really hit home considering he is probably the only close friend I’ve ever lost,” Mitchler said. “I’m not even sure if Nick passed because of someone driving recklessly through a yield sign. But if there were stop signs, it may not have happened.”

Claire Martinez can be reached at [email protected] or @xoclaire_ on Twitter.