Hayley Chin is a planning intern and recent graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. As a native Angeleno, she has seen how much Los Angeles has grown and changed in recent years, and is excited to be a part of shaping the city’s transportation future.
Safety consistently ranked as a top priority in our outreach for the Mobility Element and was considered an important factor in creating a livable neighborhood by many Angelenos. Participants want their streets to be safe, enjoyable places for all ages and all modes of travel. In terms of transportation, concerns for physical safety stem from traffic speeds, roadway conflict between different modes of travel, and infrastructure.
What we’ve heard from Angelenos
“Safety would be a top priority for all forms of transportation.”
“A livable neighborhood is one where you need not fear that your children will be hit by cars.”
“Public streets would be used to safely transport people and goods.”
“Currently, my streets don’t feel safe. They are uneven, unpaved, and lacking vegetation.”
Many participants commented that they would like to walk and bike more but currently feel unsafe doing so because of high traffic speeds on city streets. They reported that the noise and speed of cars create an unpleasant walking environment for pedestrians and dangerous conditions for bicyclists. There were multiple suggestions to increase the number of designated bicycle lanes across the city to create a safer environment for bicyclists and reduce conflict with vehicles in traffic. Many also felt that increasing public awareness and education for both drivers and cyclists would improve safety conditions. Additional suggestions were made to calm traffic and slow vehicle speeds by installing traffic calming devices, lowering and enforcing speed limits, and increasing sidewalk and median landscaping.
Safety and the Built Environment
Street quality and infrastructure have a role in improving transportation safety. Street paving in disrepair poses a safety threat for both vehicles and bicyclists. Sidewalks that are uneven, narrow, or physically obstructed can also force pedestrians closer to vehicle traffic or on alternate routes that are not always obvious. Safer crossings at intersections and at the middle of larger blocks were an additional area of pedestrian concern. Furthermore, pedestrians often perceive areas with lower levels of street activity, trees and plants, and lighting as unsafe due to physical and psychological discomfort. While these built environment issues are fundamental to improving transportation safety, we will be addressing them under our Infrastructure topic later in this series.
Transportation Safety in Los Angeles
It is no surprise that vehicle speed is a significant factor in traffic collisions. As mentioned in our May post on Safety and Collisions, higher speed poses a two-fold problem: 1) the faster a car is moving, the smaller the field of vision the driver can process, and 2) increased speed increases the force of collision impact, increasing the likelihood of injury or fatality. As a result, faster traffic poses a higher safety risk to others on the road, especially pedestrians and bicyclists because they are smaller and less visible than another vehicle.
According to the California Highway Patrol’s 2010 Annual Report of Fatal and Injury Motor Vehicle Traffic Collisions, the City of Los Angeles had the highest number of collisions involving fatality or injury in the state. In absolute numbers, the traffic records system reported 219 fatal collisions and 24,561 injury collisions in Los Angeles during 2010. There were 100 (46%) fatal collisions involving pedestrians, and 4,577 (19%) injury collisions involving pedestrians or bicyclists. For more information on collision data, check out our previous post here.
Many policies and programs are in place and in development to promote transportation safety in Los Angeles. In recent years, the Department of City Planning authored its Urban Design Guidelines and Walkability Checklist to encourage better site design that increases safety and accessibility for the general public, regardless of mode of travel. The City Council adopted the 2010 Bicycle Plan Update, which includes a number of policies and programs that emphasize engineering, education, enforcement, evaluation, and encouragement to improve safety outcomes for bicyclists and those using other modes. Work done by the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, Los Angeles Walks, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC), and many more organizations also promotes safety as part of walking and bicycling. Events, such as CicLAvia, have also promoted active transportation safety throughout the city. The City recently launched its Pedestrian Program to further promote safe and enjoyable trips for pedestrians.
While the City must balance the needs of all users of the roadway, we have heard loud and clear that safety is a top priority. That’s why we are proposing a goal of “Safety First.” By declaring that safety is first, we are making it priority to reduce the number of collisions and work towards eliminating injuries and fatalities on our streets.
City policy and specifically the Mobility Element can promote increased roadway safety for Angelenos. We can adopt new standards for streets, development, and engineering that will ensure vehicles move at safe, reasonable speeds, and consider the needs of all roadway users and travel modes. We can set objectives that will reduce crash and injury rates and eliminate crash fatalities. We can continue and introduce programs that promote safe driving, walking, and bicycling by influencing both travel behavior and the design of the roadway network. Furthermore, we can monitor these safety measures and programs to evaluate their impact and ensure that our strategies are making our streets a safer place for all Angelenos.