Two years ago, I was asked by the former gym director at the Santa Monica YMCA to fill out a three or four page questionnaire on pedestrian safety. The Y was assisting the city’s effort to improve pedestrian mobility and encourage the use of safe walking. I speculated that this community survey, like most community surveys from City Hall, was basically seeking public endorsement of conclusions and recommendations already cobbled together by city department heads, planning staff and the usual “finger in every pie” politicians.
When I received the survey, it appeared that many questions were soliciting specific conclusions. Questions involving pedestrian use of the streets seemed to be aimed more at selling certain design aspects rather than dealing with real pedestrian issues. The lack of questions about traffic enforcement was a dead giveaway.
After being queried about landscaping, crosswalks, wider sidewalks and the like, the last items (as I remember it) was something like “What would you suggest?” I wrote in one word: “Enforcement!”
I walk a lot in Santa Monica to and from my apartment near 14th Street and Idaho Avenue to 20th Street and Santa Monica Boulevard weekly and to/from downtown Santa Monica a couple times a month. When my car is in the shop, I walk to/from Lincoln Boulevard and Sunset Park and Montana/14th – four or more times a year.
I regularly stroll “North of Montana” and walk to Vons and Rite Aid once or twice a week often carrying groceries home. Plus, I occasionally take other walks. So, I’ve seen and experienced it all.
Motorists and bicyclists cut me off in marked and unmarked crosswalks on a regular basis. I’ve been deliberately “run at” at intersections and in parking lots by distracted drivers. And, best of all, I’ve been cursed at and “flipped off” by nut bags and ill-tempered motorists and bike riders so often that I’m starting a petition to make the upraised middle finger, “The Official City Bird of Santa Monica.”
I’m a careful, cautious and courteous pedestrian. I avoid un-signalized intersections because I regard them as unsafe. I wave oncoming traffic on before stepping into the street. I look both ways and always yield to drivers and bicyclists because I don’t expect them to stop or yield for me even though I may have the “legal” right-of-way.
Center medians, wider crosswalks, enhanced street furniture and all the landscaping in the world won’t address the number one flaw in the system: curbing rude, unsafe, aggressive drivers and bicyclists who drive irresponsibly without impunity.
For example, I was recently crossing 18th Street at Arizona Avenue in a marked crosswalk when a middle-aged male driving a maroon SUV deliberately cut me off. When I shot him a dirty look, he shouted, “A******e.” We exchanged “F.U.s.” The moron drove off knowing that he could get away with his dangerous and illegal driving because enforcement is nil.
The draft Pedestrian Action Plan (PAP), downloadable from the city’s website, is a 219 page document. I’ve only had time for a quick review of its content; nevertheless, it appears to be more of the same old failed, ideological-driven, traffic mismanagement policies to me.
It’s based on Vision Zero, a national movement to eliminate preventable deaths and serious injuries that result from traffic collisions. Vision Zero emphasizes shared responsibility among all road users, street design that promotes safety and minimizes risks, and better enforcement and education to prevent unsafe behavior. What a concept!
The city’s PAP promises to prioritize safety in the city’s transportation planning and design efforts and coordinate efforts and concentrate on the elimination of traffic injuries and fatalities – and world poverty and global warming.
The PAP obligates the city to consistently prioritize road user safety and call for accountability from all users of the roadway. That includes defining and constructing projects to improve safety for people using the street, implementing changes to reduce vehicle speeds, supporting walking, biking and driving safety, promoting walkable environments and finally, encouraging safe behaviors for all road users.
The PAP engages community leaders to promote safety including enforcement of distracted and unsafe vehicle operation.
It’s obvious this is another attempt to further slow traffic speeds, increase congestion, make motorists more frustrated and further diminish the ability for most of us to get around in a timely manner. But, hasn’t City Hall been trying to force us out of our cars since the “Traffic Calming” days in the 1980’s – without success?
Bus Stop improvements continue
Finally, nothing shows City Hall’s ineptness and arrogance like the new Big Blue Bus stops. At 14th and Idaho, a neighbor made a big improvement at the new Crosstown stop. Finally somewhere to sit while waiting 20 minutes for a bus.
Bill can be reached at email@example.com