BY MARINA ANDALON
Daily Press Staff Writer
As City Hall continues to encourage new mobility options in Santa Monica, a recent study regarding safety near some local schools raised concern among some parents and residents.
The study was conducted by research company 1Point21 Interactive and was released this month by the law firm Panish Shea & Boyle LLP.
1Point21 used a state database of traffic accidents to calculate the number of incidents within a ½ mile radius of every California school.
Three Santa Monica schools were within the top 400. McKinley Elementary ranked 247, Santa Monica Alternative ranked 277, and John Muir Elementary ranked 308.
Brian Beltz, Project Lead at 1Point21, said the figures reflect every accident within the radius and the study didn’t breakout data by specific intersection or time frame.
“Our study did not pinpoint any specific intersection as dangerous, but the whole ½ mile area around each school,” he said. “Overall the highest percentage of accidents occurred Monday – Friday from 3-6 p.m. followed closely by 12 – 3 p.m. then 6 a.m. – 9 a.m.”
Beltz said listing only traditional commute times could ignore relevant incidents.
“There are a various reasons and alternate time frames that children travel to and from school for sports, and extracurricular activities. Many kids that bike, and or walk to school usually live within a mile of the school,” said Beltz.
Local officials said the results shouldn’t be interpreted to mean all accidents within the half mile zone involve students and that the City has several ongoing programs to address traffic safety.
Gail Pinsker, Spokesperson for the Santa Monica – Malibu Unified School District said the methodology the company used does not tell the full story of the city’s densely populated community.
“Santa Monica has a higher concentration of cyclists and walkers sharing the roads with cars and public transit,” said Pinsker. “The City performs traffic studies regularly and also determines and provides crossing guards for our families to be as safe as possible.”
City Hall programs regarding traffic safety include crossing guards, the Safe Routes to School program and the recently adopted Pedestrian Action Plan.
Crossing Guard Supervisor, Rick Luna said, “Each school has a crossing guard, but sometimes there are just so many parents who want to drop their kid off and get going to work during a particular time frame, making the streets congested.”
Safe Routes to School is a partnership to help ensure the safety of the students and the staff both inside and the surrounding area of each school. The program provides education and encouragement to residents of all ages who want to walk/bike to school. Events include bike festivals and the annual Bike It! Walk It! Bus It! Event.
This past year McKinley Elementary had the highest level of participation Safe Routes programs.
City Staff said there are several ongoing efforts to promote pedestrian and bicycle safety.
“The City has been actively creating safer walking conditions, and recently the Pedestrian Action Plan went into effect earlier this year,” said Mobility Division Manager, Francie Stefan. “We are constantly looking a ways to improve walking conditions, visible crosswalks, and ways to organize the flow of traffic.”
The city is currently working on school improvements for Edison Elementary for 2017 and physical improvements at Lincoln Elementary, John Adams Middle School, Roosevelt, and Franklin Elementary. As for McKinley, the city has been in contact with the school to plan on making the school zone safer. The City plans on doing more school site visits, particularly field observations and engaging the parents and administration to get their input and develop a plan to improve the school zones.
“This is a constant issue, and these plans were already in action before the research came out. Vision Zero is the ultimate goal for the city,” said Stefan referring to the idea that the city should try to eliminate all pedestrian/bike accidents.