Lawn signs, road posts and pedestrian streetlights are popping up around Santa Monica as the city works toward an ambitious goal of eliminating traffic fatalities by 2026.
The City of Santa Monica is distributing 2,000 lawn signs to households this month that encourage safe driving in school zones and residential areas, but most of its Vision Zero efforts involve infrastructure improvements aimed at making specific intersections and corridors safer. The City adopted the goal in 2016, following cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, branding the campaign with the slogan “Take the Friendly Road.”
Los Angeles struggled to realize its goal in the first two years after it adopted Vision Zero, with pedestrian deaths surging 80 percent between 2015 and 2017, and Santa Monica also experienced a spike in fatalities. Nine people died in 2017, up from an average of four to five per year between 2006 and 2016.
Pedestrians and bicyclists make up 70 percent of those fatalities on average and accidents are mainly caused by drivers who fail to yield, speed or drive under the influence, said principal transportation planner Jason Kligier. People 55 and older make up almost half of pedestrian fatalities and injuries but comprise only 27 percent of the population, he added.
Last year, however, there were no fatalities, Kligier said. Still, 40 percent of residents reported they feel uncomfortable navigating Santa Monica’s streets.
The City has been taking a targeted approach to road safety as it tries to make pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers feel safer. Planners examine the movement of cars, bikes and pedestrians of different intersections and install infrastructure to make the flow more predictable.
For example, at the intersection of Lincoln and Pico Boulevards, the City installed flexible posts down the middle of Pico to regulate traffic and posted signs telling drivers to slow down.
“The nine driveways off the intersection and the high volume and speed of vehicles created too many conflict points,” Kligier told the Planning Commission last Wednesday.
The City has also installed 50 new pedestrian intervals, which are streetlights that give pedestrians a headstart on cars at intersections, 15 miles per hour school zones at four campuses with six more scheduled, baller posts around bike lanes and electronic signs that tell motorists to slow down.
“People are very aware that driving under the influence is bad and the police department does DUI checkpoints, but a growing body of research says speeding is just as dangerous, which is why a lot of our campaign messages simply ask drivers to slow down,” Kligier said.
It will also be holding community meetings in the late spring and fall as it conducts a safety study of Wilshire Boulevard, a hotspot for crashes. The new lawn signs and other messaging, such as bus ads about scooter rules, are also intended to make the community more aware of Vision Zero’s goals – and hopefully avoid the backlash that Los Angeles experienced as it tried to implement its own projects, such as a 2017 plan to eliminate traffic lanes on a commuting route in Playa del Rey.
“We want to get support for safety projects that could reduce vehicle speed and throughput,” Kligier said.