Richard Bloom

A new bill heading to Gov. Newsom’s desk would work to protect pedestrians by requiring all state-owned roads to grant three- to seven-second pedestrian signals prior to green lights for traffic moving in the same direction.

Assemblymember Richard Bloom, representing Santa Monica in Sacramento, penned the bill, AB 2264, alongside coauthors Assemblymember Matt Haney and state Senator Anthony Portantino. The final Aug. 24 vote came one week before the Aug. 31 legislative deadline (and just one day before the original Aug. 25 deadline, which the senate voted to extend at the 11th hour). 

AB 2264 “would require a traffic-actuated signal to be installed and maintained to have a leading pedestrian interval, and to include the installation, activation, and maintenance of an accessible pedestrian signal and detector, upon the first placement or replacement of a state-owned or operated traffic-actuated signal.” 

It defines a “leading pedestrian interval” as “an official traffic control signal that advances the ‘WALK’ signal for 3 to 7 seconds while the red signal halting traffic continues to be displayed on parallel through or turning traffic.” 

The “accessible pedestrian signal and detector” means the walk signal would include nonvisual signals that pedestrians can safely cross, such as an audible tone, speech message or “vibrotactile surface.”

The bill, if signed, would only apply to state-owned roads, which include State Route 1, more commonly referred to as Pacific Coast Highway north of the Santa Monica (I-10) Freeway.

According to the bill’s text, the use of these leading-interval signals is to be phased in as new signals are added and existing signals are replaced in most instances; however, in some high-pedestrian areas, integration of leading-interval signals would be prioritized.

Signals “in a residential, business, or business activity district, a safety corridor, a school zone, or an area with a high concentration of pedestrians and cyclists” would be prioritized to become leading-interval signals when maintenance work is done on the intersection and not just upon replacement of the signal.

The final text of the bill passed the Assembly Floor in a unanimous, 76-0, vote with four assemblymembers present but not voting. One day earlier, the bill passed the senate on a vote of 40-0.

Assembly floor analysis prepared for the bill states that “according to the California Office of Traffic Safety, the pedestrian safety problem is reaching crisis proportions,” citing a 26% increase in pedestrian deaths on California roadways from 2014 to 2018.

The analysis goes on to describe the purpose of a leading-interval signal, which “allows for pedestrians to begin crossing the street while no traffic is moving at the intersection, increasing pedestrian visibility and allowing pedestrians to avoid confrontations with vehicles making right-hand turns. In some cases, pedestrians may be able to fully cross the street before any vehicles begin to move through the intersection.”

As part of the analysis, Bloom wrote that the goal of the bill was to prevent pedestrian injuries and deaths.

“With just a few seconds head start, we can reduce the staggering number of pedestrian casualties on our roads,” Bloom said, according to the bill’s analysis. “LPIs are a proven practice, low cost, and important in helping make California streets safer for pedestrians. LPIs have also been known to increase a sense of safety for pedestrians, which is a crucial component of encouraging healthy and sustainable modes of transportation.”

The bill was sent to the California Office of Engrossing and Enrolling for proofreading and finalization before heading to Newsom’s desk to be signed or vetoed.

*Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that California Highway 1 south of the I-10 Freeway — the stretch of Lincoln Boulevard located within the City of Santa Monica — is a state-owned road. The City took over ownership of the road in 2012.

emily@smdp.com