A "ghost bike" — one that is painted white by members of the cycling community, marks the location of the recent accidents Credit: Scott Snowden

In last night’s refreshingly succinct City Council meeting, councilmembers voted unanimously to strengthen the City’s Vision Zero safety commitment to reduce road-related injuries, an issue recently brought to the forefront of resident’s minds following the tragic fatal crash involving a cyclist on Idaho Avenue.

Tania Mooser died at 19th and Idaho in October and Paul Postel survived a crash at the same place last week albeit with four broken and two bruised ribs. In the most recent accident a car was traveling westbound on Idaho and the cyclist southbound on 19th. The vehicle broadsided the rider, hitting his left side, and knocking him to the ground.

That intersection, like many in the neighborhood, is a two-way stop sign, not a four way stop. Traffic traveling east/west has a stop sign but traffic going north/south does not.

Councilmembers Jesse Zwick, and Caroline Torosis, together with Mayor Gleam Davis originally made the request and there was much, often overlapping, discussion on many of the points that had been raised. This included consideration of speeding, proper signage, visibility, pedestrian crossings, traffic congestion, cycle lanes and more. However, as Zwick highlighted, with any of these issues, if the problem can potentially cause injury or a fatality, then the problem remains a serious one.

“Yes, people should be less distracted, people should follow the rules … [But] if death is the result of human error, we’re doing our infrastructure wrong. Because right now, whether it’s a driver or pedestrian or cyclist that makes a mistake, it is almost always the person not in a three tonne automobile who dies,” Zwick said.

Councilmembers asked for (summarized):
• Engineering analysis to upgrade intersections to all-way stops
• Upgrading non-signaled intersections to all-way stop controlled intersections
• Upgrade the portal through which residents can report a dangerous intersection
• Adopt “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop” signs at two-way stop-controlled intersections
• Encourage the SMPD and Dept of Transportation to review traffic safety enforcement
• Refresh the City’s Take the Friendly Road roadway safety messaging campaign
• Create “daylighting” zones to address illegal parking that obstructs lines of sight
• Identify shortfalls in resources, if any, required to implement these safety measures

Almost the entirety of the public comment preceding this meeting was concerned with this subject (item 16C on Tuesday’s agenda).

“Members of our community have very strong opinions about many local issues, but I think that one of the issues that we can all agree on is that we want our streets to be safe for all people,” Natalya Zernitskaya said. “In 2020, according to the statistics from the US Department of Transportation, there were 54,769 Pedestrians injured and 6516 Pedestrians killed in traffic crashes. And that same year, there were 38,886 cyclists injured and 938 killed in traffic crashes.

“There are real people behind those numbers whose lives are irreparably damaged because of these tragedies, these preventable tragedies. Every single person that’s needlessly injured or killed is a preventable tragedy. And we have the tools and the resources to make our streets safer for all,” Zernitskaya said.

Austin Washington, a student in Santa Monica said, “My happiest memories have come on a bicycle. My mom and dad taught me how to ride a bike by pushing me and running up all the way up the hill on San Vicente. And now I bike to school every day, down the new 17th Street protected bike lanes. We have an unbelievable, almost futuristic, amount of bike and pedestrian infrastructure in the city.

“I see more and more of my friends biking and skateboarding places nearby and less of them waiting to get a ride from others … Every time I pass by [19th and Idaho] to pay my respects, I can hardly see over the top of the massive SUVs and illegally parked delivery vehicles that block the view of southbound traffic down the side streets of our city. I believe that a city with more drastic daylighting measures and more … widespread biking and curb-protected bike lanes that, at times may need to sacrifice a little bit of car comfort [are needed] to ensure the safety of cyclist and pedestrians alike,” Washington said.

Mayor Davis said all efforts are important to improving safety on local roads.

“The item talks about the three E’s of transportation safety — engineering, enforcement and education. And they’re all important things to worry about. Equally as important,” Davis said, adding that she’d very much like to see Santa Monica one day more closely resemble European cities like London or Paris, where so much foot and bicycle traffic not only reduces the amount of cars on our streets, but would also exponentially increase the benefits to and number of, retail outlets in up and down Santa Monica.

The item was passed unanimously, 6-0, with Mayor Pro Tempore Lana Negrete being absent for the entirety of this meeting.


Scott fell in love with Santa Monica when he was much younger and now, after living and working in five different countries, he has returned. He's written for the likes of the FT, NBC, the BBC and CNN.