Recently, a fatal accident occurred at Van Ness and Beverly Blvd. when a motorcyclist collided with a car trying to cross the intersection. Readers were understandably horrified and asked what can be done to avoid this tragedy. Fortunately, the City Department of Transportation has been asking the same questions. At the direction of Mayor Garcetti, the LADOT has devised Vision Zero, an initiative to eliminate all traffic fatalities by 2025, according to Nat Gale, Project Director and Principal Project Manager at LADOT.
To achieve the Mayor’s stepping stone goal of a 25% reduction in fatalities in 2017, LADOT is focused on people walking and biking, because research shows that people walking and biking are over-represented in fatal accidents. Pedestrians and bicyclists are involved in 15% of traffic collisions, but they account for 50% of the deaths, according to Gale. And because 6% of streets account for 60% of deaths, LADOT can focus its efforts on those streets that carry a lot of vehicle traffic where people are also walking.
In this first phase of the effort, Vision Zero plans to roll out a public education campaign to change driving behavior to save lives. For example, speed kills. How fast you travel through an intersection can be a matter of life and death. Speed is a fundamental predictor of safety. Drivers need to know that speeding may save them 15 seconds on a trip, but it could save someone’s life if they don’t speed. Once drivers are made of aware that, people slow down, making intersection less deadly.
City traffic engineers study intersections and make recommendations to improve safety. For example at the intersection of Hollywood Blvd and Highland Avenue, there’s a scramble crosswalk. This holds all vehicles during the pedestrian crossing phase, and then keeps people on the sidewalks while cars are moving and turning, making the intersection safer.
The City has also identified a “High Injury Network,” where street modifications will make the most impact on saving lives. But unfortunately, or fortunately, for our neighborhoods, our streets aren’t in that network.
Given the focus of LADOT and the limited resource of the City, it’s not likely that anything will be done about the streets in our neighborhood any time soon unless we mobilize an effort to bring attention to them.
Gale advised starting a conversation with the local city council office to build a case for taking steps to make an intersection safer by reconfiguring lanes, changing timing of intersection lights, or improving drivers’ vision in an intersection. Sometimes it could be something as simple as repainting the crosswalks or the red curbs. But accessing traffic data is part of the challenge. He said LADOT is looking to developing a digital story telling tool that would allow residents to report incidents city-wide.
The GWNC Transportation Committee has been working on raising awareness on Highland Avenue and 6th Street. Mid-City West Community Council is also working on efforts to reduce traffic on 6th street. One possible solution, the “road diet” — reconfiguring lanes to create one traffic lane in each direction (instead of the current two lanes in each direction), along with a left-turn lane in the center of the road, parking lanes at the outside of the street on both sides, and a bike lane/buffer zone between the traffic and parking lanes — was discussed at a public forum last May.
“We are happy to help people organize and make a case to the city that our streets need attention,” said Julie Stromberg, chair of the GWNC Transportation Committe, which meets the first Mondays of even-numbered months.
The next meeting of the GWNC Transportation Committee is scheduled for Monday, April 3, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. at the Marlborough School library.