Traffic Safety Summit Recap

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I didn’t plan on doing a post on last night’s Traffic Safety Summit, but the heavy hitters decided to show up here in little Valley Village, so yeah, I feel compelled now.

I’ve been to a number of meetings here at this mid-sized Colfax Auditorium, but out of all of them, this was one of the most well attended.

Hosted by the Valley Village Neighborhood Council, LA Walks, officers from the LAPD’s Valley Traffic Division and a number of local residents were on hand. I felt like a large demographic was left out because the event was scheduled during Spring Break and the Purim holiday, but still I’m glad the room was solidly filled.

 

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It took me 30 minutes to realize that Krekorian had shaved off his goatee.

The meeting kicked off quickly with Councilmember Paul Krekorian talking about the broader picture. He seems well versed in talking about active transportation, but there appeared to be a few moments where he caught himself using the word “accident”. He pushed for the benefits of the upcoming Measure R2 ballot initiative and the $30 million dollar a year commitment to sidewalk repair.

What I didn’t expect was to have LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds come. The bulk of her presentation spoke to the goals of our city’s ambitious Vision Zero program. To me, I’m already familiar with the presentation, but it’s interesting to see how people absorbing this information for the first time react.

The stat that 65% of collisions happen on 6% of the streets was an attention grabber as well as the effect that high speeds have on collisions. Examples of street improvements to enhance safety, such as scramble crosswalks, speed calming bollards and protected bike lanes seemed to be a fresh discovery to this crowd.

Next Officer Troy Williams showed off some mad powerpoint skills getting everyone’s attention not only showing video from the recent high speed crash from March 8th on Sepulveda & Vanowen, but also some fancy multimedia graphics similar to when Jon Gruden breaks down game tape.

He shared the quote, “Collisions don’t just happen, they are caused.” I’m glad we’re getting the word accidents out of our vocabulary.

The major component he shared was the lack of tools LAPD are given to issue speeding tickets. Unless a given street has been given a recent speed study, then police are not allowed to use laser or radar for enforcement. There used to be six pages full of street names in the valley they could issue tickets, but now in 2016, they only have one.

One figure that was an eye raiser about the speed studies was the graph showing how an increased speed limit didn’t have a transitive effect

CiclaValley has Groupies!
CiclaValley has Groupies!

on raising average speeds. I wasn’t able to take down the chart, but as an example, if people were driving 43 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone, if the speed limit was increase to 40mph, then the average speed might go up to 45mph. More on this later.

Brian Gallager, who also works for LADOT, but covers the valley, discussed some of the up and coming improvements. A number of crosswalks will be added and some previous ones will be adding flashing signals. The department now has the funding to add speed bumps again, a program that has been dormant since 2008.

Officer Steve Rausch who covers North Hollywood down to Studio City on motorcycle gave a quick . He got the biggest applause of the night mentioning the tickets he was handing out at Laurel Canyon & Mulholland. He also mentioned he’d be at Berry & Laurie this morning, in case you’re on the lookout.

People submitted a number of questions, but VVNC President Tony Braswell grouped them into a few general ones. There wasn’t anything hard hitting as people asked about things like cut through traffic and street racing.

 

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Officer Williams’ breakdown of this collision might qualify him to be the Rams new Offensive Coordinator

The one thing that raised an eyebrow was Krekorian’s insistence on getting these traffic studies done, even if they mean raising the speed limit. Even if I were to take his words at face value that the ability to enforce speeding will reduce collisions even with higher speed limits is a tough pill to swallow.

First of all, Officer Rausch and even Krekorian said so much that police efforts are spread thin enough as it is. Even if you could double the traffic enforcement, that still wouldn’t be enough.

The streets are already engineered for people to drive too fast. It didn’t seem like the goals of Krekorian were inline with Vision Zero. Unless something is done to address this, then there’s little chance that we’ll significantly make our streets safer.

 

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  • M

    Thanks for the recap for those of us that were not able to make it.

    From your summary it sounds like some key people are still having problems understanding how critical design is in fixing some of these problems.

    Out of curiosity, did they mention what the one street that speeding tickets can be issued on? I cross Cahuenga at Whipple every day right next to the place where there’s a 35mph sign and one of those signs that detects people’s speeds and flashes when people are going over. Just this morning, during only a single light I once again observed people speeding at 50 mph as well as many in the 40’s as well as speeding straight through the red light (no left turns!) This is frustrating because the difference between 35 and 50 is likely pedestrians dying AND because this same scenario plays out nearly every single day I cross here.

    • Mr. CiclaValley

      I think overall, we’re making progress, but we still have a ways to go. If I remember right, Cahuenga and Whipple has a terrible distinction for either having a super high rate of collisions and/or hit and runs. That would be a great street for traffic calming, but I’m curious to see if that CM will do anything along those lines anywhere in his district.

      • M

        Cahuenga is one of those streets that is a council district boundary in some places (it is just a little north of the intersection I mentioned.) It’s also hard because truthfully, this general South East corner chunk of the valley is covered by 2 different LA council districts as well as Burbank and Universal City. Personally I have no idea how cohesive/in sync all of these different groups are in both seeing problems and trying to come up with a cohesive plan for fixing and prioritizing the Vision Zero idea.

  • The 6% of streets which are responsible for 65% of the collisions are what LADOT has listed as their priority for safety improvements. At the top of the list are those areas which have a high proportion of collisions for vulnerable users (bicyclists and pedestrians). An example of what LADOT has done is the intersection of Hollywood Blvd and Highland Ave where pedestrians can now use diagonal crosswalks when all traffic signals for motorists are at red.

    One problem that is not being addressed to a great extent by either the LADOT or the LAPD is the mass of motorists moving at 40+ mph on arterial streets. Trying to control that by issuing tickets one at a time by a police officer is not effective beyond a few individuals that are traveling at a much higher speed than the average.

    To control the mass of motorists from exceeding a certain speed you need automated speed and red light enforcement. There are also red light enforcement cameras available for stop signs.

    This Streetsfilm video explains how Washington D.C. was able to reduce fatal collisions by 73% in a decade partially as a results of automated speed, stop sign and red light enforcement.

    https://vimeo.com/142817399

    Here’s another Streetsfilm where Gabe Klein, the former head of DOT for the city of Washington D.C., explains how that city has become a much more comfortable place to walk or bike compared to New York City.

    http://www.streetfilms.org/gabe-klein-start-up-city/

    Some of the safety improvements that the LADOT is using for pedestrians and cyclists is zebra striped crosswalks, greater amount of time for walk signals, flashing beacons for crosswalks and changing the distance to walk across the street by extending the waiting area by painting an extension of the sidewalk onto the street. This is also used to slow down the right turns of drivers by changing the sharpness of the turn. None of these treatments are addressing the overall speed of motorists traveling in a straight line.

    LADOT is measuring how well they are doing for Vision Zero by the number of severe traffic injuries and fatalities. For the first 9 and 1/2 months (2015 results not yet complete) of 2005 compared to 2015 the number of severe pedestrian collisions are down and ped fatalities are about the same. Pedestrian involved collisions have increased significantly. In 2005, there were 1,746 pedestrian involved collisions in the first 9 1/2 months compared to 1,903 in 2015.

    Bicycling in the city of Los Angeles has increased significantly from 2005 to 2015 and so have collisions involving bicyclists. In the first 9 1/2 months of 2005 there were 817 bicycling involved collisions compared to 1,476 in 2015. Over 200 miles of bike lanes installed in fiscal years 2011 through FY14 may have contributed to preventing bicycle collisions from rising as the number of bicycle riders increased. In the first 9 1/2 months of 2011 there were 1,468 bicycle involved collisions compared to 1,476 in 2015. The average number of fatalities for bicyclists has risen since 2005.. Severe injuries for cyclists have risen since 2005, but have fallen since 2010 and 2011 as bike lanes were installed.

    M, I live on Cahuenga Blvd between Moorpark and Riverside Dr. So if you hear some strange guy asking if that’s you M as you ride your bike from Whipple to Cahuenga Blvd don’t be alarmed. I’ll likely be riding a bicycle on Cahuenga Blvd headed toward the Universal subway station. Don’t begin to think that people are beginning to follow you and that you’ll have to change your website name to X or Z to keep anonymity.

    I met a woman, who seemed to be in her 60’s, bicycling towards the Universal subway station a few months ago from work in Toluca Lake. I asked her on the train how long she has been commuting by bike, she said all of her life. That is probably over 40 years!

    • M

      No problem! Thanks for the heads up and feel free to say hi!
      Sadly, by telling you I’m a woman in my 30’s, that will probably help narrow it down :)

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