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Wilshire to Get Safety Improvements to Curb Pedestrian Collisions

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica

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Santa Monica College
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By Jorge Casuso

February 12, 2020 -- Four Wilshire Boulevard intersections will get more than $1 million in short-term roadway safety improvements to help cut down on serious traffic collisions.

The measures approved by the City Council Tuesday will be implemented at 16th, 18th, 21st, and 25th Streets and include signal timing, paint, signage, flexposts and other temporary materials that do not require substantial design or reconstruction.

Wilshire Safety Improvements
Wilshire safety improvements (Courtesy City of Santa Monica)

The improvements -- which will be implemented this year -- are the first under "Vision Zero," an effort approved by the City Council in May 2017 to eliminate fatal and severe injury collisions by 2026 ("Santa Monica City Council Calls for Safe Streets 'Czar,'" May 11, 2017).

The plan calls for safety improvements at ten key intersections citywide, staff said.

The "significant improvements," said Mayor Kevin McKeown, "will make the Boulevard safer for everyone, whether you’re walking, biking, busing, scooting, or driving.”

The improvements -- which will cost between $1 million and $1.5 million -- follow "a full year of grant-funded community conversation about making Wilshire a better street while protecting its importance as a major travel corridor," McKeown said.

Funded with a Caltrans grant, the study used comprehensive collision data and input from 600 residents, City officials said.

It found that 89 percent of severe injuries to bicyclists and pedestrians take place at unsignalized intersections, which account for less than half of the corridor's intersections.

"It is very difficult for drivers to make left turns, which leads to safety issues and delays for all roadway users," staff said.

"These movements represent fewer than one percent of the intersection volume, but represent 20 percent of the unsignalized intersection crashes."

The study also found that a high frequency of pedestrian collissions take place when motorists fail to yield.

"This is complicated by a combination of the multi-lane nature of the roadway, uncontrolled movements, and reduced visibility due to red zone violations," staff said.

While the crash rate is higher at signalized intersections, they acccount for only 11 percent of the fatal and severe injuries involving pedestrians and bicyclists, according to staff.

"Many of the signalized intersections do not currently have fully protected left-turn phasing, which may contribute to the occurrence of left-turn crashes and conflicts with crossing pedestrians and bicyclists," staff said.

The measures that will be implemented on Wilshire include allowing only right turns from stop-controlled side streets at 13 intersections and pedestrian activated flashing beacons at five other locations.

All unsignalized crossings will be enhanced with corridor-wide signage and pavement markings and white edge lines to delineate the parking lane, according to staff.

Five intersections with bicycle lane connections also will be marked and U-turns will be restricted along eastbound and westbound approaches "where appropriate," staff said.

City staff will test the improvements before seeking funding to install them "in a more permanent fashion."

Staff also will seek funding for future improvements.

So far this year, there have been two pedestrians deaths, matching the total for all of last year. There were none in 2018 ("Pedestrian Killed in Ocean Park Collision," February 3, 2020).

Despite having no pedestrian deaths in 2018, Santa Monica ranked near the top of the list of Los Angeles County cities with the most pedestrian crashes and injuries ("Santa Monica Ranks Third in County for Pedestrian Crashes, Injuries," December 9, 2019).

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