A bold, new plan put forth by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) envisions a future free of traffic-related deaths. Mayor Eric Garcetti signed the “Vision Zero” executive directive, which calls for measures to ensure mistakes on the roads do not result in injuries or death, and aims to reduce traffic-related deaths by 20 percent by 2017 and to zero by 2025.
The directive calls for reports on specific recommendations for safety measures from multiple city departments, including LADOT and the police, public works and fire departments. Along with the department of public health and Mayor Garcetti’s office, they will oversee the initiative as the executive steering committee.
The emphasis is on improving the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, but it doesn’t stop there. According to a report from LADOT, more than 200 people die every year from auto collisions, and 44 percent of those deaths and severe injuries involve people who are walking or bicycling.
The city has already identified a High Injury Network (HIN), which spotlights streets with a high concentration of traffic collisions that result in severe injuries or deaths. According to the data, more than 65 percent of the severe and fatal collisions involving people walking occur on only six percent of the city’s streets. With these findings, the city will form detailed crash profiling to use for engineering purposes, educational campaigns and traffic citation enforcement.
Vision Zero’s strategies center on engineering, enforcement, education, evaluation and equity, and will be enforced by partnerships between the agencies and departments involved.
“For example, the department of transportation may do the engineering to reconfigure streets or the width of a crosswalk, and maybe pair up with LAPD to enforce the measures, then a local organization to get the word out about safety,” said Lisa Martello-Palmer, a spokeswoman for LADOT.
School age children account for 17 percent of all people fatally or severely injured while walking and bicycling in the city. Vision Zero intends to build upon programs that have been put in place to address school children’s safety, like LADOT’s Safe Routes to School Program, to focus resources on the areas that have the most demonstrated need.
“Mayor Garcetti’s Vision Zero executive directive calls for the city’s department of transportation to work collaboratively with L.A.’s Unified School District to prepare school safety plans, conduct outreach and bundle short-term and long-term safety measures through strategic and data-driven approaches,” said Connie Llanos, a spokeswoman for Garcetti.
The issue of youth pedestrian safety, especially while commuting to and from school, is a topic that has received much attention in Hollywood. Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, 13th District, hopes the Vision Zero initiative will coincide with many of the programs that he has already established in the area, including streetscape improvements, bump outs in sidewalks, a scramble crosswalk, and pedestrian activated traffic signals.
“Pedestrian safety is my number one priority in terms of mobility,” O’Farrell said. “The goal is to calm the streets for a vehicle, and to have visual clues that will motivate people to slow down.”
Last year, a truck fatally struck a woman as she walked to Joseph Le Conte Middle School with her daughter, who also sustained injuries. The mother, Marleni Edith Barrera, 44, was in a marked crosswalk at the intersection of Bronson and Fountain avenues when she was hit. To address traffic safety issue in the area, O’Farrell partnered with the school and the LADOT to make pedestrian travel at the school more safe. The measures included installing beacons to indicate people in the crosswalk, installing a new stop sign, and creating the Safe Passages Volunteer Pilot Program.
Martello-Palmer said that the measures put forth at Joseph Le Conte Middle School represent the education, engineering and enforcement priorities of the Vision Zero policy, as they have brought the community into conversations about how to safely cross the road and the potential consequences.
“I think that raising awareness about the restriped crosswalk and when people are in the crosswalk the beacons will be flashing has educated the whole community,” Martello-Palmer said. “We are working with law enforcement too. People have to realize that we are all pedestrians, and when you are in your car you can really hurt people, including yourself.”
The Los Angeles Vision Zero Alliance is watchdog group comprised of community organizations and companies including Los Angeles Walks, Multicultural Communities for Mobility, the Youth Policy Institute, AARP California and more. The group will work together with the city to ensure that all issues are addressed and to evaluate techniques to make the roads safer.
“There are major streets, like Melrose Avenue, Beverly Boulevard, La Brea Avenue and Fairfax Avenue, that serve as transportation corridors where speed is a major issue,” said Deborah Murphy, founder and executive director of Los Angeles Walks.
Murphy suggested that the city could design the streets so each traffic lane is narrower, resulting in slower speeds around corners, where many injuries occur. She also pointed to high visibility crosswalks, pedestrian advance signals, wider sidewalks, an enforcement of traffic laws and education as other possible measures to be taken.
“We need to educate people that everyone has a responsibility – we are all pedestrians at some point,” Murphy said. “We want to evaluate everything – and if things aren’t working as well as they should, we are going to fix them.”