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Council Examines Vision Zero Priorities After Repeated Crashes at Idaho and 19th

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Council Examines Vision Zero Priorities After Repeated Crashes at Idaho and 19th
Another view of the building from 4th Street and Arizona Avenue.

They say the first step to correcting a problem is to admit you have one. Despite a sterling reputation amongst American cities for creating safe places for bicyclists and pedestrians to move throughout the city, Santa Monica clearly still has a problem. In just the past couple of weeks, two crashes, one fatal, at the intersection of Idaho and 19th over the last month demonstrate that Santa Monica has some work to do.

At tonight’s City Council meeting, the city is expected to admit it has a problem. A motion by Councilmembers Jesse Zwick, Caroline Torosis and Mayor Gleam Davis (Item 16 C, Agenda) directs city staff to “strengthen the City’s Vision Zero commitment to eliminate all fatal and severe-injury crashes from Santa Monica’s roads in light of the recent tragic fatal crash involving a cyclist on Idaho Avenue.”

In February of 2016, the City adopted “Vision Zero,” a traffic and transportation program that centers safety in all transportation decisions. The end goal of Vision Zero is achieving zero transportation deaths. For Santa Monica, the “goal year is 2026.”  Despite the progress the city has made, a year without traffic deaths seems more than two years out.

A report attached to tonight’s motion has eight bullet points that spell out what “strengthen the City’s Vision Zero Commitment” would look like. It includes plans to invest more resources in increasing visibility and slowing down cars, formal opportunities for residents to work with the police and city staff to make streets more safe, and identify funding shortfalls that keep the city from reaching its potential.

But at the top of the list is for the city to immediately look at dangerous road crossings, including the deadly intersection of 19th and Idaho. A full list of the proposed policies the council will be voted on can be found here : 

• Immediately initiate engineering analysis of outstanding community requests to upgrade intersections to all-way stops, with the intersections on Idaho Avenue to be prioritized.

• Develop and publish locally tailored City of Santa Monica guidelines for upgrading unsignalized intersections to all-way stop-controlled intersections that further our City’s adopted goal of zero fatal and severe-injury crashes. 

• Upgrade the portal through which residents can report a dangerous intersection, allowing for staff to determine a variety of possible safety interventions, including all-way stops, traffic circles, and diverters. In all such analyses, the determination that furthers our City’s adopted goal of zero fatal and severe-injury crashes shall be recommended whenever possible. 

• Establish criteria for the use of “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop” warning signs at two-way stop-controlled intersections that are not recommended for conversion, and develop an installation plan and timetable for such signage on intersections that meet the criteria. 

• Establish a regular meeting series between the Santa Monica Police Department and Department of Transportation to review traffic safety enforcement priorities, including locations and violations of highest concern, and capacity for reallocation of enforcement resources to priority areas and violations. 

• Refresh the City’s popular “Take the Friendly Road” roadway safety messaging campaign and initiate a new push of community messaging, including, but not limited to, bus ads, public service announcements, digital media efforts, and physical collateral. 

• Develop and submit a proposal in the upcoming biennial CIP process that evaluates and proposes safety countermeasures including the creation of “daylighting” zones to address illegal parking that obstructs sightlines, with a focus on priority unsignalized intersections as identified in the 2022 Local Roadway Safety Plan. 

• Identify shortfalls in resources, if any, required to implement these vital safety measures, and consider possible sources of funding needed beyond any CIP dollars requested per the above item, including, but not limited to, transportation impact fees, administrative fines for parking violations, the parking facilities tax, and any available grants.