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Santa Monica Council Weighs in on Blueprint for Pedestrian Safety

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

February 25, 2016 -- The Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday had a message for pedestrians who become frustrated waiting for traffic signals or worry they could be struck by vehicles crossing the city's busy streets.

The City understands their concerns and is intent on addressing them as it continues refining its sprawling and intricate “Pedestrian Action Plan,” a blueprint for one day transforming Santa Monica into a premier walking haven.

“All of us need to remember we’re all at risk,” City Council Member Gleam Davis said as she and her colleagues discussed the difficulties that walkers, drivers, bicyclists and others have co-existing pleasantly and safely.

She even suggested distributing reflectors to pedestrians, like those used by bicyclists, so they can be seen at night or during twilight, which public safety officials say are the most dangerous times of day to be out on the street.

The City Council spent part of its meeting Tuesday paging through its plan, which is more than three years in the making.

Two big concerns were the ongoing inability of drivers sometimes to see walkers in Santa Monica and the need to publicize the plan that is in the making.

“We need to focus on communicating,” Davis said.

The City’s proposal outlines improvements that include better timed crossing signals and more inviting sidewalks and streetscapes that encourage walking as the best and safest way to get around. It also envisions ending all pedestrian fatalities and major injuries over the next five to 15 years.

“Walking is part of the Santa Monica lifestyle,” Beth Rolandson, a principle transportation planner for the City, told the Council. “It’s part of our identity.”

The proposal, which Rolandson termed “a call to action,” was before the Council for input after City officials gathered ideas at public meetings and via community surveys.

Much of what the Council had to say was based on personal experience or observation.

Council Member Sue Himmelrich said she had been walking just the other night near Reed Park and noticed a lack of lighting --- a safety hazard, she said, for both walkers and drivers.

“I have trouble seeing people walking in dark clothes at night,” she added.

Better lighting was an issue for Davis as well., who said she has heard from many senior citizens thinking about taking advantage of the Expo Light Rail when it arrives sometime in May. But she said in many cases doing so might require a walk of a block or two.

“For seniors, it’s a safety issue,” Davis said. “They don’t want to walk and fall down and break a hip ... or feel they are a potential victim in a dark place.”

Santa Monica’s fun-in-the-sun atmosphere makes it a popular place to walk. But the streets also tend to be congested, and not just with vehicles. Pedestrians often complain about the dangers posed by bicyclists and even skateboarders jockeying for space.

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, there were 103 accidents involving pedestrians in Santa Monica in 2013, the most recent year for which incidents were posted with the state agency. Six of the victims were under the age of 15 and nine were over the age of 65.

City officials say that 80 percent of all pedestrian collisions occur at about 20 percent of the intersections, particularly on busy thoroughfares like Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards.

Council Member Kevin McKeown said both pedestrians and drivers in Santa Monica are much like their counterparts everywhere else: They get tired of what seem like long waits for signals.

“We all tend to get impatient,” McKeown said. “I think being impatient is a 21st Century disease.”

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