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Bicycle Safety Focus of Council Item, Police Operation

By Jorge Casuso

November 13, 2023 -- Some three weeks after a bicyclist was struck and killed by a car, the City Council is expected to vote Tuesday night to strengthen Santa Monica's commitment "to eliminate all fatal and severe-injury crashes."

The Councilmember item will be discussed hours after the police Department concludes a traffic safety operation focused on driver behaviors "that put the safety of people biking or walking at risk."

The item was placed on the agenda by Councilmembers Jesse Zwick, Caroline Torosis and Mayor Davis "in light of the recent tragic fatal crash involving a cyclist on Idaho Avenue," according to the item.

On Friday, a second collision between a motorist and cyclist took place at the same intersection, which has stop signs on Idaho, but not on 19th Street, police said ("Bicyclist Dies After Traffic Collision Friday," October 30, 2023).

"The vehicle basically broadsided the cyclist, hitting his left side, and knocked him to the ground," said Lt. Erika Aklufi, the Police Department spokesperson.

Police are determining who was at fault in the collision, which resulted in abrasions, some soreness and bruising, Aklufi said. The driver was not impaired.

The Counciilmember item calls for "immediately initiate engineering analysis of outstanding community requests to upgrade intersections to all-way stops, with the intersections on Idaho Avenue to be prioritized."

It also directs the City Manager to work with staff to implement a number of initiatives "to improve roadway safety."

These include developing and publishing "locally tailored" City guidelines for "upgrading unsignalized intersections to all-way stop controlled intersections."

Two-way stop-controlled intersections that are not recommended for conversion could have “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop” warning signs posted.

The item also calls for upgrading the internet portal residents can use to report a dangerous intersection, "allowing for staff to determine a variety of possible safety interventions."

These can include all-way stops, traffic circles, and diverters, according to the agenda item.

In addition, the item calls for refreshing and renewing the City's safety messaging campaign and considering possible sources of funding for vital safety measures.

The sources of funding could include "transportation impact fees, administrative fines for parking violations, the parking facilities tax, and any available grants."

"Santa Monica has made great strides" in advancing the ambitious goal "to eliminate all fatal and severe-injury crashes," the Councilmembers wrote, "however, more work remains to fully realize the initiative."

Also on Tuesday -- from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. -- SMPD will conduct a bicycle and pedestrian operation that focuses on the most dangerous driver behaviors, which include speeding and making illegal turns.

They also include failing to yield or provide right of way to bicyclists or pedestrians, or failing to stop for signs and signals.

Bicyclists should obey traffic laws, use hand signals, wear a helmet and use a front white light and rear red reflector light at night, police said.

They also must travel in the same direction of traffic and have the same requirements as any slow-moving vehicle, avoid riding too close to parked cars and use a bike lane when it is available.

Like motorists, bicyclists must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians within marked crosswalks or within unmarked crosswalks at intersections.

“We all have places to be and not everyone gets there by car," officials said. "Bicyclists and pedestrians have the same rights to the road but face even more risk without the protections vehicles have. We should all be looking out for one another.”

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