Traffic, Officials Say, Makes for Relatively Safe Streets
The city’s co-called “Vision Zero” plan, which aims to reduce traffic deaths and injuries to zero by 2025, has its work cut out for it in some areas of the city, but not so much locally.
According to city officials, good portions of Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, Windsor Square, Koreatown and Mid-Wilshire, meaning much of Los Angeles City Council District 4, have had a statistically low ratio of car related fatalities and serious injuries compared to other parts of Los Angeles.
“We’re fortunate in Council District 4 to have had relatively few traffic-related fatalities,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu, who represents those neighborhoods in part, along with City Council President Herb Wesson. “That said, even one is too many and there’s always room for improvement.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti introduced the plan in 2015 to track traffic-related accidents that either kill or seriously injure.
Garcetti’s goal of reaching zero accidents by 2025 focuses on targeting trouble-spot intersections and improving them with the installation of traffic lights, dedicated bike lanes and other improvements.
The idea of “Vision Zero” originated in Sweden in 1997 and similar plans have been up and running in major cities nationwide—such as New York and San Francisco—for years.
Citywide, the problem is a major one for Los Angeles, a famously car-dependent and traffic-oversaturated metropolis.
According to Los Angeles Dept. of Transportation (LADOT) data, traffic deaths were up 43% in 2016 with 260 people killed citywide. Of those numbers, pedestrians and cyclists represented a disproportionate 53% of fatalities.
Currently, Vision Zero officials are focused on 450 miles of what they call the “high-injury network”—problem streets particularly conducive to traffic deaths and injuries. CD4 has 22 miles of such streets.
According to data, the most problematic thoroughfare in the district is Third Street between Normandie and Vermont avenues.
“There’s a portion of [Third Street] just west of Western where we have to make some safety improvements—signal upgrades, pedestrian crosswalks—that we think will have a significant impact,” said Lilly O’Brien, a spokesperson for Vision Zero.
As for future street re-design and bicycle-related street designations, neither are planned for CD4 for now.
According to O’Brien she has her theories why CD4 is relatively safer than other parts of the city: it has more traffic.
“It would be sheer speculation,” she said, “but if I had to take a guess, we see speed as the primary reason for deaths for collisions. If you hit someone going 20 miles an hour, they are less likely to die. If you have a neighborhood that’s heavily congested with a lot of traffic,” there is less speeding.
City officials working on the Vision Zero team are well aware of the looming 2025 goal year.
For 2017, officials said they will roll out a $2-million advertising campaign, in partnership with Los Angeles Police Dept., to remind drivers about safety precautions.
“That education component is pretty significant,” O’Brien said. “Our behavior matters. It’s an important part to being an Angeleno.”
With that in mind, Ryu said he hopes the plan can be a jumping off point for more solutions to save lives.
Vision Zero, he said, is “only one tool in our toolbox and just one method of addressing a much broader problem. The city and state must do more to prevent distracted driving and increase the quality of our roads, in addition to making improvements to protect pedestrians and cyclists.”
Moreover, Ryu said he wants to see Vision Zero get to the point where it will help people adjust their driving habits.
“The Vision Zero campaign is not just a response to the uptick in traffic-related injuries and fatalities, it’s also supposed to be preventative,” Ryu said. “It’s meant to change the conversation, educate pedestrians and motorists and prevent the next traffic related fatality from happening.”
In the meantime, the Vision Zero team looks forward to seeing the results of their comprehensive data-crunching and educational components turned into practical measures that will save lives, as 2025 looms large.
“We still have seven years work after 2017,” O’Brien said.