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Slow Streets program might be made permanent, but will it reduce pedestrian and bicycle accidents in Los Angeles?

Los-Angeles-Pedestrian-Bike-AccidentsIn May 2020, Los Angeles implemented the Slow Streets program during the pandemic.[1] This program was designed to prevent traffic from entering certain residential areas to encourage people to spend more time outdoors safely. It also implemented provisions to substantially reduce the speed of traffic near residential areas. Communities were allowed to apply to the program to have designated areas blocked off from traffic during certain hours of the day other than for people who live in them. The program has proven to be quite popular, leading to legislation that could make it permanent in both Los Angeles and other cities in the state.

Goals of the Slow Streets program

At the time the Slow Streets Los Angeles program was implemented, California and the rest of the nation were going through the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic forced multiple closures and caused more people to work remotely. With more people working from home and large numbers of closures, the Slow Streets program was designed to encourage people to get out and enjoy fresh air and exercise by prompting drivers to drive more slowly while limiting through traffic in designated residential areas. Residents have been able to safely walk and ride bicycles in neighborhoods that participate in this program.

Initially, the Slow Streets program was meant to be temporary so that people could enjoy more outdoor space to safely exercise during the state’s stay-at-home orders. Los Angeles Department of Transportation workers placed signs in participating neighborhoods to provide notice that certain streets were closed to through traffic. These signs also urged motorists to share the road with cyclists and pedestrians and drive slower.

Drive to make the Slow Streets program permanent

In June 2020, Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu filed a motion with the city to ask city officials and LADO to initiate a feasibility study on expanding the Slow Streets program. The goal was to establish a permanent program in which networks of streets could participate to allow broad access to open areas for people in Los Angeles.

Participation would be voluntary. Neighborhoods would have to submit applications for the program to be applied to their streets through sponsorships by organizations. The Slow Streets program was very popular, leading the state legislature to consider a bill that could implement it statewide.

Assembly Bill 773

In April 2021, Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (D-LA) introduced legislation to make changes to the state’s law for speed limits and street closures on local streets. This bill, AB 773, would enable cities like Los Angeles to make their Slow Streets programs permanent.[2] The bill unanimously passed out of the committee and is currently on the Assembly floor for consideration.

Cities across California have implemented their own Slow Streets programs, including San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and others. If AB 773 is passed and signed into law, these cities could take steps to make their programs permanent.

The Safe Streets Los Angeles program has allowed families and children across LA to exercise, play, and socialize outdoors while remaining safe from traffic. Making this program permanent might also help to reduce the number of pedestrian and bicycle accidents and their resulting injuries and fatalities.

Pushback

When Los Angeles initially introduced the Slow Streets program, some groups and people objected to it, arguing that it violated CVC 21101.[3] This statute prohibits municipalities from closing streets unless they meet stringent criteria.[4] In response, a portion of the program was rolled back by LADOT.

Under AB 773, cities would be able to close local streets much more easily. They could also reduce speed limits to make the streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. While the bill would allow these programs to be made permanent, cities would still need to undergo a process to identify which projects are appropriate and the types of safety improvements that would need to be added. Los Angeles is already undergoing this process.

Statistics on bicycle and pedestrian accidents

In 2015, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the Vision Zero program in Los Angeles. This program was meant to help reduce the number of fatalities in traffic accidents to zero by 2025. Unfortunately, however, the Vision Zero program did not reduce pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities. In 2018, the city had 21 cyclist fatalities and 127 pedestrian deaths, which both increased from the numbers in 2015 of 17 and 82, respectively.[5] A major contributing factor to the high numbers of pedestrian and cyclist deaths is the lack of infrastructure to protect them when they share roads with motorists.

In 2020, overall traffic fatalities, including pedestrian and bicyclist deaths, fell in the city.[6] According to data from LADOT, 238 people were killed in traffic accidents in 2020, including 120 pedestrians and 10 cyclists.[7] While these numbers were lower than in 2019, they were still quite high when considering the reduced traffic volume in LA during the pandemic. This was partially caused by increased speeding by motorists combined with more people out on the streets during the pandemic.

As the city and state begin their return to normal, traffic is continuing to increase on the city’s streets and highways. While the Slow Streets program might help to curb the number of pedestrian and bicycle accidents on protected residential streets, the city and state need to do more to prevent these accidents on every street and roadway. Cities and the state should continue to work on adding infrastructure to protect cyclists and pedestrians, including protected pedestrian crosswalks, bicycle lanes and paths, and other measures. Strict enforcement of speed limits should also be prioritized to help reduce the number of accidents that occur.

Programs like Slow Streets could help to prevent accidents caused by motorists cutting through neighborhoods to take shortcuts. However, if aggressive enforcement efforts are not implemented in protected neighborhoods, the number of cyclist and pedestrian deaths will likely continue to increase.[8] All motorists who share the roads with cyclists or pedestrians should observe all traffic laws and watch for cyclists and pedestrians. They should be prepared to stop in time to avoid an accident and yield to pedestrians and cyclists who are crossing the streets in crosswalks or at unmarked intersections.

Pedestrians and bicyclists should also remain alert when they are riding or walking on streets, including those that have been designated as Slow Streets.[9] Cyclists need to follow the traffic laws at all times and should avoid riding their bicycles on sidewalks. Pedestrians and cyclists should also avoid listening to headphones or using their smartphones while they are walking or cycling so that they might have enough time to react when presented with impending dangers.

Consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles

Sustaining serious injuries or losing a loved one in a pedestrian or bicycle accident can be devastating. When a motorist negligently causes an accident with a cyclist or pedestrian, the victim and his or her family might face permanently changed circumstances. Pedestrians and cyclists are largely unprotected from collisions and often suffer severe injuries when they are struck by motorists.

While the Slow Streets program might help to make certain streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists, more needs to be done to improve safety overall. Accident victims might be able to hold those who negligently caused their injuries accountable for their actions by filing personal injury lawsuits. By filing a legal claim against the negligent party who caused your accident and injuries, you might recover compensation to pay for your losses. The Steven M. Sweat Personal Injury Lawyers can analyze what happened in your accident and explain your legal rights. Call us today for a free consultation at 866.966.5240.

Resources

[1] https://laist.com/news/la-slow-streets-permanent-plan
[2] https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billVotesClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220AB773
[3] https://cal.streetsblog.org/2021/04/30/bill-to-help-cities-make-slow-streets-permanent-moving-in-assembly/
[4] https://codes.findlaw.com/ca/vehicle-code/veh-sect-21101.html
[5] https://www.usnews.com/news/cities/articles/2019-03-21/los-angeles-struggles-to-curb-cyclist-pedestrian-deaths
[6] https://laist.com/news/transportation/2020-traffic-deaths-los-angeles-pandemic
[7] https://ladot.lacity.org/
[8] https://www.victimslawyer.com/pedestrian-accidents.html
[9] https://www.victimslawyer.com/bicycle-accidents.html

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