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Planning for Pedestrians? Put Safety First, Commissioners Say

"If we can activate our streets in a way that makes them, from a traffic standpoint, calmer and safer—that would be a huge win," says Planning Commissioner Jason Parry.

Even in the earliest stages of drafting Santa Monica's Pedestrian Action Plan, city planners and consultants should make safety a priority, says Planning Commissioner Richard McKinnon.

"You take your life in your hands when you cross Wilshire [Boulevard]," he said at a commission meeting last week.

Drusilla van Hengel, with the city's hired consultant, Alta Planning + Design, said priorities for the plan—such as encouraging walking to promote health and fitness and improving access to public transit stations and stops—would be determined based on input from other city commissions and the public, but that she anticipates "safety will be weighted more highly."

The public will get the opportunity to weigh in on the plan online as early as mid-December and in person at community meetings in January.

Van Hengel and city transportation planner Beth Rolandson said they already know based on surveys conducted at the Santa Monica Festival this year that residents are most concerned about lighting on residential streets, crossing the freeway, poor quality of sidewalks and the behaviors of drivers, cyclists and skateboarders.

Once complete in Fiscal Year 2013-14, the plan will guide city officials in drafting new policies, making investments and rolling out programs related to walking in Santa Monica.

See also: 3 Pedestrian Deaths Spur City Into Action

Commissioners Jason Parry, Amy Anderson and Jim Ries echoed McKinnon's desire to see safety at the top of the priority list, especially near schools.

Ries said when he walks his children to Edison Elementary, they cross the crosswalk at Virginia Avenue, and even with a crossing guard, "drivers plow through it."

The safety compononet of the plan should include educational tools for pedestrians, said chairwoman Gerda Paumgarten Newbold.

"Sometimes pedestrians just assume [drivers] are going to stop or they’re on their cell phone," she said. "I've certainly seen drivers do plenty of things that are not correct, but pedestrians do as well."

Rolandson said one-third to 40 percent of people arriving at Santa Monica's elementary and middle schools are not driving. "A majority of that is walking," she said.

"If we can activate our streets in a way  that makes them, from a traffic   standpoint, calmer and safer—that would be a huge win," said commissioner Parry.

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SK November 14, 2012 at 06:08 AM
You're lucky you got an apology.
Emily H November 15, 2012 at 04:53 AM
Yes, the traffic calming is working great on Ocean Park Blvd. Tonight there were two accidents at the intersection of 25th and Ocean Park. Two weeks ago a police officer rear-ended someone. The week before there was another rear ender in front of my apartment. Ever since they turned the street into one lane each way and took out the dedicated left turn lane on 25th there have been more accidents and near accidents. I am waiting for the fights to break out. At rush hour there is constant horn blowing and yelling. Whoever planned this is totally incompetent.
Jenna Chandler November 15, 2012 at 05:43 AM
Hi Emily, are you referring to the "green street?"
corner soul November 16, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Couldn't agree more, Santa Monica is showing the rest of LA how to plan a city around people instead of around cars. They just need to build more housing (preferably downtown and near future expo line stops) so people who work in the area can afford to live in the area too, and we can get some cars off the roads and freeways at rush hour.
carla November 20, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Could not agree more. The "traffic calming" that includes turning major boulevards from two lanes to one in each direction and the widening of sidewalks to preclude right turns is absolutely ridiculous! I live near Wilshire and Yale and Yale north of Wilshire was allowed to narrow the street so that there are near head-on collisions on a daily basis. Well, I could go on and on but I'm getting ill....

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