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Tuesday, November 20 , 2018, 10:20 pm | Fair 50º


Santa Barbara Aims to Eliminate Pedestrian, Bicyclist Deaths by 2030

'Vision Zero' policy adopts a 'safety first' mentality, with preserving human life as the goal

Bicyclist riding in downtown Santa Barbara Click to view larger
A cyclist rides in downtown Santa Barbara. The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday took a major step toward eliminating all fatal and severe transportation-related collisions by 2030 with its ‘Vision Zero’ plan. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Calling the policy "Vision Zero," the Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday took a major step toward eliminating all fatal and severe transportation-related collisions by 2030.

"Traffic-related deaths and serious injuries are avoidable and unacceptable," said Rob Dayton, the city's transportation planning and parking manager.

The city is looking to reframe attitudes toward traffic accidents involving bicyclists and pedestrians. Everyone shares a responsibility to make the roads safer, Dayton said.

The Vision Zero strategy states the following: Life is most important; every person matters; people make mistakes; focus on dangerous locations and behaviors; drivers have a critical responsibility; pedestrians and cyclists are the most vulnerable road users; the government shares responsibility for safe streets.

Dayton said the Vision Zero strategy adopts a “safety first” mentality, and that preserving human life is the goal. 

The policy includes a mantra of four Es: Evaluation, Engineering, Enforcement, and Education.

Evaluation means the city will use data to determine intersections that have the most accidents. Then the city will use engineering solutions to reduce the frequency of those accidents. The city will then assign police resources to enforce the laws. Finally, the city will educate the public to make sure that people have a safety first mentality.

The vote to approve Vision Zero was 6-0, with Gregg Hart absent.

"This is a landmark day," said Santa Barbara resident Bonnie Raisin. 

She said too many motorists speed in Santa Barbara.

"I don't know where they are going or where they are coming from, but there's a lot of anxiety and sometimes a lot of hostility," Raisin said. 

Mayor Cathy Murillo said that when she used to walk her dog, which has since died, she would always make a point to make eye contact with the driver to make sure she and her pet were seen. As a motorists, she said, she is making some changes.

"I just get out the door five minutes earlier so I am not in a rush," Murillo said. 

Kathleen Rodriguez, chair of the city's Transportation and Circulation Committee, is pleased with the program.

"I'm looking forward to this project growing and expanding and being wonderful," Rodriguez said. 

Activist Anna Marie Gott said she supports the Vision Zero program, but that if the city wants to reduce the risk of injuries, it needs to drop its plans for a permanent scooter ordinance. The City Council in June passed an emergency ordinance after a company dropped 200 scooters on State Street without informing the city. 

"This is not a good idea," Gott said. "We should never have approved this, and now it is going to sabotage your Vision Zero because it wasn't well thought out.  It looked like a lobbyist wrote the ordinance."

Santa Barbara resident and activist Jack Ucciferri also supports Vision Zero, but has some concerns. He said the strategy falls short by only using backward-looking crash incident data.

"We need to know what intersections people experience as dangerous, even when the numbers don't back that up," he said. "As someone who lives and works in the downtown region that is identified as most problematic by crash incident data, I can attest that some of the most dangerous intersections are not included on the map because many pedestrians and bicyclists avoid them entirely.

"I can also attest that a large segment of pedestrians and bicyclists are forced to take inconvenient detours in order to stay safe from cars. This reflects a lingering car-centric bias in our traffic planning mindset that we all need to continue working to deconstruct."

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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