It’s worse than we thought.
A lot worse.
Tracking bicycling deaths in Los Angeles last year, it became clear that what I was seeing was clearly a major undercount.
Because the numbers I was seeing were too good to be true, as if LA’s Vision Zero has suddenly started showing results, despite years of just nibbling at the edges of traffic safety.
It’s a problem that has developed over the past few years, as local newspapers and TV stations stopped reporting many bike crashes after the pandemic forced major cutbacks in the newsrooms.
At the same time, the LAPD has taken to telling the public about bike and pedestrian deaths only when there’s a crime involved — and even then too often waiting weeks, if not months, to issue a press release in some parts of the city, particularly in the case of hit-and-runs.
And LADOT has backtracked from their promises to track bike and pedestrian deaths under the Vision Zero program, which has receded to where it seems more like an inconvenience than a priority for the city’s transportation agency.
As a result, I counted just eight people killed riding bicycles in the city last year, a fraction of the 15 to 20 or more deaths that would have been expected in pre-pandemic days.
Sadly, I was right.
According to the Los Angeles Times, that was less than half of the actual total of 18 people killed riding their bikes in the City of Angels in 2021 — a 20% increase over the 15 people killed on bikes in the first year of the pandemic.
The paper points out the ongoing failure of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s underfunded Vision Zero pledge to cut traffic deaths by 20% by 2017 — a target the city didn’t come close to meeting. And the virtual impossibility meeting his commitment to ending traffic deaths in the city entirely by 2025.
According to Los Angeles Police Department data through Dec. 25, 289 people were killed in traffic collisions last year, 21% more than the same period in 2020 and 19% over the same period in 2019. A total of 1,465 people were severely injured, a 30% increase over the same period in 2020. The LAPD defines severely injured as needing to be transported from the collision.
The city’s streets are increasingly dangerous for pedestrians in particular, with 486 being severely injured by motorists — a 35% increase over 2020. Pedestrian deaths rose 6% to 128.
The numbers frustrate transportation advocates, who’ve long argued that Vision Zero — a program to end traffic deaths unveiled in 2015 by Garcetti — is underfunded and given a low priority by the mayor and City Hall leaders.
Then again, that’s what can be expected when our elected leaders quake in fear of getting recalled by angry drivers, and lack the courage to make the hard choices and changes necessary to save lives.
But Garcetti isn’t one to take such criticism lying down.
Garcetti cited the distraction of cellphones as a cause of collisions and said the city has added bike lanes during the pandemic, studied the city’s most dangerous intersections to come up with solutions, and supported a new state law designed to help cities have more control over speed limits.
“But it shows how tough it is,” Garcetti said Thursday.
He pushed back against criticism that he doesn’t mention Vision Zero as frequently as he touts other initiatives. “I speak out all the time,” Garcetti said. “I do on panels, I go out there, internationally, to kind of be part of this movement to make sure that we have more walkable, livable cities.”
So it’s nice to see Garcetti has done what he seems to do best.
Talk and attend conferences.
To be honest, I’ve wracked my brain in recent months, but can’t recall any elected official I’ve voted for and actively supported who has been a greater disappointment than Eric Garcetti.
He started out great in his first term, before apparently setting his sights on higher office — including the presidency — and appearing to lose interest in the daily work of being the mayor of Los Angeles.
But I can tell you this.
I will not vote for anyone for mayor this year who does not fully commit to making Vision Zero a top priority, and funding it at levels necessary to result in real change. And commit to making the difficult choices and changes we need on our streets to actually reduce deaths and make our streets survivable.
And I won’t support anyone for city council who doesn’t, either.
It’s clear that homelessness will be the primary issue in this year’s campaign. We need to fight to raise traffic safety to a top priority, as well.
Because our lives literally depend on it.
A new Chicago study shows speed cams really do work. And they really do save lives.
A review of the city’s 162 automated speed cams, which state law allows to be installed only within one-eighth of a mile of a park or school, showed that serious crashes went up in those areas.
But not as much as they did in the city as a whole.
According to Chicago Streetsblog,
- Fatal or serious injury crashes increased only 2 percent near speed cameras between 2012-13 and 2018-19, as compared to a 21 percent increase citywide. This is similar to the 1 percent and 19 percent findings of last year’s study, which compared 2012-13 with 2017-18.
- Between 2012-13 and 2018-19, overall crash totals increased 1 percent in the cam locations, compared to a 25 percent increase in all crashes citywide. The figures from last year’s study were 4 percent and 26 percent.
- Speed-related crashes increased 18 near speed cams between 2012-13 and 2018-19, compared to a 64 percent spike city-wide. Those are smaller increases than were seen in last year’s study: 25 percent and 75 percent.
Two bills under consideration in the state legislature during the past session would have established pilot programs for speed cams here in California.
But both died on the vine, apparently because they would have inconvenienced speeding drivers, which tend to make them mad.
Fortunately, Calbike and SAFE — aka Streets Are For Everyone — say they’ll make getting a bill through the legislature one of their top priorities.
So there may be hope yet.
Los Angeles Bureau of Streets Services Assistant Director & Chief Sustainability Officer Greg Spotts is one of us.
Which should inspire confidence that he’ll get the job done right.
Now if all cars were just made like this.
Thanks to Ted Faber for the heads-up.
The immortal Sidney Poitier was one of us. So was his friend and fellow 1940s alum of Harlem’s American Negro Theatre.
I want to be like him when I grow up.
No bias here. Instead of complaining about the one rude bike rider they encountered, a New Jersey father addresses his complaints to “all the arrogant jerks who ride on New Jersey trails and roadways.” On the other hand, if you’re not an arrogant jerk, his message apparently doesn’t apply to you.
No bias here, either. Two cops were disciplined after Irish officials allowed a dangerous driver to remain on the streets until he killed a man riding a bike, despite 42 — yes, 42 — previous convictions, and being out on bail from three separate courts. But the police commissioner quashed their fines and sanctions.