Jeff Clemetson | Editor
City auditor’s findings on pedestrian safety
Last month, the Office of City Auditor (OCA) released the findings of a performance audit performed on San Diego’s programs responsible for pedestrian safety.
The report is part of a broader push by the city to make walking around San Diego more safe after its adoption of the Vision Zero initiative last October. Vision Zero is an international campaign that’s goal is to eliminate all traffic deaths by 2025.
“As we grow and more people are walking, more crashes are happening,” said Kathleen Ferrier, Circulate San Diego’s director of advocacy. “So Vision Zero says these crashes are preventable and as we modernize and we grow as cities these traffic crashes and these deaths should not be acceptable.”
Circulate San Diego led the effort to have San Diego adopt the Vision Zero program and also created the city’s Vision Zero Task Force.
The OCA report used 15 years of data from a comprehensive pedestrian crash analysis, which revealed that in dense areas of city, pedestrians were 20 times more likely to be hit by a car than other areas of the city and in low-income neighborhoods, pedestrians are 10 times more likely to be hit by a car.
“They also found that older adults and children were especially vulnerable and they were getting hit at a higher rate than other age groups,” Ferrier said.
The OCA report’s findings also show that many of the intersections with the highest incidents of collisions have not been modernized to improve safety, while low-risk intersections have been improved.
“A really interesting piece of data that was in the auditor’s report is how many repeat crashes are happening at so few intersections,” Ferrier said.
According to the report, 3 percent of intersections in San Diego — about 100 — had seen at least eight repeat crashes and some had up to 19 repeat crashes. At most of those intersections, the city had not modernized the crosswalks.
Another finding pointed to a low number of traffic tickets issued by the San Diego Police Department for the kinds of violations that lead to pedestrian collisions.
“We found out we weren’t really enforcing on the major intersections where a lot of these things occur like coasting through an intersection or turning right on a red light without really paying attention to what’s going on around you,” said City Councilmember Scott Sherman, who is the chair of the audit committee. “We saw a lot of that but not a lot of enforcement on the ticketing side of things.”
Sherman said the city needs to improve its priorities when it comes to where it puts its resources for intersection improvements.
“With the street upgrades, you see a lot of the high-visibility crosswalks and bright lights but we weren’t really tying those to high-frequency pedestrian/vehicle interaction,” he said. “It was more tied to street contracts and when they were coming up, which makes sense — it’s very economical that way.”
Sherman said that with the data, the city can now take a “hybrid approach” where resources for crosswalk improvements will go to both upcoming street contracts and dangerous intersections “and try and make a difference right away.”
Other findings in the OCA report include mention that the city doesn’t have a pedestrian safety educational campaign and it lacks a strategy to finance Vision Zero’s goals.
The OCA report offered 18 recommendations, which include using data to identify problem intersections; setting safety goals; increasing the percentage of traffic citations for violations that cause pedestrian collisions; developing an educational campaign and website; and developing a financing plan.
“That’s one of the discussions we’ll have going forward is the whole education component as well and how much that is going to cost,” Sherman said. “That’s all part of budget and policy discussions … ; and being fairly new, this is all getting off the ground and getting started, but I think we all agree on the end goal, which is to try and reduce and/or eliminate traffic pedestrian collisions here in San Diego.”
Ferrier and the Vision Zero task force members have an additional recommendation to achieve that goal.
“One thing that we absolutely want to see, that is so critical, is the release and implementation of this one-year strategy that we created with the task force,” Ferrier said. “We finished a draft in June, but it has not been released. Nothing has happened with it … It’s only publicly available on our website [bit.ly/2e1c3xM]. Even that plan falls short of what the city auditor called for.”
Still, Ferrier said that the OCA report is a good sign that the city will start using the data to make a difference in pedestrian safety.
“The city auditor does these audits all the time but we see this one as different,” she said. “By implementing these recommendations, the city can literally save lives, that’s different than improving the performance of the housing commission or the development services department or something like that.”
For more information on the OCA report, including links to the entire report, visit bit.ly/2dXcTXQ.
Problem intersections in the Mission Valley area (2001-15)
Linda Vista Road and Genesee Avenue – 9 crashes, 8 injuries
Linda Vista Road and Fulton Street – 8 crashes, 9 injuries
Linda Vista Road and Ulric Street – 7 crashes, 8 injuries
Mission Center Road and Mission Center Court – 7 crashes, 7 injuries
Camino Del Rio South and Texas Street – 6 crashes, 6 injuries, 1 fatality
—Reach Jeff Clemetson at firstname.lastname@example.org.