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Despite Vision Zero Program, LA’s Traffic Fatalities Continue To Rise

In 2015, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti joined the Swedish-based Vision Zero road safety initiative with the goal of totally eliminating traffic fatalities by 2025. Unfortunately, recent data from Vision Zero shows LA’s traffic fatalities are headed in the wrong direction.

Vision Zero analysts say there were approximately 245 traffic fatalities in LA in 2017. Well over 60 percent of those killed in these collisions were either cyclists or pedestrians, which is five percent higher than Vision Zero’s 2015 figures.

Compared with other cities that have a Vision Zero program, Los Angeles is falling way behind. For example, New York City, which adopted the Vision Zero initiative in 2014, now has a record low of pedestrian fatalities. Last year, the number of pedestrians killed on NYC’s streets fell by one-third.

There are many possible explanations for Los Angeles’ poor traffic fatality figures, but most cyclists blame the council members’ reluctance to put in new protected bike lanes. Out of LA’s 6,500 road miles, Mayor Garcetti only designated about 80 for bike lanes in 2015. Since that time, seven of those bike lanes miles have been abolished due to pushback from motorists.

Even though some council members like Mike Bonin and Mitch O’Farrell attempted to put bike lanes into their districts, they soon canceled plans after facing a backlash from the driving community. By contrast with New York, LA council members have almost total authority over their districts. No matter how much Mayor Garcetti or Vision Zero push for districts to install bike lanes, LA council members could easily veto the decision.

Members of the LA Department of Transportation claim the best they could do to improve cyclist safety is to focus on smaller improvements that could be realized within one year’s time. Instead of creating miles of new bike lanes, officials say it’s best to improve signage, put up new traffic signals, and paint new crosswalks.

Members of LA’s cyclist community, however, believe the city has to do more to effectively tackle this issue. Since LA was designed primarily around the automobile, cyclists argue it’s imperative for city leaders to change street designs to promote slower, and hence more bike-friendly, driving

Many cyclist groups have become more engaged in the community following the April hit-and-run death of 22-year-old cyclist Frederick “Woon” Frazier. As Frazier was traveling at the intersection of West Manchester and Normandie, he was struck by a white SUV that quickly sped away from the scene.

The intersection where Frazier was killed was one of many in the city Vision Zero identified as a safety hazard. Today, cyclists have banded together in a group called “Woon Justice” which demands LA officials install a permanent bike lane on W Manchester to honor Frazier’s death.

Even if cyclists aren’t able to achieve their goals with the “Woon Justice” movement, it’s clear that groups like BikingInLA.com and the LA County Bike Coalition will become more vocal in their criticisms of LA’s Vision Zero program.

To find out the latest information on LA’s Vision Zero initiative, you can check out the official website at http://visionzero.lacity.org/.