In recent years, The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has made a major shift to viewing transportation as a multi-user issue. Rather than just focusing on four-wheeled ways of moving around, they’ve put the focus on pedestrians, cyclists, and other smaller road users.
Caltrans even symbolically renamed the Nonmotorized Safety branch of the Traffic Operations Division to the office of Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety. As part of the plan, they welcomed new leadership from San Francisco pedestrian and bicycle safety advocate Rachel Carpenter.
In 2016, Carpenter and Caltrans made a public commitment to triple the amount of bicycle traffic and double the number of walking trips in San Francisco by 2020. They also added urgency to the goal of reducing the city’s bicycle and pedestrian fatalities by 10% on the way to the Vision Zero goal of having zero fatalities.
So where do things stand today? Did Caltrans hit the 2020 goal? Let’s take a closer look.
Progress Toward Increasing Cycling and Walking Options
Early on, at the Silicon Valley Bike Summit, Carpenter announced a plan to separate the pedestrian and bicycle improvement programs to focus more attention on each of them individually. This allowed proper funding allotment and better tracking of specific data to support each initiative.
In San Francisco, spending on bicycle and pedestrian safety projects doubled and continued to increase to about $50 million per year. However, notable safety advocacy groups like Walk San Francisco emphasized that it’s not adequate to just throw money at the problem.
Increasing cycling and walking starts with messaging and public campaigns that emphasize the importance of non-vehicle transportation. When it’s time to upgrade a road, leaders must break loose from traditional thinking and be willing to try innovative new solutions.
This is why we’ve seen a ramping up of so many new safety efforts in recent years, like the Better Market Street project, the Slow Streets program, improvements along the Wiggle, new pedestrian scrambles, and car-free zones that stretch for miles. Some of these projects have faced intense scrutiny and controversy, but it’s sure starting to feel that people are starting to notice and care.
Are We Reducing Injuries and Fatalities?
Caltrans rolled out a new safety monitoring system that tracks where, when, and how many people are injured. The system gives safety experts a way to investigate the “why” of dangerous intersections and finally get to the bottom of persistent hazards.
For example, did you know that 12% of city streets account for 70% of all car crashes? This tells us that there’s something dangerous about these particular streets that should be examined and rectified. Hotspots for hazards have included areas like the Tenderloin, Market Street, The Mission, and Polk Street.
Before 2016, Caltrans was notorious among safety advocates for its slow progress on safety issues. Simply put, slow progress was killing people. In 2014, California led the nation for the highest numbers of both pedestrian and bicycle fatalities.
As time has gone by, the fatality rate rose in 2015 and 2016, dipped down slightly in 2017, then climbed back up again. It’s hard to say what this means. On one hand, it could indicate that so many more pedestrians and bicyclists are active, the number of injuries/fatalities is rising due to sheer numbers alone.
On the other hand, it means we still have a ways to go in terms of safety. Vehicle drivers remain at fault for 65% of pedestrian crashes and it’s unclear whether all of the new pedestrian and bike safety messages are truly getting through to car owners.
By the way, Rachel Carpenter was recently named the first-ever Caltrans Chief Safety Officer. She will oversee the newly-established Division of Safety to further study and resolve California’s most pressing safety challenges.
Liability, Legal Issues, and Personal Responsibility
As personal injury lawyers who handle bicycle, pedestrian, and vehicle accidents, the team at Sally Morin Injury lawyers would like to see more focus on the legal issues that may be impeding progress on road safety in California. Laws have a huge impact on public safety.
For example, California Proposition 22 recently passed, making it easier for Uber, Lyft, and other companies to avoid responsibility for their drivers’ negligence. Now it will only be more difficult for injured victims to pursue their legal right to compensation.
Sometimes it seems that nobody wants to take responsibility for bad driving. When people simply view car crashes as “accidents,” the term has a way of mentally absolving the at-fault party for their responsibility. A drunk or distracted driver might think, “Oh well! It was just an accident!”
Plus, we shouldn’t assume repeated and severe collisions at dangerous intersections are “just accidents” because the truth is, outdated road designs are part of the problem. We can’t let city and state governments off the hook for creating hazardous conditions and allowing them to persist.
It’s important to emphasize the responsibility everyone has to follow the law and respect the rights of all road users, including pedestrians, cyclists, and scooter riders. Prosecutors need the resources to make charges stick and civil lawyers want to be able to help as many injured victims of negligent drivers as possible, supported by legislation.
But until more progress is made, there is help for road crash survivors in the San Francisco area. The experienced bicycle and pedestrian accident lawyers at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers offer free online consultations and hassle-free claim resolutions.
So walk to us, bike to us, contact us online, or give us a call at 833-SALLY-SF. We’re here to help you stay safe and seek fair, fast, and full compensation if someone injures you.
We Handle Your Personal Injury Claim So You Can Focus on Your Life
After a traffic injury, contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many areas of the law, including pedestrian and bicycle accidents. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering while we handle the legal details.
We truly care about the people of San Francisco and all of California. Contact us today for a free online case evaluation.