Pedestrian deaths rise despite efforts to eliminate them

LOS ANGELES — Pedestrian deaths in Los Angeles have surged more than 80 percent in the first two years of a high-profile initiative started by Mayor Eric Garcetti to eliminate traffic fatalities, according to data presented to a City Council committee March 28.

In 2015, 74 people on foot were killed by drivers in Los Angeles, but that figure rose to 135 in 2017, according a report by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation that was presented to the City Council’s Transportation Committee.

In 2015, Garcetti signed an executive order creating the Vision Zero initiative, which set the goal of eliminating traffic deaths on city streets by 2025. It called for reductions of 20 percent by 2017 and 50 percent by 2020.

The 6 percent decline in traffic deaths last year fell well short of that goal, and the city’s slow progress suggests reducing fatalities by half in the next three years will be difficult.

Councilman Mike Bonin, chair of the Transportation Committee, said he believes the numbers reveal the city needs to invest more, and not less, in the Vision Zero plan.

“There are some folks who have seen [the statistics] and said, ‘Oh Vision Zero isn’t working.’ That’s certainly not how I look at it. What that means to me is that we need to be doing more of Vision Zero,” Bonin said at the committee meeting.

Vision Zero was one of the biggest sticking points as the City Council debated the 2017-18 budget last May, with Bonin fighting hard for the program’s funding amid efforts by other council members to divert Vision Zero dollars toward more traditional street improvement projects. But Bonin and Councilman Paul Krekorian, who chairs the Budget and Finance Committee, struck a late deal that allowed for about $17 million in direct funding for the program by focusing on areas where Vision Zero and the more traditional improvement projects overlapped.

The $17 million was also in addition to about $9 million in Vision Zero funds that have been included in various departments’ budgets, including the police department. The program only received $3 million in the 2016-17 budget.

The Vision Zero plan centers around an identified series of streets, called the High Injury Network, which have a higher incidence of severe and fatal collisions and prioritizes those streets for safety improvements.

“Every life is important and we must keep pushing to do better,” Garcetti said Feb. 27, adding that he was proud the city had reduced deaths overall in 2017. “Safety is our top priority, and we will continue to set bold goals.”

The L.A. statistics are on par with national trends, which show that more pedestrians are dying, and drivers are more distracted. A report released by the Governors Highway Association in 2017 shows that the number of pedestrians killed nationally in 2016 rose by 11 percent to nearly 6,000. Figures on traffic deaths across the country are not yet available for 2017.

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