The Santa Monica Police Department will continue its ongoing sting operations targeting unsafe road users Monday, March 9.
The “bike-pedestrian safety” operation is one of several the department has undertaken since late last year, during which officers target specific areas around town with high instances of crashes.
“Officers will be looking for violations engaged by drivers, bike riders and pedestrians alike that can lead to life changing injuries,” according to a press release issued by SMPD Thursday.
“Special attention will be directed toward drivers speeding, making illegal turns, failing to stop for signs and signals, failing to yield to pedestrians in cross walks and similar dangerous violations,” the release said. “Additionally, enforcement will be taken for observed violations when pedestrians cross the street illegally or fail to yield to drivers who have the right of way. Bike riders will be stopped and citations issued when they fail to follow the same traffic laws that apply to motorists.”
In the last three years, according to the press release, Santa Monica police have investigated 874 serious collisions, which resulted in death or injury and involved people walking and people on bikes.
While the safety enforcement operations are step in the right direction, treating people on bikes, in cars, and on foot equally, there’s still room for improvement.
Before one of the first bike-ped safety operations last November, Cynthia Rose, who heads Santa Monica Spoke, said, “Tying education to enforcement is a piece that is missing here.” Santa Monica Spoke is the local chapter of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.
People on bikes feel safer and more empowered when they know the proper riding etiquette and rules of the road, she said, noting that Spoke has put together its own guide to the rules of the road.
Since the November operation, the Santa Monica Police Department, in collaboration with the Bike Center, put out a guide to smart cycling to help people better understand their rights and responsibilities on the road.
Each year, the SMPD targets specific poor driving behaviors, focusing on a different behavior each month. Last July, the SMPD focused on bicyclists, since, under the California Vehicle Code, people on bikes have to follow the same rules as people in cars, even though, “a majority of the collisions involving bicyclists have been determined that the other party was at fault,” according to the SMPD.
“When a bicyclist has been at fault, the common causations have ranged from failure to stop at a traffic signal to unsafe speed,” according to the SMPD.
These issues need to be addressed not only through enforcement but also by planning our streets around the idea that they must be safer, adding protected bike lanes that give riders a safe option away from people walking on the sidewalks while protecting them from car traffic, and creating dense and mixed-use neighborhoods that allow for a critical mass of people on foot and on bikes.
The city’s Bike Action Plan, which recently celebrated its third anniversary, has helped dramatically increase the number of people who ride bikes in Santa Monica’s streets. The last report showed a 356 percent increase in the number of people on bikes.
Santa Monica recently began working on a Pedestrian Action Plan, designed to improve safety and comfort for those walking on our streets, but it is unclear when that plan will move forward.