Last week, the City of Santa Monica installed infrastructure that creates right-turn-only restrictions at fourteen unsignalized intersections along the Boulevard. Twenty percent of all crashes along the corridor have been caused by cars either going straight or cutting through these intersections according to a report by the city.
In 2019 and early into 2020, the city conducted a safety study along the Wilshire Corridor (pdf of presentation, here) because crashes, serious crashes and fatalities are all higher along the corridor than at other places in the city. Earlier this year, the city began implementing the “Phase 1 improvements” along the corridor that include not just the improvements at unsignalized intersections, but also:
Flashing Beacons at Crosswalks: Highly Visible flashing beacons at 5 intersections signal to motorists that they must yield to the pedestrian crossing the street.
Curb Extensions with Paint and Bollards: Curb extensions at 14 intersections shorten pedestrian crossing distances, reduce vehicle turning speed, and limit erratic maneuvers by narrowing the travel lane.
Bus Stop Red Zones: New pavement markings will discourage vehicle loading in bus stops that limits visibility and impacts bus stop access and performance.
Additional Loading Zones: More loading zones located adjacent to bus stops will provide a space for motorists to safely enter or exit their vehicle without blocking other road users.
The city announced plans to close these intersections to left hand turns and drives through the intersections when the Council approved the plan in February of 2020, just before the start of the pandemic shutdowns. The Santa Monica Mirror reported on the plan’s passage in the article,”Prohibiting Left Turns Onto Wilshire?Officials approve measures for improving pedestrian safety along Wilshire.”
However, social media sites have captured much surprised discussion in the past couple of weeks. Supporters of the restrictions have pointed to safety stats collected by the city between 2014 and 2018, the five years before the start of the study:
- 1) Wilshire Boulevard is among the 10% of roadways that account for 50% of fatal and severe traffic injuries in Santa Monica.
- 2) 60% of fatal and severe injury crashes on Wilshire Boulevard involve pedestrians. These occur at a rate nearly 50% greater than citywide.
- 3) A higher percentage of crashes on Wilshire Boulevard involved pedestrian right-of-way violations (12 percent) than those across the city (7 percent)
The other improvements listed above have been slowly implemented along the corridor starting last May and being completed as the road is being repaved.