By Jorge Casuso
November 17, 2023 -- Spurred by the death of a bicyclist in Santa Monica last month, the City Council took additional steps Tuesday to eliminate all crashes that seriously injure or kill bicyclists and pedestrians.
Councilmember Jesse Zwick, who spearheaded the discussion item, noted that the October 27 carsh at 19th Street and Idaho Avenue marked the 12th bicyclist killed in LA County in three weeks.
"This is an epidemic of road violence," Zwick said. "There are more people murdered by cars than by guns or any other source in LA County and we need to do more."
Zwick pointed to the "voluminous" testimony that included many bicyclists who "commented directly on experiencing near misses or witnessing accidents" at intersections up and down Idaho Avenue.
"We have a lot of people who are using residential streets as thoroughfares to avoid traffic on our main arterials," he said.
Zwick said he was struck by "how many other streets in Santa Monica are exactly like Idaho and how many of them need interventions as well."
While many have asked the City to do something about the problem, "those requests have been studied and been denied because we've prioritized getting people quickly in and out of our city," Zwick said.
Approved with a unanimous voice vote, the Counciilmember item called for staff to "immediately initiate engineering analysis of outstanding community requests to upgrade intersections to all-way stops, with the intersections on Idaho Avenue to be prioritized" ("Bicycle Safety Focus of Council Item, Police Operation," November 13, 2023).
It also directed the City Manager to work with staff to implement a number of initiatives to achieve the City's "Vision Zero," a policy adopted in February of 2016 to end all fatalities and major injuries among users of City streets in coming decades.
The following year, the Council called for the creation of a “czar” to oversee to implement measures that then City Manager Rick Cole warned would be difficult and potentially unpalatable in a Southern California culture still mostly attached to automobiles.
“The reality is that making our streets safer requires long-term and politically unpopular decisions,” Cole said ("Santa Monica City Council Calls for Safe Streets 'Czar,'” May 11, 2017).
"We all want safer streets, period," Torosis said.
The item was placed on Tuesday's agenda by Zwick, Councilmember Caroline Torosis and Mayor Gleam Davis "in light of the recent tragic fatal crash involving a cyclist on Idaho Avenue."
"It's unfortunate that this motion had to come as a result of someone's death," Torosis said. We absolutely have to signal that this is a priority and front and center, and we are doing that now.