It’s Not Getting Safer Out There

With the weather outside being about as bad as it gets here in LA, you can bet that somewhere tonight (or perhaps already) at least one cyclist or pedestrian will be killed by unsafe driving. A look at the stats for bike and pedestrian fatalities in LA and Orange counties show almost no improvement since the turn of the century. One could argue that because the stats don’t show an improvement in safety for cyclists and pedestrians that the lack of improvement is a black mark for the city and Orange County.

When planners make goals for reducing injuries, fatalities or crashes; I’ve always wondered about picking a random year and saying "we’re going (or we hope) to see x amount of crashes in this year." Instead of going for a snapshot of a moment in time, we should instead work to see the number of bike and pedestrian deaths steadily decline year after year.

I wrote the last two paragraphs before looking at the numbers, let’s see what the trends are for bike/pedestrian deaths in the region.

First, let’s look at the bike fatality statistics below.

In 2002 the City of Los Angeles made the goal of reducing bike (and pedestrian) deaths by 50% by 2010 (down to 10 or 11 deaths). If anything LA seems to be moving in the wrong direction, and numbers from the last several years show minimal movement in these fatality trends.

As for Orange, well final stats for 2007 aren’t yet available, but lets hope that 2006 was a freak year of some sort.

For pedestrian fatalities we see more of same trend we see for cyclists in LA. There is little movement in any direction, and we certainly can’t see a trend of steady improvement.

You can look at LA’s line and see that the trend changes every year. 2001 is higher than 2000. 2002 is lower than 2001. 2003 is higher than 2002…and so on.

What this means is that the city/county of Los Angeles, SCAG, CALTRANS and our neighboring counties all need to look closely at what is being done to combat bike/ped deaths. Numbers don’t lie, and what these numbers show is that our current approach to making our streets safer for everyone isn’t working.

  • Matt

    I haven’t looked at the details to know exact numbers, but it seems to me that holding the numbers steady means things have been improving.

    As those years have passed, how many more people are there in this area, how many more drivers? Bicyclists? Pedestrians? Miles driven?

    I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised that if you did fatalities as a percentage, you would find that the numbers have actually gone down over time. If nothing was done, the numbers would likely go up instead.


    I’ll take a look at it as a percentage of total fatalities on Monday.

    I’m not arguing that nothing has been done though, but that not enough is being done for the city (50% reduction by 2010) or SCAG (25% reduction by 20something) to reach their goals.

    I’m not one of the people out there that see evil in every action or inaction by the government, I know there’s a lot of good, hard working, intelligent people in transportation agencies. To some extent, LADOT and SCAG do deserve some credit for the road safety conditions to degrade even worse than they already are.

    However, they’re the ones that set these safety goals. So far they’re not on a path to meet them.

  • Justin

    I totally almost backed into a pedestrian yesterday in the rain. The bad lighting and fogged up windows make it very dangerous out there for anyone not wearing a light.



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