The Westlake Village area and Thousand Oaks are experiencing an increase in pedestrian-involved accidents despite the Traffic Bureau’s concerted effort to launch an awareness campaign back in January 2020. On September 12th of this year, a pedestrian was hit while walking on a Westlake Boulevard bicycle lane. On September 29th, two young brothers, Mark Iskander, 11, and his younger brother, Jacob, age 8, were hit and killed as they crossed traffic via a crosswalk with their family. Both incidents are alleged to involve speed and driving under the influence, leaving the police, community planners, and the community exploring solutions.
This begs the question… How can city planning help protect pedestrians and cyclists better? (ex. safety measures/policies, road/pathway physical barriers, flashing crosswalks, speed zones, etc.)
California Leads the Country in Pedestrian Activity… and Deaths
Westlake is listed in the Top 5 list as one of the most walkable areas in the country, according to WalkScore, a site dedicated to rating neighborhoods according to their pedestrian accessibility. California has the highest walkers and bicyclists in the nation, and city planners take this fact into account during their planning and policy updates. Why, then, are pedestrian deaths, which account for 24 percent of all roadway fatalities, so much higher than the national average of 15 percent?
One could argue that the increase in pedestrian activity naturally leads to an increase in the overall number of traffic-involved pedestrian deaths, which may be true, but which also means that measures must be taken to improve safety. Otherwise, are California cities truly “walkable”?
Residents Offer Suggestions as City Planners Engineer
Thousand Oaks and Westlake residents have strong opinions on the current situation and what should be done. Many people lament the speed at which vehicles drive through the streets and the lack of crosswalk traffic signals, speed bumps, and other measures. Westlake Boulevard, for example, consists of four lanes of traffic, and yet many crosswalks don’t include traffic lights. Street lighting, especially at night, helps drivers spot bicyclists and pedestrians while speed bumps hold drivers to a reasonable speed when 45 mph speed limits are ignored.
City planners continue to design walkable cities and neighborhoods through engineering methods, such as “traffic calming.” Traffic calming can include designating certain roads and paths for pedestrian and bicycle use only, using barricades to block vehicle traffic, and even programming traffic lights to control traffic flow. Some of these measures are already in place in Westlake, though. Nevertheless, engineering a safer road design is one measure that can improve safety for everyone.
Police Department Ups Enforcement Measures
The Thousand Oaks Police Department is doing its part to keep motorists and pedestrians safe. In addition to the awareness campaign launched earlier this year, they also focus on enforcing traffic laws through intentional, directed efforts. The police set up sporadic checks to identify ticket infractions for speeding, failure to stop or yield to pedestrians, distracted driving, and driving under the influence. Distracted driving due to texting and phone usage is prolific. Pedestrians also play a role in traffic safety, though, and officers cite them for crossing the street outside of crosswalks and clearly designated areas.
Everyone Makes a Difference
Reducing pedestrian fatalities to zero is not probable, but this doesn’t mean there isn’t room for vast improvement. From enforcement to education to engineering and more, everyone must do their part. For example, drivers must be aware at all times, but especially in “walkable” neighborhoods. DO NOT use your cell phone while you’re driving. Finally, slow down when approaching crosswalks and areas with a lot of pedestrian activity and give them the right way.
Pedestrians and bicyclists must do their part, too, which includes paying attention and not being distracted with earbuds pumping loud music or in conversation at the expense of general awareness of your surroundings. Cross roads only in designated areas, and don’t take for granted that drivers see you. Obey all the traffic signals and walk toward oncoming traffic. When facing traffic, you’re more inclined to spot danger and move out of the way. Be safe out there, everyone!
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