Southbound PCH in Crystal Cove State Park near Laguna Beach (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Annually, 3 million people flock to Laguna Beach for its temperate year-round climate, scenic beaches and coves, and art galleries and festivals. Throughout the year-but especially in summer-swimsuit-clad tourists can be seen spilling out of crosswalks as they traverse Pacific Coast Highway to the ocean. Given the popularity of this seaside resort, you would think more would be done to accommodate visitors walking and cycling through the city, as well as full-time residents. For a city its size, Laguna Beach ranked the most dangerous for pedestrians.
In an effort to identify emerging and ongoing traffic safety problems that may be ameliorated with grants, the California Office of Traffic Safety compares the accident statistics of cities with populations of a similar size, ranking those with the worst records the highest, starting with 1st place. In 2011, the most current year for which crash data are available, Laguna Beach ranked 1st out of 102 cities with populations of between 50,001 and 100,000 for its incidence of pedestrian accidents. Laguna Beach ranked 18th for accidents involving bicyclists and 4th for those involving motorcyclists.
Citizens Call for Safety Improvements
After a series of accidents claimed the lives of local cyclists and pedestrians, the families of the victims and several concerned citizens gathered at the Laguna Beach City Hall in mid-July to call for safety improvements. Joan Marcus-Colvin, whose husband John was killed while riding along PCH last June, expressed her dismay over the city’s lack of infrastructure for cyclists at the rally, pointing out that Laguna Beach does not have one dedicated bike lane. She also questioned whether rumble strips on the road shoulders along PCH and the addition of a traffic signal near the site where her husband was struck could have warned the driver that he was drifting out of his lane and slowed him down, possibly saving John’s life.
Benefits of Infrastructure for Cyclists & Pedestrians
Incorporating infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians, such as bicycle lanes, sidewalks, marked crosswalks, and pedestrian signals, improves safety and prevents accidents. Studies have indicated that the addition of such infrastructure results in fewer collisions between vehicles and cyclists and pedestrians. For example, after installing protected bike lanes on 8th and 9th Avenues in Manhattan in 2007, the city’s transportation department reported a 35 percent decrease in crash-related injuries to all street users on the 8th Avenue path and a 58 percent decrease on the 9th Avenue path.
In response to the rally, Laguna Beach City Manager John Pietig indicated the city was taking steps to address the problem of pedestrian and cyclist safety, including assessing the traffic circulation and bike and pedestrian access along Laguna Canyon Road; studying the mobility needs of pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, and bus riders; and conducting a transit study, reported the Laguna Beach Independent. Pietig also said the “Orange County Transportation Authority is conducting a corridor study of Coast Highway throughout the county…as well as a five-year bike corridor plan to prioritize local improvements and encourage funding.”
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