Accidents Up in Road Diet

By: 
Kirt Ramirez
Fire trucks, refuse vehicles and delivery trucks add to the congestion on Broadway, between Alamitos and Redondo Avenues.

Despite the Long Beach Police Department stating the number of reported accidents on the Broadway corridor has gone down since the road diet’s debut in mid-April, a prominent community leader has come forward with documentation saying otherwise.

Robert Fox, who entered the 2nd District City Council race to unseat Jeannine Pearce after Broadway’s road diet “disaster” was unveiled, gave a press conference outside the downtown police station Aug. 5. 

He brought along dozens of signed affidavits from Broadway business owners and residents who witnessed car accidents on the corridor, have seen the aftermath or were victims themselves.

Fox handed the LBPD 59 affidavits for 62 auto accidents. Affidavits testifying to near-misses and people tripping over the black street bumpers were not included in the packet.

The result, he said, shows automobile crashes on Broadway have increased “exponentially.”

“During a previous press conference with the council person of the 2nd District, the impression was that accidents had gone down 20 percent since the road diet was configured,” he said. “This current release of documents counters that claim with real results and eyewitness accounts of accidents.”

Fox noted the LBPD does not typically respond to minor car accidents and therefore many collisions go unreported. But just because an accident isn’t recorded, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

“This press conference is to point out the truth of this corridor’s experience,” he said. “This should lay to rest any doubt that the road diet is a failure.”

He added, “The safety of citizens is our first responsibility and priority. If we believe that, then Broadway has failed to meet that standard and must be reconfigured for the safety of all.”

Fox, who has lived in his house on Broadway near Temple Avenue since 1992, said, “I can personally attest to the fact that I have witnessed more accidents in front of my house than I have seen in 30 years.”

Fox organized a July 15 rally at Broadway and Cherry Avenue where about 100 residents and business owners protested the road diet, which stretches from Redondo to Alamitos Avenues. A traffic lane each way was removed and curbside bike lanes were added to both sides of the street, which protesters said makes for a crammed, unsafe roadway that endangers lives.

And reduced, inconvenient parking hurts businesses, they said.

Local media covered the event and the topic made headlines.

Councilwoman Pearce, whose district includes a large portion of Broadway, asked City Manager Pat West to arrange a press conference.

On July 22 – a week after the protest – city officials briefed members of the media at City Hall. At a conference table, Pearce sat with West, Deputy Fire Chief Jim Rexwinkel, LBPD Commander Rudy Komisza and City Engineer Alvin Papa. Deputy Director of Public Works Diko Melkonian also attended.

Mayor Robert Garcia, an advocate of making Long Beach more bicycle friendly, was not present.

West explained the city adopted the Vision Zero Plan, which aims to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries citywide by 2026. He said adding road diets, traffic circles, roundabouts and traffic calming things like yellow, white and green bollards, helps to slow traffic and makes streets safer.

Vision Zero is gaining momentum in large cities nationwide and in Europe.

“This isn’t just happening in Long Beach,” he said. “We’re a big fan of Vision Zero, and we’re in that.”

According to visionzeronetwork.org, “Vision Zero is a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. First implemented in Sweden in the 1990s, Vision Zero has proved successful across Europe – and now it’s gaining momentum in major American cities.”

West said he understands change is difficult and people need time to adjust.

“We’re on a listening tour, so we’re continuing to listen; we’re tweaking stuff,” he said. “We’re listening to community input from the various community groups, residents, businesses, and we’re going to continue to work with them and tweak stuff.”

West said people can expect other minor arterial roads in the city to undergo traffic calming changes in the future.

Long Beach adheres to a climate action plan to reduce the carbon footprint and the city encourages living healthier lifestyles and being more active.

“We want people out of their cars and to have the ability to walk and ride bikes all over the place,” he said.

Phase two of the Broadway project will involve planting trees.

As of July 1, West said cars parked on Broadway during street sweeping hours stopped receiving tickets. Only the curbside bike lanes are swept now – with special machines. The parking spaces several feet from the curb out in the street will not be swept.

Tickets will continue for cars parked more than two hours on non-sweeping days, where posted.

Even though Broadway was designed to slow traffic, Deputy Fire Chief Rexwinkel said fire response times are stable.

“I’ve looked at the data as many different ways as I can over the past five years,” he said. “I see stable response times to all the areas I’ve looked at. I see no increase in response times to any of the areas impacted or affected by the road diet.”

LBPD Commander Komisza said:

“To echo Chief Rexwinkel’s comments, there’s no data that’s present that would indicate an increase in emergency response service from the police department perspective.”

Komisza, reading from a prepared statement, added; “We have evaluated statistics. LBPD has been tracking reported collisions along the Broadway Corridor between Alamitos and Redondo and we have seen a decrease in accidents since the recent changes and that is specific to between mid-April, when the changes took place, to June 30, 2019.

“Collisions along Broadway’s east-west corridor are down approximately 20 percent from the past five-year average. So I think that’s a notable thing to talk about.

“Mid-April to June 30, 2019, there have been 19 reported collisions on the Broadway Corridor involving one pedestrian, one bicyclist, four DUI’s, five involved parked cars. Of the 19, only nine can be directly attributed to the east-west corridor. The remaining 10 involve vehicles traveling north or south at intersections.

“From 2015 to 2019, the average number of collisions for the same time period was 11.”

A reporter asked point blank: “What about calls for service?”

After pausing, Komisza responded, “Calls for service, I don’t have that data with me.”

She asked the question because regardless of whether police respond to Broadway or take a report, looking at the calls for help for each of the past five years would show if more people are calling 911.

Under the California Public Records Act, the Beachcomber requested the calls for service data as well as collisions for each of the past five years – for a comparison – but only was given the current year.

Councilwoman Pearce said, “I would encourage all constituents and all business owners to file a police report any time they see an incident. As stated previously, we don’t know what we don’t know.”

Pearce added, “I will consistently be asking PD every couple weeks to give us the data on Broadway and if we see the corridor is not being as safe as we had hoped it will be, that we’ll have changes.”

Video of the conference is at LBReport.com.

Like many large cities, the LBPD has to prioritize calls.

LBPD’s Media Relations Detail explained through email:

“Typically a non-injury or minor traffic accident is a civil matter and those involved are advised to contact their insurance companies. However, if there is an unlicensed driver or the accident is suspected to be the result of a DUI, officers will respond to the scene to take a report.”

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 petition signatures against the road diet have been collected.

Candidate Fox, a real estate broker, who serves as executive director of the Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CONO) for Long Beach and is president of the Broadway Corridor Association, has retained an attorney for a possible lawsuit against the city for Broadway’s reconfiguration.

kirt@beachcomber.news

 

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