Even in the earliest stages of drafting Santa Monica's Pedestrian Action Plan, city planners and consultants should make safety a priority, says Planning Commissioner Richard McKinnon.
"You take your life in your hands when you cross Wilshire [Boulevard]," he said at a commission meeting last week.
Drusilla van Hengel, with the city's hired consultant, Alta Planning + Design, said priorities for the plan—such as encouraging walking to promote health and fitness and improving access to public transit stations and stops—would be determined based on input from other city commissions and the public, but that she anticipates "safety will be weighted more highly."
The public will get the opportunity to weigh in on the plan online as early as mid-December and in person at community meetings in January.
Van Hengel and city transportation planner Beth Rolandson said they already know based on surveys conducted at the Santa Monica Festival this year that residents are most concerned about lighting on residential streets, crossing the freeway, poor quality of sidewalks and the behaviors of drivers, cyclists and skateboarders.
Once complete in Fiscal Year 2013-14, the plan will guide city officials in drafting new policies, making investments and rolling out programs related to walking in Santa Monica.
See also: 3 Pedestrian Deaths Spur City Into Action
Commissioners Jason Parry, Amy Anderson and Jim Ries echoed McKinnon's desire to see safety at the top of the priority list, especially near schools.
Ries said when he walks his children to Edison Elementary, they cross the crosswalk at Virginia Avenue, and even with a crossing guard, "drivers plow through it."
The safety compononet of the plan should include educational tools for pedestrians, said chairwoman Gerda Paumgarten Newbold.
"Sometimes pedestrians just assume [drivers] are going to stop or they’re on their cell phone," she said. "I've certainly seen drivers do plenty of things that are not correct, but pedestrians do as well."
Rolandson said one-third to 40 percent of people arriving at Santa Monica's elementary and middle schools are not driving. "A majority of that is walking," she said.
"If we can activate our streets in a way that makes them, from a traffic standpoint, calmer and safer—that would be a huge win," said commissioner Parry.