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Carlsbad traffic safety

Carlsbad outlines traffic safety initiatives

CARLSBAD — The City Council approved more than a dozen initiatives, including a resolution to consider Vision Zero, on Sept. 27 to address traffic safety as part of the city’s ongoing state of emergency regarding e-bikes and vehicles.

The city has experienced a significant increase, more than 200%, in collisions between e-bikes, bikes and vehicles since 2019. Also, two cyclists were killed in collisions in August, which led the city to declare an emergency, freeing up at least $2 million for increased education, engineering and enforcement measures.

Staff came to the council with three options for addressing traffic safety concerns: continuing without new spending, spending $2.2 million on a variety of measures, or spending $48 million, with a majority of the funding ($44 million) to “explore a school busing program.”

The council opted to go with the first option while kicking the second two to the city’s Traffic and Mobility and Planning commissions.

“Speed cushions around schools would address speeding concerns around schools,” transportation director Tom Frank said. “We heard a lot of comments that speeding is a concern, especially around our schools. It would … install speed cushions and over 100 speed cushions around the city in an expeditious manner.”

Vision Zero, meanwhile, is a national program promoting a comprehensive approach to eliminating serious traffic related injuries and deaths. City staff said it is already following many of the policies recommended in the Vision Zero strategy.

Other actions will include expanding public education to include partnerships with schools, businesses, mobility organizations and community groups. The city also plans to upgrade traffic signals at intersections with high pedestrian traffic and work with local school districts to explore developing a permit program requiring students to take a bike safety class to park their bicycles on campus.

The council also approved for the city to work with the city’s lobbyists to build upon recent state legislation addressing e-bike safety, accelerate plans to repave and restripe city streets to create more space for walkers and bicyclists while slowing down vehicle traffic and conduct a citywide review of speed limits.

“The preponderance of rail collisions are pedestrians,” Councilman Peder Norby said, noting at least three deaths within the last 12 to 15 months. “Back then we were running 50 trains a day and now were at 64 and we’ll be up to 100. Have we factored in pedestrian-rail or bicyclist-rail? I haven’t heard any communication about our train deaths, unfortunately.”

To date, the city has enacted a robust public outreach campaign, plus installing traffic banners, adding green paint to 18 bike lanes, installing 17 speed feedback signs and Carlsbad police have responded with 557 citations and 253 warnings to motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians, which residents said have had a noticeable impact in neighborhoods and slowing speeds.

In June, the council also voted to accelerate several projects within the plan as part of the Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget. Earlier this month, the City Council approved a contract with a firm to create an implementation plan and other studies to help pay for and advance the improvements in the plan.

In March, the City Council made Carlsbad the first city in the region to pass traffic safety laws specific to e-bikes. Carlsbad’s e-bike rules include a diversion program for riders, who may complete a training course to avoid a citation on their first offense.