Equity in pedestrian safety was a priority for Redwood City Council as it weighed in on the city’s proposed Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan and Vision Zero Action Plan, collectively labeled RWC Walk Bike Thrive.
“I just want to make sure that we make an effort to reach out to the people we don’t normally meet at these meetings and who can really benefit from it,” council member Alicia Aguirre said at the city council meeting. from last week.
The Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan and Vision Zero Action Plan both aim to reduce road collisions in the city with the goal of ultimately eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030. .
The plans would use a three E’s approach, engineering, education and enforcement, which calls for making changes to infrastructure while educating the public about safety measures and enforcing traffic laws.
The number of serious injury or fatal collisions varies from year to year, reaching a low of 10 incidents in 2010 to a high of 26 in 2014. The most recent data collected in 2018 shows that 21 serious or fatalities occurred in the city.
According to state data, pedestrians or cyclists who are struck by cars in Redwood City tend to be younger males. Jessica Manzi, the city’s transportation director, said the victims are also more likely to be Hispanic pedestrians.
Reflecting on the data, board member Michael Smith noted that collision hot spots tend to be in areas where the number of cars is low, which likely means pedestrians and cyclists are struck by drivers. who do not live in the neighborhood.
“It’s so disheartening to see the level of inequity in the way people of color are affected by the essentially problematic traffic conditions that exist in the city,” Smith said. “I really want to see this trend change.”
The two board members, Lissette Espinoza-Garnica and Aguirre, stressed the importance of carrying out culturally sensitive outreach activities when developing plans, given that minority communities are most at risk.
Espinoza-Garnica stressed the need for an abundance of multilingual materials while Aguirre suggested staff ensure these materials are distributed to areas where people most at risk can congregate.
When determining which organizations should be invited to join the city’s Vision Zero Task Force, board member Jeff Gee encouraged staff to contact Caltrans. Agreeing with Gee, Manzi shared confidence the agency would join, but noted that Caltrans staff could soon be overloaded as more cities create similar task forces.
If the agency agrees, she will join a group of 15 to 20 public organizations comprising various departments in Redwood City, school districts and county offices. Deputy Mayor Giselle Hale also suggested that staff reach out to Daly City executives, who were recognized in a National Transportation Department report for their work on Vision Zero, a notion that all fatal traffic accidents can be eliminated.
“Hopefully the staff will engage them in a discussion to figure out what worked and what didn’t work so that we can avoid some of these familiar pitfalls and really get the best possible policy,” Hale said.
Hopkins Avenue Improvements
Public tensions were also expressed at the top of the meeting when residents pleaded with council not to finalize the Hopkins Avenue road safety project, which was among the items on the consent schedule.
Residents have expressed concern that a flashing beacon will be left where King Street meets Hopkins Avenue, an area heavily frequented by schoolchildren, and have requested that it be replaced with a stop sign. Others were also concerned that the improvements would limit future bus routes and create safety concerns for cyclists.
Responding to questions from Hale, who withdrew the point of discussion, Manzi said a grant of $ 840,000 could be lost if the project was delayed. She also said a study was done to assess whether a stop sign would improve the intersection and come back inconsistently.
“This is just one of those parts of the project like so many on the traffic calming projects where there are really strong opinions on both sides and no clear consensus,” Manzi said.
Further, she noted that Samtrans claimed that the improvements would still allow for a future bus route although no plans are currently underway.
Ultimately, the board unanimously approved the progress of the project, but encouraged staff to use an equity lens when reviewing future safety improvement projects, noting that the most resourced areas seem to qualify for improvements.
City Manager Melissa Stevenson Diaz noted that staff are also awaiting direction from the Social Justice and Equity subcommittee which is working on a fairness work plan that will influence all city operations.
“There will be many more as the Equity and Social Justice Committee continues its work,” said Stevenson Diaz. “It’s really a work in progress for us to reinvent everything about how we do everything.”
The board also formally adopted its budget of $ 323.4 million for fiscal years 2021-2023. Stevenson Diaz said the goal was to focus on advancing the council’s initiatives around equity, homelessness and other community resources while budgeting prudently with economic tensions expected to continue. over the next few years.
Unanimous council support backed the budget, but council members noted areas where they would like to see additional pressure applied, including around mental health support, city investments and public safety services.
“While the budget is a very big step in the city’s calendar, our city is an organization that lives 365 days a year and doesn’t stop,” Gee said. “We have to keep moving forward. “
Like some public speakers, Espinoza-Garnica shared his deep disappointment with the city’s large and continued investment in the police department. They recommended that the city hold in-depth meetings to analyze the department in the future to determine what tasks could be handled by other city offices.
“I really want us to think critically about the work of the police,” Espinoza-Garnica said. “I really want us to have a discussion where we can think about how we can [civilianize] these posts.