Dear Mayor Richard Bloom and
I write to urge your swift and decisive action in eliminating the extreme danger posed to pedestrians crossing Wilshire Boulevard at night. This danger likely contributed to the tragic, fatal auto-pedestrian collision recently at 10th and Wilshire.
I’m an experienced motorist in my mid-50s, with normal night vision and no hesitancy or difficulty with night driving. Over the years I have driven at night in many cities and rural areas in the U.S. and abroad. I moved to Santa Monica about 18 months ago, and one of the first things I noticed was the poor illumination along Wilshire. While other major thoroughfares would benefit from improved night visibility, in my experience Wilshire is clearly the worst of them. From the standpoint of pedestrian safety, it is a dark and dangerous street – not to mention one of the busiest in the city.
Here is what I have observed on Wilshire at night:
• There are a number of crosswalks at intersections not controlled by traffic lights.
• Sidewalks do not have any kind of warning lights (either the old-fashioned overhead dual-blinkers, or the more modern – and better – at-grade flashers).
• The general level of illumination along Wilshire is extremely poor. As a consequence, in many cases pedestrians in the intersection are not clearly visible until braking distance is inadequate. Despite my deliberately increased level of attention and close scanning of each and every intersection, I’ve had to brake hard on more than one occasion.
The car-pedestrian collision at 10th and Wilshire happened just a week ago, and the police investigation is probably still in progress. I have not heard whether distractedness, alcohol or any other external circumstance contributed to that accident. What I can say is that Wilshire is dangerous at night even for an experienced, sober driver with excellent eyesight, and who is paying close attention. Even a momentary distraction of the sort commonly experienced on the road today could easily result in another tragedy. I’m guessing each of you has a fair amount of experience driving Wilshire at night (if not, I suggest that you do so – very carefully), and have had the “there but for the grace of God” feeling that I have.
From the motorist’s point of view, the actions that would make the biggest improvement on Wilshire include:
• Boosting the general level of illumination – Centinela Avenue to Ocean Avenue
• If not immediately feasible along the entire length, priority order would be uncontrolled intersections; controlled intersections; then balance.
• Installing at-grade “flashers” indicating pedestrians in the crosswalk.
• Until illumination improvements are implemented, imposing a reduced night speed limit.
Santa Monica is an affluent community with a relatively high per capita level of governmental services. The City has a number of street improvement projects scheduled for 2011. As far as I can tell, lighting improvements for Wilshire are not among them. The ones that have been funded are worthy, but are not as critical to public safety as is remedying the situation along Wilshire. I believe we have the civic resources to fund the needed improvements, and I urge you to do so quickly – before we all have to read about another tragedy.
Wishing you a prosperous, and safer, 2011.