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City Auditor Faults San Diego On Pedestrian Safety

Photo by Megan Wood / inewsource

Two people walking dogs cross the intersection of Kettner Boulevard and Ash Street in the city of San Diego, June 3, 2016.

A new report from the San Diego City Auditor finds the city isn't doing a great job making streets safe for pedestrians. Relatively safe intersections have gotten improvements while some of the most dangerous intersections are neglected.

San Diego's traffic department should make use of data on pedestrian safety when choosing where to spend money on modernizing intersections and crosswalks, according to a report released Thursday by the City Auditor's Office.

The report found the city was updating certain intersections with things like flashing beacons and countdown timers when those intersections hadn't seen any accidents in at least 15 years. At the same time, some of the most dangerous intersections had not seen any of the same safety improvements.

San Diego's Police Department should also use pedestrian collision data when choosing where to target enforcement of traffic laws, the report found.

The report acknowledged that most of San Diego's streets and sidewalks were built in an era when design standards were meant to maximize traffic flow with little regard for pedestrian safety, and that the city is taking steps to change that.

The City Council last year endorsed a plan called Vision Zero to eliminate all traffic deaths in the city by 2025. The plan, drafted by the nonprofit Circulate San Diego, calls for narrower streets to slow down cars, more visible crosswalks and more bike lanes.

A key component of Vision Zero is creating a citywide media campaign to educate residents on the need for safer streets. That campaign is due in July 2017.

In its evaluation of the city's current media efforts, however, the auditor found San Diego falls short compared to other cities.

"The City's current education and outreach efforts for pedestrian safety are not coordinated with other departments whose expertise could be used to develop a consistent, Citywide message," the report said. "In addition, the City's current resources for education and outreach are scattered into several small-scale initiatives, while resources would likely be spent more cost effectively if consolidated for a larger scale campaign."

A city spokeswoman said in an email that the city is already implementing many of the recommendations in the auditor's report, and that the mayor had allocated $23 million in his latest budget to Vision Zero projects.

"The City of San Diego's primary responsibility is the safety of its people," said Communications Director Katie Keach. "Moving forward with the recommendations in the audit report will ensure additional progress on this critical issue."

The City Council's Audit Committee is scheduled to discuss the report at its next meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 21.

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