Collision Injuries in Beverly Hills Sill Reach for Record Highs in 2017

Nearly 5,000 road users have been injured on Beverly Hills streets in the eleven years that our police has been disclosing monthly traffic data. That’s about ten crash injuries every week – enough for the state’s Office of Traffic Safety to rank our city among the most dangerous small California cities for those who walk, bike and drive. And it is especially dangerous for seniors. This dubious distinction reflects the both city’s lack of multimodal planning and the declining enforcement of traffic laws.

In this post I’ll look at police department crash injury & fatality data for 2017. Last year I assessed the harm from crashes and the declining enforcement separately, so expect a subsequent post to look at enforcement for 2017. Spoiler: the current crash data show that existing trends continue: crash injuries are still at record highs and citations show 11-year lows. Might these trends be related?

Pedestrians

The overall state of traveler safety is perhaps best illustrated by the high incidence of pedestrian injury over the past 11 years. Almost 700 pedestrians were injured in crashes and 8 were killed – this in a city of only 5.7 square miles (and half of it is hillside and canyons where few pedestrians roam). The harm is likely concentrated in business districts and our higher-speed corridors like Olympic, Wilshire and Santa Monica.

Indeed three years ago the Los Angeles Times examined Los Angeles County crash data to find that several Beverly Hills intersections were disproportionately dangerous for pedestrians. Even after controlling for traffic volume and traffic speed these ranked among the most dangerous intersections in Los Angeles County. The Times identified a ‘cluster of problematic intersections’ around Santa Monica Boulevard and Wilshire.

LA Times 2015 analysis map BH detail

In 2015 this Los Angeles Times study of crash injuries did Beverly Hills a service: showing where our disproportionately unsafe intersections are located. City Hall has taken no action to improve any of them.

Our police and transportation officials have never released, much less analyzed, geo-located crash data to identify the most problematic areas for pedestrians in Beverly Hills. I’ve never heard this Los Angeles Times study even referenced in any city meeting.

With little attention to the problem, it’s not surprising that our city has made no progress in reducing the number of pedestrian injuries.

Over the period between 2007 and 2017 the number of pedestrian injuries has stayed relatively high. Last year the toll was 59 pedestrians injured; that was only three fewer than the 11-year average (62 injured annually) and down considerably from the 11-year record of 69 pedestrians injured in 2016. As this chart shows, the data may vary year-to-year but the overall trend is flat: there is no progress in reducing the harm.

Pedestrian collision injuries 2007-2017

Pedestrian collision injuries in Beverly Hills for the period 2007-2017.

However the number of pedestrian fatalities has been on the increase. Over the past five years we have seen more annual fatalities and last year two pedestrians were killed in a business district.

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Pedestrian fatalities 0 1 1 0 1 2 0 2
Bicyclist fatalities 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Auto occupant fatalities 1 1 0 0 2 2 1 0

Pedestrians are injured and sometimes killed while walking in Beverly Hills because traffic law-breakers get a pass from police. Instead police tend to point to pedestrian behavior and focus one-off enforcement efforts (when they happen) on pedestrian activity rather than, say, the more significant hazards for pedestrians: excessive vehicular speed, red-light violations and reckless driving (all prevalent at all hours of the day).

Bicyclists

Bicyclists also fare poorly in Beverly Hills. Last year’s crash data show that injuries to bicyclists was up nearly 40% from a decade ago. However the injures are fewer than other categories and the data vary year-to-year. For example, last year’s 32 injured bicyclists was down one-third from the 48 injured in 2014 (which was a peak over the 11-year period). Regardless, this chart of annual bicycle injuries shows a clear upward trend over time.

Bicyclist collision injuries 2007-2017

Bicyclist collision injuries in Beverly Hills for the period 2007-2017.

Bicyclist injuries in absolute numbers have come down in recent years, though, and for 2017 bicyclist injuries ran 8% below the 11-year average.  Proportionately speaking, bicyclist crash injuries make up a declining share of all crash injuries, as this chart shows.

Bicyclist collision injuries proportional 2007-2017

Bicyclist collision injuries as a proportion of all injuries for the period 2007-2017.

Still, bicyclists have represented about 9% of all crash injuries on city streets over the 11-year period despite bicycle riders making up less than 1% of all wheeled travelers. That is an over-representation of NINE TIMES (at least) relative to bicyclists’ numbers on the road. To me the suggested rate of injury shows clearly that Beverly Hills are not designed for safe, multimodal mobility.

If street design is a contributing factor to the elevated representation of bicyclist injuries in Beverly Hills, officials might want to identify the hotspots that show the greatest frequency of crash injuries. For example, where are the most dangerous intersections for riders? That’s a question that City Hall has never asked. For those of us who do ask, the police department provides no geo-location data on bike-involved crashes nor discusses primary or contributing factors.

While we don’t have the data necessary to prioritize a fix, I can say confidently that the city has taken no step to reduce the harm generally. We have few on-street bicycle lanes and zero safety signage that would remind drivers that bicyclists may use the entire right-hand lane in most circumstances.

Auto-Occupants

Auto-occupants suffer the most crash injuries due to the high traffic volume on city streets and the prevalence of aggressive driving. The figures should be no surprise: about 3,500 auto-occupants have been injured over the past 11 years (almost one each day including weekends). Why are the best-protected road users, those who  travel in a steel box, so vulnerable?

Because drivers in Beverly Hills ram each other with increasing frequency. Crashes injured an average of 6 auto-occupants each week in 2007 but last year those injuries reached nearly 9 every week. That’s a 35% increase driven by an average annual rise of 5% year-over-year throughout an 11 year period. Indeed the crash data for auto-occupant injuries often shows double-digit gains.

2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
Auto occupants 39% -30% 6% 13% 30% 15% -2%

This chart shows the rapid climb in the number of auto-occupant injuries.

Auto-occupant collision injuries 2007-2017

Auto-occupant collision injuries in Beverly Hills for the period 2007-2017.

Injuries to auto-occupants have so outpaced other injuries that the category now accounts for 75% of total crash injuries and a whopping 87% of all injuries (among autos, bicyclists and motorcyclists) as this chart shows.

Collision injuries proportionally by mode 2007-2017

Collision injuries in Beverly Hills are shown proportionally by mode (excluding motorcycle riders) for the period 2007-2017.

Indeed 2017 was a near-record-high for auto-occupant injuries: 422 were injured, just below 2016’s record 430 injuries. Not only are auto-injuries trending up, but the increase is accelerating, as this chart shows, despite a marginal decline last year.

Collision injuries for three modes 2007-2017

Collision injuries in Beverly Hills for three modes for the period 2007-2017. Chart by Mark Elliot.

No wonder that the Office of Traffic Safety calls Beverly Hills the most dangerous small city in California for road users! The only category that shows an exceptional decline is hit-and-run crashes. Last year 132 drivers fled the scene compared to a whopping 431 in 2007. That is a 70% decline over the 11-year period as the chart shows.

Hit-and-run collisions 2007-2017

Hit-and-run collisions in Beverly Hills for the period 2007-2017.

The decline in hit-and-run crashes is a head-scratcher. Are just so many fewer drivers fleeing the scene? Has the collection of data for these crashes changed? Could it be because our heavy traffic congestion simply prevents a clean getaway? We can’t know because the monthly data snapshot comes with no additional context.

Step One in Harm Reduction: See the Problem!

BHPD monthly traffic report exampleBeverly Hills Police Department has provided monthly summary crash injury data for the past eleven years. But a tabular data snapshot like the monthly traffic report won’t show context and it cannot reveal trends. It is an exercise in pro forma reporting.

But if we don’t see context we can’t begin to conceptualize the problem (much less formulate policy to address it). Perhaps that’s why our Traffic and Parking Commission could receive these traffic reports every month for eleven years but never ask, not once, Are the trends moving in a positive direction?

More recently, though, commissioners have taken more of an interest in street safety and that is a good thing now that the city is undertaking a complete streets planning process. Indeed participants in public workshop #1 said safety was a top priority and said they were very interested in additional multimodal options.

It is important to understand how policing priorities contribute to the problem of excessive crash injuries, and my next post will look at the precipitous decline in traffic citations over the past eleven years. But I can only infer the correlation between diminished enforcement and the rising number crash injuries because the police department is not likely to help us assess the citation data it provides – much less communicate department enforcement priorities. No city commission exercises oversight of the department or policing priorities, and the department has historically not been interested in sharing.

In summation let me underscore just how many auto-occupant injuries we see and how precipitous has been the recent increase. Here I present again the chart of auto-occupant injuries, but this time I will scale it to be proportional to the two earlier charts showing pedestrian injuries and  cyclist injuries. If we aligned these charts to a common baseline we would see the Y-axis (injuries) is comparable across the three charts. That begins to suggest how steep is the climb in auto injuries relative to other injuries. The takeaway? A steel box will hardly protect us on Beverly Hills streets!

Please download 11 years of monthly BHPD traffic data or see my summary table for an overview of the figures.

Auto-occupant collision injuries i2007-2017 rescaled

Auto-occupant collision injuries in Beverly Hills 2007-2017 re-scaled for parity with the bicyclist and pedestrian injury charts.

Developer’s Rash Tree-Felling Highlights Hazards for Riders (Editorial)

Courier cover November 27th 2015The Beverly Hills Courier, the perennial champion of anti-Metro hyperbole, has rotated its turret toward toxic contamination on Santa Monica Boulevard parcels 12 & 13. Riders know this land for the chain-link fencing and dense tree cover that casts in deep shadow pavement hazards east of Beverly. Well the shadow is no more: the landowner clear-cut the trees on a Saturday morning. But were the required permits secured? Did the city fail to ensure that soil contamination wasn’t disturbed? The incident raises questions not only about City Hall transparency but rider safety on the corridor too. Continue reading

Celebrating Geography Awareness Week, We Look at Some Bike Maps

Existing and Planned lanes leading to Beverly Hills map

Beverly Hills has no plans to meet most of these proposed and existing bike lanes.

To mark the close of Geography Awareness Week (which began Monday) we’re offering a few maps that highlight the varying commitment of local governments to ensuring safe, multimodal mobility.* Each highlights bike lanes and designated bike routes that we know make riding more safe, but also tend to increase the appeal of cycling as a mode of transportation. Let’s start with Beverly Hills as a reference point. Continue reading

Beverly Hills Signed on to the USDOT Mayors’ Challenge. Now What?

MayorChallengeSignUpEarlier this year, then-Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation challenged American localities to make travel safer for bicycle riders and pedestrians. In March he invited US mayors to sign on, and Beverly Hills accepted the challenge back in February. But we’ve heard nothing from City Hall about it since then. Is our city doing anything to meet the Mayors’ Challenge for bike-friendly streets? Continue reading

Qataris Behaving Badly? Let’s Focus on the Homegrown ‘Sheikhs’

Qatari scofflaw and his Ferrari

The infamous Qatari scofflaw and his Ferrari as ‘captured’ by Adam Bornstein.

What’s more ridiculous than wasting ink on the now-departed Qatari sheikh who hot-rodded around Beverly Hills this August? The fact that no ink is spilled about everyday reckless driving tolerated by city policymakers and police officials. Forget Mideast sheikhs behaving badly in their Ferraris and such; we’re got a homegrown haute bourgeoisie who feel entitled to spin around at high speeds on quiet residential streets in off-the-shelf sports cars. And they garner nary a glance from the cops. For come sunset, there is no traffic enforcement in Beverly Hills. Continue reading

Would You Double Down on Yesterday’s Planning Paradigm?

Los Angeles intersectionToday the Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed critical of efforts to plan for multimodal mobility. Titled, ‘Mr. Mayor, L.A. is not Stockholm,’ by 29-year Santa Monica resident Bruce Feldman. “As I’m sure you know, cyclists make up just 2% of all road traffic…[yet] your road diet would make congestion in our expansive region much worse than it already is,” the writer says of the city’s new mobility policy. Such measures will diminish quality-of-life, he adds, yet paradoxically he finds his cure to the region’s mobility morass in the very policies that today ail us. Continue reading

Hazardous Intersections That Need a Safety Upgrade TODAY

Crossing guard on Wilshire at Santa Monica Blvd

According to BHPD, at this 9th most dangerous intersection in Beverly Hills you take your life into your hands. Better to cross with a crossing guard!

A couple of weeks ago we reported on a genius LA Times interactive called Walking in L.A. that mapped 817 of the “most dangerous” intersections in the county. As we noted with no surprise, several of most dangerous county intersections (and clusters) are right here in Beverly Hills. Despite the long histories of crashes, not one of them has been made more safe. City of Los Angeles several years ago acknowledged the problem, though, with a plan to stripe 53 problematic crossings for high visibility. Three years later, KPCC asks listeners, Are there others in need of a fix? Continue reading

Construction Mitigation in Beverly Hills #FAILS Riders

You’re riding westbound on North Santa Monica Boulevard. You’ve made it though the dreaded SM-Wilshire intersection and you’re waiting to pick up the bicycle lane in Century City. You’re in the right-hand lane with a line of cars queued behind you waiting to pass. But you’re in a substandard-width lane up against a solid wall of K-rail to your right and speeding vehicular traffic to the left. You’re desperate for relief but far from the promised land: your own patch of blacktop granted by a bicycle lane. It’s a gantlet with no escape for the remainder of this corridor while you’re in Beverly Hills. Continue reading

Beverly Hills Intersections May be Hazardous to Your Health

Crossing guard on Wilshire at Santa Monica Blvd

The most dangerous intersection for pedestrians in Beverly Hills requires the assistance of a crossing guard with a sign to remind drivers of the law.

To our list of distinguishing features Beverly Hills policymakers can now add another: our intersections rank among LA County’s most dangerous. At least according to a detailed mapping of state injury data by the Los Angeles Times. It mapped intersections where pedestrians were more likely to be injured or killed and found those proximate to the business triangle, and particularly along Santa Monica Boulevard, most dangerous. We hardly need empirical evidence: here you know you’re taking your life into your hands! Continue reading

Is a Mandatory Bike Helmet Law the Answer?

State Senator Carol Liu

State Senator Carol Liu recently introduced a bill that would require every bike rider regardless of age to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. Though a well-intentioned safety measure, SB 192 and its helmet mandate has spurred a backlash among some riders and several established statewide bike advocacy organizations. Why the opposition? Why not mandate helmets for adults?

File Under ‘Crap Facilities’: Dangerous Crescent Dr. Sharrows [Updated]

Crescent Drive sharrows thumbnail

City of Beverly Hills was warned many months ago about this improper placement of sharrows on Crescent Drive: As explicated in this graphic, these sharrows guide northbound Crescent riders into the left-hand lane, which allows motor traffic to pass on the right. After the South Santa Monica intersection, however, riders are then guided back to the right-hand lane which requires a merge back into faster-flowing traffic. This remains an eye-catching road engineering #FAIL six months after we notified the city about it.

Beverly Hills Should Take the Foxx US DOT Challenge

US DOT Mayor's Challenge logo

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, appointed by President Obama in 2013, is continuing the efforts predecessor Raymond LaHood to make street safety the Department’s priority. “In 2013, more than 5,000 pedestrians and bicyclists were killed, and more than 100,000 were injured,” Foxx says in a recent post. To reverse the trend he’s announced his Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets in conjunction with last week’s U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting. Will Beverly Hills take the challenge?

LA Councilman’s Hostility Toward Complete Streets Sounds Familiar

Cedillo's diagonal parking

Northeast Los Angeles neighborhoods can seem a long way from Beverly Hills, but a scrum over bicycle lanes there suggests that we have at least one thing in common: elected officials standing in the way of a worthy safe-streets effort. Our City Council may block bicycle lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard. In Highland Park, LA councilman Gil Cedillo is tanking a plan to make Figueroa (that community’s main street) ‘complete.’ Where we differ: silence greets our Council’s opposition; in NELA Cedillo has stirred a revolt among bike advocates.

Jerry Brown: No Friend to Vulnerable Road Users

Governor Jerry Brown has again proven his administration to be no friend to bike riders. He’s just vetoed four bills that would have increased accountability for those who perpetrate hits-and-run. And he’s stricken a bill that would provide added protection to “vulnerable road users” like bicycle riders (Mark Levine’s A.B. 2398). Recall that not long ago, Brown vetoed safe passing bills not once but twice (before signing the third – a victory we can only chalk up to the California Bicycle Coalition’s persistence). Is this a governor who really cares about road safety?

Gran Fondo Italia Comes to Beverly Hills on 9/28

Gran Fondo Italia BH logo

The Gran Fondo Italia ride, an annual for-profit ‘packaged’ bike ride & marketing extravaganza, comes back to Beverly Hills with city sponsorship this September 28th. It’s the only kind of ride our city appreciates: hospitality dollars roll in while City Hall basks in ersatz Euro-gloss. Fittingly, premium riders will enjoy a dinner at the Montage Hotel and a Tuscan wine ‘goody bag.’ But those linen tablecloths and Tuscan wines won’t streets any safer for the everyday riders. If you’re concerned about safe streets in Beverly Hills, this Gran Fondo is as relevant to your commute as if it actually happened in Italy.