Strategic Highway Safety Plan Review

Over the past few months, the federal Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) in coordination with the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS)  and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has been reaching out to safety advocates including bike and pedestrian advocates to update and fix gaps in modal equity and safety.

Here were a few resounding messages from both webinar and summit.

  1. Everyone agrees that we need better data. Having quality and federally recognized exposure data (how many people are riding bikes), is vital to understand how many injuries and fatalities are happening as a rate vs. the number of people riding bikes — which based on many studies has increased. Because there is very little state or federal investment in studying exposure data the SHSP makes its conclusions based on counts of injuries. Secondly, the newest data that the SHSP can use is regularly at least two years old. In this environment, the culture of our streets is radically different every two years, and the SHSP will be constantly many years behind the times.
  2. Increasing funding for bicycles and pedestrians may be the best way the SHSP and the OTS can help get closer to ending all traffic deaths throughout California. Here was a well thought comment on safety funding from one of our partners, California Walks:
    • Nearly 2/3s of all fatal and serious injury collisions occur on the non-State Highway System (SHS) — across most collision types — yet the California Department of Transportation divides the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) 50/50 for use on the SHS and non-SHS [locally owned streets vs. state highways]. This division is not data-driven and should be revisited in the SHSP update process. HSIP funds should be invested where the bulk of fatal and serious injury collisions occur: locally owned streets.
    • People walking and biking make up over a quarter of all fatalities in the state, yet only 10% of OTS’ Section 402 funds are invested in pedestrian and bicycle safety education and enforcement efforts. We need a minimum funding target for pedestrian and bicycle safety in the expenditure of Section 402 funds.
    • Both the State and Local HSIP need to remove barriers for projects incorporating complementary non-infrastructure components, in particular through the incorporation of the latest research such as NCHRP 17-46.
  3. For the first time, the SHSP will start discussing improving bicycle infrastructure. This was a major concern on calls, but seemed to be less of a point of interest at the in person summits.

Overall, we seem to be taking a very small step forward for  better California. No matter how you choose to move.