This is one of the nerdier posts I’ve written in a while, and much of it probably won’t make sense to anyone who has not been involved in SHSP. Why is it important? Because all of the safety funds in California, some of the transportation budget, and much agency effort go to the priorities identified by SHSP. In the past, that has meant a focus on the safety of motor vehicles drivers, focus to issues such as distracted and drunk driving (which are important but not everything), and in a perversion of priorities, stings on pedestrians and bicyclist funded by OTS.
On November 14, 2015, the SHSP (Strategic Highway Safety Plan) Safety Summit was held on the CSU Sacramento campus, part of the SHSP Update process that seeks to revised the Strategic Highway Safety Plan for California. The summit was very well attended, nearly filling the ballroom. After some introductions from various agencies (Caltrans, Office of Traffic Safety, and California Highway Patrol are the main partners in the program, but several other agencies participate), there were six breakout sessions to provide input on different topics, and an opportunity to participate in two of the six.
I participated first in the Active Transportation (bicycling and walking) breakout, which was facilitated by Katherine Chen & Jill Cooper. Issues identified: we really don’t know why there has been an increase the last few years in bicyclist and pedestrian injury and fatality, whether due to increased mode share or some other reason; the CHP 555 form and SWITRS database do not offer all the information we need; there is almost no injury/fatality rate data available because agencies are not collecting counts; rather than transportation funds being allocated based on injury/fatality rates, bicycling and walking receives a tiny portion construction and safety funds. The session went well, with good discussion and a lot of good information gathered onto charts by Katherine.
I also attending the Infrastructure and Operations breakout session, which was facilitated by two individuals from Cambridge Systematics, the contractor being used for the update process. This session did not go well. The participants provided thoughtful input, but much of it was rejected by the facilitators, either not written onto charts, or crossed out because they didn’t agree with it. The group wanted to use rates rather than counts, education is needed to create a culture of safety, distracted driving is epidemic, automated enforcement of red lights and speed are critical to changing behavior, and we need to focus on intersections since that is where most problems occur. The facilitators wanted to hear none of it, and were disappointed that no one seemed interested in spending money on “improving safety” for motor vehicle drivers by building more highways.
We were promised at the summit that the breakout session notes would be tabulated and made available to participants “soon.” As of today, 11 weeks later, no information has shown up on the SHSP Update web page. I doubt that the information will show up before the process is complete. I would guess that the contractor and Caltrans didn’t like what they heard and decided to suppress the information.
Despite the lack of input from the SHSP Safety Summits (there was one northern and another in southern California), the SHSP Steering Committee has been pushing forward with updating the SHSP strategies. The SHSP Bicycling committee (formerly Improving Bicycle Safety) on which I serve, and the other committees, were given a very short deadline to provide a new short set of strategies (up to five). It seems as though we will be locked into these for several years. In the committee’s January meeting we made remarkable progress on coming up with strategies, coming to consensus on a number of issues that we’ve discussed for years and never quite come to common understanding or agreement. When we ask where the Safety Summit information was, we were told by Pamela Beer of Cambridge Systematics that she had all the information we needed, that the printed notes that we were given at the meeting but not beforehand where all we would get, and that we should not expect to see any outcomes from the summit before the strategies finalized. Somehow she had inserted herself into our committee meeting as a facilitator/controller, without the knowledge of anyone on the committee.
The strategies adopted by the Bicycling committee, pending some wordsmithing, are:
- Improve roadway and bikeway planning, design, and operations to enhance bicycling safety and mobility while supporting bicycling to and from all destinations.
- Improve data collection regarding bicyclist trips, injuries and fatalities on California roadways and bicycle paths.
- Improve education and enforcement based on the protection of everyone’s right to travel by lawful means.
- Encourage more bicycle travel by improving public attitudes about bicycling safety and the need for safe and courteous behavior toward all roadway users.
- Develop safe, direct, and connected routes on which bicycling is a priority mode of transportation.