A 13 year old local girl was hit by a car and killed walking along the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. A truck driving too fast killed a cyclist and on that same day, a car killed a pedestrian in a crosswalk on the Pacific Coast Highway. A food truck driving north into Malibu killed two cyclists and recently a triathlete was killed by a car while training for the Ironman. The PCH is not safe for anything except cars and not safe for anyone except drivers.
Every major city in the world is improving road safety for alternate forms of transportation. Congestion pricing in London is decreasing the numbers of automobiles in its city center, creating space for everyone else. Paris has closed part of the thoroughfare along the Seine to cars altogether and Times Square in New York is now a pedestrian’s wet dream. But, in Los Angeles at a main attraction for tourists and locals a like, the famed Pacific Coast Highway, civic leaders have done absolutely nothing to protect human life from speeding cars.
The PCH or California Highway 1, was built piece-meal during the 1920’s and 30’s with New Deal money. It stretches 656 miles from Orange County to Fort Bragg, CA in Mendocino County. It is in countless movies and endless commercials. Songs are sung about it and people flock to see and visit its amazing coast. But the stretch between the Santa Monica Pier North to Oxnard, via all 21 miles of Malibu, has no buffer zone and is not safe for anything other than an automobile. Traffic is allowed to speed above 50 miles within inches of people trying to park, surf, swim or cycle along one of Los Angeles’s biggest tourist attractions. One false move by anyone trying to access this amazing natural coast or man-made wonder and they become a statistic of the worse kind. A traffic related auto accident where the car always wins.
This is one of the most populated sections of the famous scenic highway visited at peak times by over 150 pedestrians and 200 cyclists per hour and almost 30,000 cars per day according to recently commissioned traffic safety study by Caltrans; the results weren’t positive.
Automobile speeding is the major cause of accidents. Alternative road users have no where to go or hide if they choose to brave our amazing coast.
Without listing more grim statistics of the numbers of cyclists or pedestrians hit or killed each year along this scenic route, whether it be Ben Vereen or the local girl or triathlete mentioned above, the people of Malibu are paying a high price to have the highway bisect their city. But locals are not the only ones paying a high cost to access the public coastline. Anyone and everyone who wants to see, swim, surf or cycle along the Pacific Ocean is repressed by the speed and close proximity of traffic on the PCH.
If the value of life and health is not sufficient to prod civic leaders to find a solution to slowing the traffic and allowing people safe access to one of our communities greatest resources than maybe an economic benefit will. In all of the cities mentioned above where auto traffic has been sublimated to allow for pedestrian and alternative traffic to blossom, commerce is still king. Business did not dry up and wither away to another district, in fact in most cases the opposite is true. Slowing auto traffic and making an environment safe for humans increases the amount of commercial traffic, and people spending time and money enjoying their surroundings.
A Malibu Paper once stated concern for adding bike lanes to the PCH as making things worse, bringing more cyclists to their streets and making it harder to exit their driveway. A buffer zone or bike lane has the opposite effect, allowing the resident space to see more clearly and enter more safely the fast moving traffic lane by increasing the distance between them and speeding cars. Designing and designating a safe space for different and vulnerable road users is the first step in respecting all people and their choices for transportation.
In certain stretches along the coast travel lanes must be narrowed to allow for buffer zones, this has the added benefit of inherently slowing the speed of moving vehicles. Slowing traffic makes our streets safer for everyone, even the cars themselves.
Cyclists and surfers are not going away, enjoying the Pacific Ocean is a right reserved for all of us. The desire of a few to keep this shore off limits by keeping the PCH a dangerous, speeding, “cars only” corridor – is killing us.