Bike-related crashes hit a record low in SLO. Here are the city’s latest traffic stats

The latest data from San Luis Obispo’s annual traffic safety reporting shows that collisions in the city increased slightly in 2017.

But overall crashes are down significantly compared to the numbers from the early 2000s, when the city first started its comprehensive reporting.

The latest report, according to a summary in a city staff report, showed that a total of 501 vehicle-related collisions took place in San Luis Obispo in 2017 — compared with 482 crashes in 2016, the lowest number since the city started putting out an annual traffic safety report in 2001.

Traffic collision data for 2018 isn’t available yet because of the time it takes to report, receive and analyze accidents, which may be filed by private parties. It can take months before collision reports are finalized.

For six straight years in the early 2000s, more than 1,000 collisions per year took place in San Luis Obispo.

Traffic safety reporting has helped the city identify roadway areas of concern, according to city officials, allowing the city to address those problems with traffic improvements such as new signs, speed bumps, green lane arrows and wider sidewalks.

“This program has had long-term success with a 60 percent reduction in citywide collisions since the program began,” stated the staff report published on the city’s website last week. “This reduction has been accomplished despite increasing traffic volumes on city streets.”

Injury-related collisions in 2017 totaled 202, up five from the year before. But those statistics are mostly in line with the past five years in which injury collisions have hovered around 200 per year.

The number of pedestrian-related collisions increased by four to 31 in 2017, but bicycle-related crashes dipped 22 percent to 39, the lowest recorded number since the start of the record-keeping in 1999. (San Luis Obispo recorded 50 crashes involving bikes in 2016).

Despite the lower number of bike-related crashes in 2017, one did result in death.

Cal Poly student Kennedy Love, 22, was riding his bike on Foothill Boulevard in August 2017 when he was struck and killed by drunk driver Gianna Catherine Brencola. Brencola was sentenced in April 2018 to seven years in state prison for vehicular manslaughter and hit-and-run resulting in death.

That incident was the only traffic-related fatality that occurred in San Luis Obispo in 2017.

There’s been one traffic-related death every year in San Luis Obispo, dating back to 2014.

Overall, traffic volume was up in the city by 3 percent between 2014 and 2016, according to information from the city’s Land Use and Circulation Element included in the report.

Some of the city’s planned road improvements for 2019 include:

▪ Implementing part of the Anholm Bikeway Plan on the city’s north end between Foothill Boulevard and downtown, such as converting parking on the north side of Ramona Drive to a separated bike lane.

▪ Improving visibility of signal indicators at Broad and Marsh street to reduce red light violations.

▪ Installing a pedestrian hybrid beacon, a traffic control device used to stop road traffic and allow pedestrians to cross safely, on Foothill.

Projects that are planned but currently underfunded include:

A roundabout at California Boulevard and Taft Street

The Railroad Safety Trail Extension from Taft to Pepper Street, a 4.5-mile bike path connecting Cal Poly to San Luis Obispo’s southern limits.

The San Luis Obispo City Council will discuss the traffic collision report at its meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall at 990 Palm St. For more information, go to www.slocity.org.

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.