Traffic circle, more bike lanes among proposals for SLO streets

A traffic circle has been proposed for the intersection of Chorro and Mill streets in San Luis Obispo to cut down on collisions.
A traffic circle has been proposed for the intersection of Chorro and Mill streets in San Luis Obispo to cut down on collisions. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Traffic accidents continue to decline in San Luis Obispo, reaching the lowest number on record last year. Bicycle collisions are also declining.

However, accidents involving pedestrians spiked in 2013, and injury collisions increased by 8 percent from the prior year, according to an annual report on traffic safety.

There were no fatalities.

The traffic safety program was launched in 2002 to identify high-collision areas throughout San Luis Obispo as a way to pinpoint problem areas and to seek safety improvements.

Since the program’s inception, collisions have declined 55 percent from a peak of 1,256 in 2002 to 570 in 2013.

The city also stepped up its enforcement of drunken drivers, arresting 377 people in 2013 for driving under the influence. In 2012, only 256 were arrested.

Pedestrian collisions increased to 39 in 2013, up from 26 the year prior, something the city attributes to more people choosing not to drive to nearby locations.

“We had a pretty significant jump in pedestrian volume,” said Jake Hudson, the city’s traffic operations manager. “There are more people walking, which explains most of the percentage increase.”

Hudson said there was no pattern that emerged, making it more difficult to troubleshoot a solution.

The San Luis Obispo City Council will discuss the report’s findings Tuesday night and be asked to spend a total of $99,362 on nine suggested improvements.

One such enhancement will add a traffic circle to the intersection of Chorro and Mill streets and add bicycle lanes.

“There is a collision pattern at that location, and we also have a lot of people who are concerned about a lack of bike lanes at the intersection,” Hudson said. “People are talking about how difficult it is to get through that side of town.”

The city is making an increased effort to focus on pedestrian and bicycle safety as a way to further reduce traffic.

San Luis Obispo resident Jonathan Roberts cycles through that area almost every day with his 6-year-old son, PJ.

The dad and son have been making the 4.5-mile trip from Johnson Avenue to Pacheco Elementary School on Cuesta Drive since PJ started kindergarten.

“It is one area where time and time again there are incidents,” Roberts said. “People crash, get run into. … Things just happen there.”

In fact, Roberts made a video showing their route to school and sent it to the city, asking for safety improvements.

He is thrilled with the proposed changes.

“My family is not the only one that does this,” Roberts said. “We are trying to promote good citizenship and health.”

The highest number of traffic collisions in 2013 — 11 — occurred at the intersection of Higuera and Santa Rosa streets. The problem has been pinpointed to drivers not stopping at the red light.

The city upgraded the signal there, and the San Luis Obispo Police Department will continue to focus enforcement there throughout the year.

A problem area yet to be fixed is the intersection of Foothill Boulevard and Santa Rosa Street, which has a high number of cars rear-ended because of traffic slowing at the traffic signal.

The city plans to work with Caltrans to install a flashing warning beacon to warn motorists of the slower traffic ahead because of a signal, Hudson said.

A handful of other improvements will be made throughout the city, including green bike lanes being added to Olive and Santa Rosa streets and fresh curb paint and striping at Chorro and Marsh streets.

In the future, roundabouts will likely be installed at two problem intersections along California Boulevard at Taft Street and San Luis Drive. However, funding has not yet been identified for those fixes.