Pedestrian-related collisions rose sharply in Mountain View last year, reaching the highest number of reported accidents since at least 2007, according to recent traffic data.
Accident reports for 2017, compiled by the city at the Voice's request, show that 39 pedestrians were struck by vehicles throughout the year, an increase of more than 40 percent over the 27 collisions in the prior year. Bicyclist-related collisions, on the other hand, declined for the second straight year in a row, down to 50 accidents in 2017 from the previous high of 69 in 2015.
As in past years, the most dangerous streets for pedestrians include the downtown corridor and high-traffic arteries including Shoreline Boulevard and El Camino Real. Six of the collisions occurred on or near Castro Street, with a cluster of three reported between April and June at the West Evelyn Avenue intersection just south of the Caltrain tracks. Four pedestrians were struck near the Bailey Park Plaza Shopping Center along North Shoreline Boulevard: two at the Montecito Avenue intersection and the other two at Stierlin Road.
While there were no fatalities, two pedestrians were severely injured in December. A driver failed to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk on eastbound El Camino Real at the intersection with Highway 85 on Feb. 18. Two days later, another pedestrian was severely injured at the relatively quiet intersection of Madison Drive and Van Buren Circle -- just off of Miramonte Avenue -- when a driver backed into someone who was standing still.
City traffic engineers have an arsenal of methods to combat pedestrian hazards along Mountain View roadways, including better speed limit and warning signs, speed humps, median islands and curb extensions, according to the city's pedestrian master plan. Those strategies were put to use when residents demanded better safety for pedestrians crossing the street on El Monte Road near Marich Way following the death of a 54-year-old Los Altos woman crossing in the intersection in 2015.
Her death prompted city officials to revamp the dangerous crosswalk and outfit it with LED signs and a raised median, as well as improve the visibility of crossing signs at the intersection -- a $388,000 endeavor that City Council members approved only last month. At the Jan. 23 council meeting, Councilman John McAlister said the city ought to be more nimble in making safety improvements in areas known to be dangerous to pedestrians.
"I find it frustrating, from my perspective, that it takes almost two and a half years to get a project through the channels," he said.
The same location was the site of another pedestrian collision in September 2017, when a pedestrian was struck by a car while walking eastbound through the crosswalk around 8 p.m., suffering "visible injuries," according to the accident data.
Reducing speed limits can help, given that the severity of injuries is largely dependent on how fast the vehicle is going when it hits the pedestrian. An empirical study published by the U.S. Department of Transportation found that 100 percent of pedestrians die when struck by a vehicle going 50 miles per hour or faster, while 30 percent of collisions under 20 miles per hour result in no injury at all.
The city's pedestrian master plan boasts that a mix of well-marked crosswalks, wide sidewalks and "vehicle speeds set as low as current California law will allow" means downtown pedestrian collisions result only in minor injuries and no fatalities.
Bike accidents down, but still high
Although bicyclist-related collisions declined in Mountain View for the second year in a row, the 50 accidents reported in 2017 is still a higher number when compared to nearly every year in the past decade. Three of last year's collisions with bicycles resulted in serious injuries.
Most of the reported collisions were also along major thoroughfares, with 10 collisions on California Street and eight collisions on West and East Middlefield roads. Bike accidents in and around the crowded and construction-laden San Antonio Shopping Center dropped from seven reports in 2016 to just three last year.
One bicyclist was severely injured while turning at the intersection of South Bernardo and West Evelyn avenues on June 15, which was determined to be the fault of the driver. Another bicyclist suffered severe injuries after being struck by a vehicle at California Street and Mariposa Avenue on Oct. 4 around 7:30 a.m., which police reported was the fault of the bicyclist for riding on the wrong side of the street.
A third bicyclist was severely injured while changing lanes at West Middlefield Road and Moffett Boulevard on an unknown date -- the police data omits dates for several of the reported accidents -- after the driver struck a bicyclist changing lanes on the road. The driver was determined to be at fault because of "unsafe speeds."
In November, Mountain View Police announced plans for traffic safety enforcement and public awareness after the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) provided $115,000 in grant money to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries in Mountain View. The extra enforcement is intended to take a holistic approach to the problem, bringing down traffic violations among pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike.
Data on traffic enforcement shows that ticketing for traffic violations including speeding tickets, wireless device violations and disregarding traffic signals has largely declined since 2013.
Police spokeswoman Katie Nelson told the Voice in a statement Thursday that the department aims to make "positive changes" to driver, bicyclist and pedestrian behavior in order to improve traffic safety for both local residents and who commute into the city for work. The grant money gives traffic enforcement officers a chance to see what works, and adjust the strategy as they see fit.
"As the grant continues to provide an avenue for us to pursue education, enforcement and engagement opportunities, we will look to see what is working, what is not and how we go forward with our traffic safety plans," she said.