Palo Alto City Council City of Palo Alto Palo Alto, CA 94301 Cc: James Keene, Dennis Burns, Curtis

Williams Subj: Traffic Accident History In Palo Alto (1995-2009) Used As A Basis Of Traffic Policy And Engineering Decisions Elected Council Members: The most recent fatality of Caltrain, on 15 April 2011, at the Charleston/Alma at-grade intersection,

coupled with the announcement of a Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan for Palo Alto causes this resident to wonder if anyone at City Hall pays any attention to traffic accidents that occur in our city, or has any thoughts about using the combined resources of the Palo Alto Planning Department, the Palo Alto Police Department, the similar resources of Menlo Park, Mountain View, East Palo Alto, the County of Santa Clara and San Mateo, and Caltrans, to track the problem roads and intersections in our respective towns, and begin to redesign these roads and intersections using state-of-the-art digital tools, such as digital camera, microwave traffic monitors/counters, radar traffic enforcement equipment, traffic simulation/modeling software, and historic traffic accident data that is available from each of the local police departments, as well as the California Highway Patrol (CHP)?

Much to my chagrin, and disappointment, however, the City seems not to be aware of, or particularly interested in, the problems facing motorists in Palo Alto (and adjoining communities). What we citizens are confronted is a City Council/Administration that is more interested in frivolity, than dealing with the hard issues of our day. The following two items, having made their way into my in-box, demonstrate this month’s flirtation with bicycles— A) You’re invited to participate in the City’'s online community survey to weigh in on short to medium range planning and initiatives that would encourage more Palo Altans to bike or walk more places more often. Go to http://surveymonkey.com/s/paloaltobikeped to provide your input! ==> Survey closes: Friday, April 29 B) Bicycle Boulevard Tour: Monday May 9, 4:00-5:30 p.m. Join Mayor Sid Espinosa, City Council Members, the City Manager and Planning staff for an on-bike tour of the future Park Blvd Bike Boulevard. Tour starts and ends at City Hall Plaza. Palo Alto Traffic Accident History While the Palo Alto Police Department has not made much effort to make traffic accident data available, nonetheless, this data is available to the public via the CHP. The following table, derived from CHP data, provides a short “history” of traffic accidents in Palo Alto, ranked by the streets where these accidents occurred:

15-Year Traffic Accident History In Palo Alt
Primary Road EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 ALMA ST UNIVERSITY AV MIDDLEFIELD RD EMBARCADERO RD OREGON EXPWY PAGE MILL RD HAMILTON AV ARASTRADERO RD E BAYSHORE RD LYTTON AV E CHARLESTON RD BRYANT ST SAND HILL RD HIGH ST QUARRY RD 1995 135 104 82 80 49 37 28 24 23 23 19 18 14 13 8 4 1996 171 125 108 105 77 43 62 22 22 26 18 24 17 19 11 12 1997 153 94 98 108 71 53 43 17 30 24 17 23 12 27 12 6 1998 137 116 81 95 66 49 44 19 31 30 11 23 7 19 15 11 1999 144 86 100 95 49 42 52 16 25 26 13 22 13 29 10 3 2000 179 79 70 88 57 55 48 22 23 18 17 19 8 25 5 10 2001 203 112 107 112 92 54 56 20 25 29 23 18 14 24 8 8 2002 179 79 70 88 57 55 48 22 23 18 17 19 8 25 5 10 2003 173 90 87 93 65 85 39 25 19 24 25 21 17 15 11 6 2004 187 102 97 87 51 63 64 20 22 22 16 12 15 24 11 12 2005 195 83 82 70 66 59 51 25 19 16 14 20 12 21 7 11 2006 176 77 93 66 53 60 44 21 24 20 14 16 14 17 14 9

The graph below, provides the tabular data in a visual context-P alo Alto T ra ffic Accid en t H isto ry F o r M ajo r S tre ets
250 200 Number of Accidents 150 100 50 0 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 1995-2009 T im e F ra m e E L CA M INO RE A L A LM A S T UNIV E RS ITY A V M IDDLE F IE LD RD E M B A RCA DE RO RD O RE G O N E XP W Y P A G E M ILL RD HA M ILTO N A V A RA S TRA DE RO RD E B A Y S HO RE RD LY TTO N A V E CHA RLE S TO N RD B RY A NT S T S A ND HILL RD HIG H S T Q UA RRY RD

Since each traffic accident report generates 1-N records in the SWITRS database. Tracking perhaps two hundred unique field values, this data offer a wealth of information to those interested in traffic accidents, when analyzed.

The following table provides the details of the total accident history for Palo Alto, during the time frame of 1995-2009:
Fifteen-Year (1995-2009) Traffic Accident History Of Palo Alto

Year: Accidents: Injuries: Deaths: Ped. Deaths: Ped. Injured: Bike. Deaths: Bike. Injured: MC. Deaths: MC. Injured: Alcohol Inv.: % Alcohol Inv.:

1995 1041 521 3 1 30 0 101 1 13 64 6.1%

1996 1301 524 3 0 30 0 78 1 16 74 5.7%

1997 1176 504 1 0 29 0 61 1 10 71 6.0%

1998 1112 561 0 0 29 0 80 0 5 49 4.4%

1999 1048 622 1 0 21 0 95 0 17 68 6.5%

2000 1007 560 4 1 37 2 70 0 16 53 5.3%

2001 1320 528 3 1 18 1 74 0 11 55 4.2%

2002 1306 558 1 1 27 0 67 0 16 68 5.2%

2003 1194 525 2 1 24 0 57 0 9 73 6.1%

2004 1176 503 0 0 25 0 55 0 13 58 4.9%

2005 1105 521 3 1 32 1 85 0 9 64 5.8%

2006 1073 463 3 1 33 0 62 0 4 60 5.6%

2007 902 496 1 0 18 0 64 0 8 72 8.0%

2008 817 434 5 1 24 0 65 0 6 52 6.4%

200 77 46

2

8

5

7.1

This table of “details” is perhaps more telling than the “by street” accident data above. It doesn’t take long to see that the predominant number of accidents, and accident-related injuries, are associated with automobiles. As for bicycles, pedestrians and motorcycles, the counts for these transportation modalities is much, much, lower than automobiles. So, why does the City of Palo Alto seem so obsessed with “bicycles” and “pedestrians”— at the expense of motorist safety? What makes bicycles, and bicyclists, more valuable to the City Government, than motor vehicles and motorists? General Decrease In Traffic Accidents The data above, reinforced by the graph, shows that there has been an overall decrease in traffic accidents in Palo Alto over the past fifteen years. While that must be seen as a “good thing”, should not the Planning Department, the Police Department and the City Council/Manager be aware of this data, at least on a year-to-year basis? Should not the Planning Department, the Police Department and the City Council/Manager have some idea what is driving increases, and decreases, in traffic volumes, and traffic accidents? One can only ask: “where is this data on the City’s WEB-site?” The answer, sadly, is that it is not there. Importance of Vehicles vs Bicycles In Palo Alto The fixation on “bicycles” in Palo Alto seems to ignore the fundamentals of our economy, as well as our investment in private property and our independence, and “space-oriented” culture. The general sense that one takes away from the City’s planning

activities is something akin to a dogma that “cars are bad and bicycles are good”. How can this be, when there is a car in virtually every drive way in Palo Alto? The following is a short exercise to judge an individual’s personal knowledge, and preferences, towards transportation modalities. Please take a moment, and answer the questions--

Comparative Benefits Of Vehicles vs Bicycles
Answer

Number of workers transported to jobs by cars Number of workers transported to jobs by bikes Sales tax generated for sale of vehicles Sales tax generated for sale of bicycles Sales tax generated for sale of gasoline Road/use taxes generated by vehicles Road/use taxes generated by bicycles Peripheral business generated by vehicles Peripheral business generated by bicycles Preferred Mode of Transportation By Homeowners By Apartment dwellers By People On Vacation By People Seeking Emergency Medical Attention By People Wanting Home Delivery of Appliances By Companies wanting to deliver products to customers Number of Miles Driven By Motorists in Palo Alto Number of Miles Ridden By Cyclists in Palo Alto When the correct answers to these questions are referenced, would it be a surprise to anyone that the importance of motor vehicles overwhelms the importance of bicycles in our economy, and our lives, just as an ocean tsunami would overwhelm the waves of a child in a wading pool?

Cost of Motor Vehicle Accidents Another issue that is clearly needs review is: “what is the role of the Transportation Department of the City’s “planning function”? Does this department have any obligations to the residents, visitors, and business owners to design the safest streets possible? Does the Transportation Department have an obligation to monitor traffic in Palo Alto, to recognize trends, and to initiate corrective action at the earliest date possible —in order to contribute to the prevention of accidents, injuries, loss of life, and all of the economic, and personal, damage that is attendant to vehicle collisions? Or does the Transportation Department simply have a charter to “do what it wants”? While vehicle accidents often make the front page of local newspapers, the total cost of these accidents is almost never included in these “if it bleeds, it leads” kinds of stories. Understandably, the costs of an individual accident could well be so distributed in terms of outlays (hospitals, outpatient care, lawyers/court fees, lost productivity, property damage, etc), not to mention public costs (often referred to as “externalities”), such as police, first responder, and other staff time. This kind of data does eventually emerge, however, as subsequent legal action requires that best estimates, or actual costs, for the injured parties, be delivered to the Court for deliberation. The following data was found on the WEB-site of a accident litigation attorney. While the sources of this data are not available, it is believed that the numbers below are “in the ball park”, where traffic accidents costs are concerned-Motor vehicle accident average costs:
• • • Average cost for each death in a motor vehicle accident: $1,130,000 Average cost for each nonfatal disabling injury: $61,600 Average cost for each property damage crash (includes non-disabling injuries): $7,500

Motor vehicle accident costs by severity:
• • Average economic cost for incapacitating injury crash: $65,000 Average economic cost for non-incapacitating evident injury crash: $21,00 Average economic cost for possible injury crash: $11,900

The above numbers only take into account the economic impact of motor vehicle accidents. To properly value the true cost of an accident including a measure of the value of lost quality of life, the National Safety Council came up with different numbers. Average comprehensive cost of motor vehicle crashes per injured person:
• • • • • Comprehensive cost of a death: $4,100,000 Comprehensive cost of an incapacitating injury: $208,500 Comprehensive cost of a non-incapacitating evident injury: $53,200 Comprehensive cost of a possible injury: $25,300 Comprehensive cost of no injury: $2,300

Certainly it would pay for someone at City Hall to make an effort to determine the costs of vehicle accidents over the years, and then examine the “hot spots” where accidents occur in the greatest numbers—making a concerted effort to identify any problems with these “hot spots”, and applying “best practices” traffic engineering principles, where appropriate. But will they? Can anyone at City Hall claim that this approach is currently being practiced? It is clear that the number of vehicle accidents greatly outpaces bicycle accidents. While generally quite low in number, vehicle deaths/injuries exceed bicycle and pedestrian deaths/injuries—so much so that one can only wonder how the City believes that the millions of dollars it intends to spend on bicycle/pedestrian safety “planning” and construction projects will result in a reduction of deaths/injuries to justify these costs? In short, what cost/benefit analysis can the City produce to justify these expenditures? Statewide Vehicle Data The following table, published by the CHP in 2008, contains the data about motor vehicles that everyone involved with public policy making should be fully cognizant:
TABLE 1E POPULATION, MOTOR VEHICLE REGISTRATION, MOTORCYCLE REGISTRATION, LICENSED DRIVERS, LICENSED MOTORCYCLE DRIVERS, MOTOR VEHICLE MILES OF TRAVEL, AND MILEAGE DEATH RATE 1999 - 2008 Motor Vehicle Registrati on 23,747,49 4 24,714,59 5 25,472,63 0 26,488,55 3 26,420,43 8 28,258,34 1 28,129,82 2 28,705,18 4 28,908,96 4 28,663,72 9 Licensed Motorcycl e Drivers2/ 844,011 864,836 906,144 948,277 975,681 1,015,48 8 1,055,37 0 1,109,37 4 1,161,86 6 1,211,84 8

Year 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
1/

Populatio n 34,036,0 00 34,480,0 00 34,758,0 00 35,301,0 00 35,934,0 00 36,590,8 00 37,004,7 00 37,444,4 00 37,771,4 00 38,148,4 93

Motorcycle Registratio n1/ 413,676 450,030 495,271 536,060 569,226 641,905 680,857 732,547 772,524 824,244

Licensed Drivers 21,034,69 0 21,404,10 0 21,977,70 0 22,605,80 0 22,687,10 0 22,843,20 0 22,927,34 9 23,237,08 7 23,629,86 0 23,718,99 2

Motor Vehicle Miles of Travel 299,577,000,0 00 306,371,000,0 00 314,550,000,0 00 320,874,000,0 00 324,087,000,0 00 328,255,000,0 00 327,500,000,0 00 329,700,000,0 00 330,140,000,0 003/ 325,750,000,0 004/

Mileage Death Rate4/ 1.19 1.22 1.25 1.27 1.30 1.25 1.31 1.27 1.205/ 1.04

Motorcycle Registration is also included in Motor Vehicle

Registration. 2/ Licensed Motorcycle Drivers are included in Licensed Drivers. 3/ The 2007 figure has been updated from the previously published number and the 2008 vehicle miles of travel is an estimate. Source: California Department of Transportation. 4/ Number of persons killed per 100 million miles of travel. 5/ Revised from previously publish number due to update to vehicle miles of travel for 2007.

Note 1 —The media could benefit from paying attention to this data also. Note 2—There is no bicycle-related data in this table, such as “miles ridden”. Of course, if the State Legislature were to mandate that bicycles be outfitted with GPS locators, that determine the miles ridden, and require that bicycle owners upload their riding mileage to the CHP, then this sort of data might appear in the future. However, it is predicted that the number of files ridden on bicycles will never approach that driven by motorists. What Needs To Be Done Palo Alto City Government needs to consider, and act, on the following points— Create a Motorists Advisory Council Use historic traffic accident data to track accidents and accident “hot spots”. Publish traffic accident data on-line at least monthly. Install surveillance cameras at “hot spots” to provide police and traffic planners detailed information of traffic patterns, and possibly details of accident events.  Coordinate with other municipal jurisdictions, sharing data, tools, and proposed solutions to problems.  Make reducing traffic accidents a long-term council commitment,  Participate with other municipalities to investigate computer-based vehicle navigation systems—such as have been demonstrated by Google and Stanford University.    

Conclusion Motor vehicles are critical to our way of life, to our very existence. Bicycles are NOT! Bicycles are convenient for children to go to school, and for some people to use to run to the store for whatever can be carried on one’s back—but not much more. Certainly bicycles are not safe in inclement weather, not the kind of transportation one would seek when going to the Emergency Room, seeking emergency medical care or to ride for any distance. This fixation on bicycles by the Palo Alto City government is both unrealistic, and from the clear evidence of accidents in our town—unhealthy. The City Council has an obligation to all of the residents, to seek, and approve, policies, including the use of public funds, that benefit all of us—not just the few that “have the Council’s ear”. The costs of motor vehicle accidents have easily exceeded $200M over the past fifteen years, here in Palo Alto. These costs must be paid by all of us in terms of higher taxes and higher insurance premiums. It is hard to believe that a few well-spent millions on intelligent, and appropriate, road monitoring and redesign, would benefit all of us, one way or another. Money spent on bicycle paths, or “boulevards” will benefit very few people, diverting needed funds from our streets and roads. It is high time to use the historic traffic accident data, not emotional appeals from a handful of people who have no idea what the data makes very clear. Council Members— it is time to return to reality, and stop endorsing, and funding, this silliness.

Wayne Martin Palo Alto, CA www.twitter.com/wmartin46 www.scribd.com/wmartin46 www.youtube.com/wmartin46 PS—This communication is in no way an endorsement of road downsizing.

On-The-Net: http://www.tavss.com/library/va-nc-lawyer-economic-and-comprehensive-auto-accidentcosts.cfm

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