Despite the city’s goal of eliminating traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries, severe crashes have remained steady in Boulder, according to findings from the city’s impending Safe Streets Report.

Since 2016, there have been anywhere from 55 to 60 severe crashes a year. The city defines “severe” as those that result in death or an incapacitating injury. Further, considering overall crash trends are heading in a positive direction, the percentage of severe crashes is increasing.

Boulder City Council received an update on the city’s Vision Zero efforts in Tuesday’s study session. The discussion was largely focused on the questions the City Council would like to address in early 2022 when the full Safe Streets Report is released. Following the report’s release, the city plans to update its Vision Zero Action Plan.

In 2014, Boulder first solidified its intent to move toward Vision Zero within its transportation master plan. It later formally adopted the goal, becoming part of a national network of communities with the aspirational goal to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries.

Though severe crashes aren’t trending in a positive direction, the same can’t be said for crashes in general. Total crashes have been trending down annually since 2016, according to information from the city. For example, in 2016, there were 2,622 total crashes. In 2019, there were 2,178.

The city also has to account for the unusual circumstances of 2020, in which the coronavirus pandemic lockdown led to a 29% reduction in vehicle miles traveled. As a result, there was a 44% reduction in total crashes and a 31% reduction in severe crashes. There were 1,217 total crashes and 38 severe crashes in 2020.

This data was compelling for City Council member Nicole Speer, who requested more information about steps the city could take to continue that trend.

“It’s really striking to me how when the miles traveled decreased, severe crashes decreased substantially as well,” Speer said.

“I’m looking for boldness,” she added.

The initial analysis of the Safe Streets Report, which focuses on data from 2018 to 2020, identifies five areas of concern, which remained largely unchanged from the previous report: crashes involving pedestrians, bicyclists, speeding, making left turns and people aged 65 and older.

This reminded Mayor Pro Tem Rachel Friend of a 2020 accident she won’t forget in which an RTD bus struck and killed an 85-year-old pedestrian who was crossing the intersection of Baseline Road and Mohawk Drive, not far from her home.

Baseline and Mohawk was identified in the staff memo from Tuesday’s study session as one of four signalized intersections with three or more severe crashes between 2018 and 2020.

It’s near the Frasier Meadows retirement community and a rehabilitation center, which inevitably means there are pedestrians who may need more time to cross the street, Friend noted.

“The data is great,” she said. “But it feels like, at least in this instance, it has not led to quick action, even though we have vulnerable users and the data shows it’s a need.”

The city has made some changes to this particular intersection such as updating the turning path to force motorists to make “an honest turn,” and allowing pedestrians to have a head start crossing, Principal Traffic Engineer Devin Joslin said.

Still, he acknowledged improvements can take time and grant funding, in particular, can be slowed down by administrative processes. Boulder has been awarded more than $3 million in grant funding for planned signal upgrades.

To that end, Councilmember Bob Yates said it would be helpful to know “if there are things that are preventing you from doing what you feel you need to do.” If the City Council could take action or work with other governmental entities to speed up the process, it would be good to know, he said.

Left turn crashes are one of the areas in which the number of severe crashes makes up a much higher percentage than the total percentage of left turn crashes. Crashes involving cars making left turns account for 16% of all crashes but 34% of the severe ones, Joslin reported Tuesday.

This data has pushed Boulder to establish left turn phasing changes — or adding in a green arrow signal for left turns to avoid conflict with pedestrians and oncoming traffic.

“What we find is that those phasing changes virtually eliminate left turn crashes,” Joslin said.

Mayor Aaron Brockett said the data on left turn crashes was “illuminating and kind of scary,” and he said he was glad to hear it was an area of focus for Boulder.

As Tuesday’s discussion concluded, Yates noted the change in tone from conversations City Council had regarding traffic safety before he was elected in 2015.

“I think that we’ve come a long, long ways in that intervening six years,” he said. “Obviously you’re hearing a lot of permission from Council to be bold, to tell us what we need to do to protect our community.”

The Safe Streets Report will be released to the public in January, ahead of the Transportation Advisory Board weighing in on it. A more in-depth City Council study session on the full report will be held in February.

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Despite the city’s goal of eliminating traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries, severe crashes have remained steady in Boulder, according to findings from the city’s impending Safe Streets Report.

Since 2016, there have been anywhere from 55 to 60 severe crashes a year. The city defines “severe” as those that result in death or an incapacitating injury. Further, considering overall crash trends are heading in a positive direction, the percentage of severe crashes is increasing.

Boulder City Council received an update on the city’s Vision Zero efforts in Tuesday’s study session. The discussion was largely focused on the questions the City Council would like to address in early 2022 when the full Safe Streets Report is released. Following the report’s release, the city plans to update its Vision Zero Action Plan.

In 2014, Boulder first solidified its intent to move toward Vision Zero within its transportation master plan. It later formally adopted the goal, becoming part of a national network of communities with the aspirational goal to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries.

Though severe crashes aren’t trending in a positive direction, the same can’t be said for crashes in general. Total crashes have been trending down annually since 2016, according to information from the city. For example, in 2016, there were 2,622 total crashes. In 2019, there were 2,178.

The city also has to account for the unusual circumstances of 2020, in which the coronavirus pandemic lockdown led to a 29% reduction in vehicle miles traveled. As a result, there was a 44% reduction in total crashes and a 31% reduction in severe crashes. There were 1,217 total crashes and 38 severe crashes in 2020.

This data was compelling for City Council member Nicole Speer, who requested more information about steps the city could take to continue that trend.

“It’s really striking to me how when the miles traveled decreased, severe crashes decreased substantially as well,” Speer said.

“I’m looking for boldness,” she added.

The initial analysis of the Safe Streets Report, which focuses on data from 2018 to 2020, identifies five areas of concern, which remained largely unchanged from the previous report: crashes involving pedestrians, bicyclists, speeding, making left turns and people aged 65 and older.

This reminded Mayor Pro Tem Rachel Friend of a 2020 accident she won’t forget in which an RTD bus struck and killed an 85-year-old pedestrian who was crossing the intersection of Baseline Road and Mohawk Drive, not far from her home.

Baseline and Mohawk was identified in the staff memo from Tuesday’s study session as one of four signalized intersections with three or more severe crashes between 2018 and 2020.

It’s near the Frasier Meadows retirement community and a rehabilitation center, which inevitably means there are pedestrians who may need more time to cross the street, Friend noted.

“The data is great,” she said. “But it feels like, at least in this instance, it has not led to quick action, even though we have vulnerable users and the data shows it’s a need.”

The city has made some changes to this particular intersection such as updating the turning path to force motorists to make “an honest turn,” and allowing pedestrians to have a head start crossing, Principal Traffic Engineer Devin Joslin said.

Still, he acknowledged improvements can take time and grant funding, in particular, can be slowed down by administrative processes. Boulder has been awarded more than $3 million in grant funding for planned signal upgrades.

To that end, Councilmember Bob Yates said it would be helpful to know “if there are things that are preventing you from doing what you feel you need to do.” If the City Council could take action or work with other governmental entities to speed up the process, it would be good to know, he said.

Left turn crashes are one of the areas in which the number of severe crashes makes up a much higher percentage than the total percentage of left turn crashes. Crashes involving cars making left turns account for 16% of all crashes but 34% of the severe ones, Joslin reported Tuesday.

This data has pushed Boulder to establish left turn phasing changes — or adding in a green arrow signal for left turns to avoid conflict with pedestrians and oncoming traffic.

“What we find is that those phasing changes virtually eliminate left turn crashes,” Joslin said.

Mayor Aaron Brockett said the data on left turn crashes was “illuminating and kind of scary,” and he said he was glad to hear it was an area of focus for Boulder.

As Tuesday’s discussion concluded, Yates noted the change in tone from conversations City Council had regarding traffic safety before he was elected in 2015.

“I think that we’ve come a long, long ways in that intervening six years,” he said. “Obviously you’re hearing a lot of permission from Council to be bold, to tell us what we need to do to protect our community.”

The Safe Streets Report will be released to the public in January, ahead of the Transportation Advisory Board weighing in on it. A more in-depth City Council study session on the full report will be held in February.

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