The streets of Los Angeles reached deadly new heights in 2022 despite the city’s Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic deaths by 2025. Of the 309 people killed, pedestrians and cyclists saw the largest increases, according to the local advocacy group Streets Are For Everyone (SAFE).
“Angelenos are speeding and they’re not paying attention to pedestrians and cyclists,” Damian Kevitt, the executive director of SAFE told LAMag. “These are preventable traffic collisions—these lives don’t need to be lost… It’s a preventable tragedy every single time.”
In 2022, the city saw a five percent increase over the previous year and a 28 percent increase since 2020. It comes as a horrific reminder that things have not improved in L.A. since Mayor Garcetti launched the Vision Zero initiative in 2015. The program had set out to “reduce traffic fatalities citywide by 20% by 2017,” and “citywide to zero by 2025,” a press release said at the time.
Vision Zero did not achieve its initial goal. According to the study, traffic deaths sky rocketed by 140 percent the next year and continued to outdo 2015 by 132 percent in 2017
Vision Zero—which falls under L.A.’s Department of Transportation (LADOT)—could not be reached for comment.
Part of the problem, LAist reported in 2021, are the staffing issues LADOT has had with 21 percent of positions unfilled. “Staff turnover, retirements, and a high vacancy rate department wide have affected LADOT’s ability to assign more staff, fully dedicated to active transportation,” then LADOT Director Seleta Reynolds had said.
“LADOT left $15 million of funding on the table [which] was rolled over,” Kevitt says. “They actually didn’t have enough people to even be able to administer the programs to spend the money, yet people are dying in droves across the city.”
For Michael Schneider, founder of Streets For All, the biggest obstacle is that road safety appears to have taken a back seat to so many other issues on the agendas of city pols. Referring to the previous City Council, Schneider told LAMag that it “refuses to allocate proper funding, prioritize funding for projects, and even staff LADOT properly so they can execute these projects, but the biggest thing that’s missing is the political will.”
Although Schneider doesn’t believe that Vision Zero will reach its lofty 2025 goal, he does have hope for the newly elected council, believing that things may change. “These are 180 degree shifts from council members that just paid lip service to road safety and Vision Zero,” he said.
The study also found that unhoused people in L.A. are exponentially more likely to be killed in pedestrian accidents. “We’re looking at 40.2 times compared to housed individuals,” Kevitt said. “And 53 times the national average.”
L.A. ranks poorly compared to other cities. New York City, for example, has 300 fewer miles of streets than L.A.’s 6614, five times the amount of funding, and fewer deaths despite having twice the population, the study found.
“There’s no magic to this—there are proven solutions that cities have used around the world, so, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” Schneider said. “We don’t need to study this for years.”
Things like protected intersections—the first of which Schneider says will be on Seventh Street in DTLA—will help slow cars while physically protecting cyclists and pedestrians. He also cited the Slow Streets program but added that funding and reach is lacking there as well.
“At the end of the day, the more cars we have and the more the road design encourages them to go fast, the deaths are never going to come down, they’re just going to get worse.”
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.