SALINAS, Calif. - Crashes involving bicycles and pedestrians are nothing new to Salinas. In the past five years, Salinas police has investigated 4,843 crashes. Of those, 513 involved pedestrians and bicyclists.
According to data from the city, most of the bicycle crashes were on North Main. 73-percent of the time, the bicyclist was at fault. As for pedestrian collisions, most of crashes happened on the North Main Street corridor. 65-percent of the crashes involved vehicles failing to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk, and pedestrians failing to yield to vehicles mid-block.
The city, wanting to improve road safety, turned to the experts.
A traffic engineer and a traffic enforcement specialist from U.C. Berkeley came to Salinas in July and surveyed eight intersections and corridors deemed “dangerous.”
• East Laurel Drive: North Sanborn Road to Natividad Road
• Sanborn Road: John Street to Freedom Parkway
• Williams Road: John Street to Bardin Road
• North Main Street: East Bernal Drive to East Boronda Road
• North Main Street / Bernal Drive
• North Main Street / East Laurel Drive
• East Laurel Drive / Constitution Blvd
• Sanborn Road/Market Street
"These are like the most dangerous intersections in town where we have the most crashes and the most serious crashes," said Salinas Police Sgt. Gerry Ross.
Three months later, we are getting an idea of the suggestions they have. Many involve putting in bike lanes, improving street lights or widening sidewalks. Many improvements are on the city’s radar.
For example, the city is planning on making major improvements to Williams Road between John Street and Bardin Road. That includes a roundabout at the Williams Road/John Street/East Alisal intersection and a new traffic signal at Williams Road and Garner Avenue. Other short-term suggestions include curb extensions, high visibility markings and fluorescent signs for all marked crosswalks at uncontrolled locations.
North Main Street is a six-lane major arterial roadway that carries some 36,000 cars a day. Improvements are being looked at between East Bernal Drive and East Boronda Road. That includes new traffic signals at North Main at Cherokee Drive and North Main at Navajo Drive. There are recommendations to synchronize the lights.
Right now the Salinas Police Department does not have a dedicated traffic unit, however the report suggests re-establishing a traffic division with at least six more officers.
These recommendations are not required.
"They’re not saying this is something we need to do or even something we should do,” Ross said. These are ideas they have that they feel would make the intersections and streets safer. They say in their report this is under ideal circumstances, in an ideal world where you have all the money and personnel at your disposal.”
The city and police have been making changes. One area getting some much-needed improvements is on East Market. Just a few months ago, the city unveiled some improvements in front of Fremont Elementary School. That includes the installation of bike lanes, striping for pedestrians, crosswalks and a narrow road.
During the last year, Salinas has seen six deadly pedestrian crashes and one deadly bike collision. However, they haven’t seen any since May. They say they hope to keep the streak going.
Recently the department was awarded an $180,000 grant from the Office of Traffic Safety for a yearlong program of special enforcements and public awareness efforts to prevent traffic deaths.
According to a news release, that money will be used for DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols, bicycle and pedestrian safety enforcement and specialized DUI and drugged driving training for police officers.