A bicycle and pedestrian safety advocacy group is seeking to make cycling and walking to school as popular, and safe, as they are healthy and enjoyable.
Armed with a $100,000 transportation grant from the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, the group is charged with setting up a South County based traffic safety coalition.
“This gives us the opportunity to do good things,” said Sandra Coley, of the Pajaro Valley Transportation Management Association.
The two-year project comes as Watsonville bares the burden of being named worst in the state for pedestrian injuries and/or fatalities among children age 15 and under, according to a 2007 ranking by the Office of Traffic Safety. The state agency compared Watsonville to 106 other California cities of similar population size -- 50,000 to 100,000. That same year, the city had the fourth highest proportion of pedestrian injuries and/or fatalities.
While there are fewer cyclists and cycling accidents in Watsonville than in the rest of the county, when there is crash, it’s usually the cyclist’s fault because he was illegally riding on the sidewalk, said Russ Orlandos, Watsonville Police Officer. What’s more, “no one wears a helmet,” he added.
The bicycle-pedestrian task force is a subgroup of the larger Santa Cruz-based Community Traffic Safety Coalition. Having the grant will improve the coalition’s ability to tackle Watsonville’s road-related issues head-on.
“It was difficult to do with little money to pay for staff time,” said Katie LeBaron of the county Health Services Agency, which started the coalition in the late 1990s.
But the grant hasn’t been awarded yet. It’s contingent upon the group creating a work plan, which will be presented to the RTC next month, LeBaron said.
At Wednesday’s brainstorm session, the group said it wanted to focus on hosting pedestrian and bicycle safety workshops for children and their parents, creating and distributing public service announcements through the various media outlets and, as well as work with the city to get its bicycle plan updated.
The bike lane update is already underway, said Maria Rodriguez, the city’s principal engineer. It should be ready to be reviewed by the RTC’s bicycle committee this fall.
The task force will meet again Wednesday, July 22 to formalize the project list before meeting with the RTC.
Anyone interested in getting involved with the task force can contact Theresia Rogerson at 454-4312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.