Long Beach Needs This: Oakland’s Pedestrian Safety Czar

Long Beach Needs This is a series that addresses two things: Long Beach’s infamous “Manhattanitis,” where our people tend to stick to all-things-Long-Beach while rarely stepping outside and two, highlights great accomplishments, spaces, restaurants, and ideas fostered by our worldly neighbors. It is meant to encourage exploration—from taking a step into the the city next door to visiting other parts of the world—and look at how they successfully implement things, create great food and community, or just view life through a different lens. To see all the Long Beach Needs This posts, click here.


Photo by Brian Addison. Graphics by Baaktash Sorkhabi.

In 2016, I walked over 2,000 miles, or an average of about 5.7 miles every single day, 24/7 in 2016. And I do this since my focus on livability issues has shifted from biking to pedestrians because, bluntly put, pedestrians are the most vulnerable of any person moving.

This an opinion I have not been light on expressing—and the recent months past aren’t offering up hope for pedestrians in Long Beach.

A 55-year-old male resident of Long Beach was killed after a driver struck him and fled the scene on November 16. December 23 saw a semi-tractor kill a homeless person crossing a road in DTLB. 78-year-old Jackie Morris was killed after a driver collided their car into her and abandoned the scene on January 24.  A 57-year-old man was killed after a car hit him at the corner of Bellflower and Spring on January 25. A second homeless person was killed by a hit-and-run driver on February 2. An elder man was killed on March 4 while trying to cross the street at 4th and Olive.

Ultimately, we have looming concerns when we discuss pedestrian fatalities and safety. Firstly, often nothing is mentioned in the media about the basic vulnerability of pedestrians involved in collisions: one person is driving a two-ton piece of metal that travels at deathly speeds while the others are, well, walking. We don’t talk about texting while driving or other distractions. We don’t talk about how street design/speed limits that contributes to a lack of safety for pedestrians.

We often just talk about how “a car jumped a curb” or “a car collided into” or a “car lost control”… We don’t talk about the human aspect or the driver aspect—and that last point is important. It is frightening that people climb into machines that take them toward incredible speeds with the tap of a foot without thinking they are climbing into machines that can kill people. It is frightening that we have created a language which removes the human control of a vehicle and discusses, in an almost anthropomorphic fashion, cars “do” things to people.

speed_kills_infographic_v1Oakland is, as I’ve noted, a lot like Long Beach—and when it comes to violence toward pedestrians, just like here, Oakland sees a disproportionate amount of suffering from traffic crashes toward those that are low-income, of color, a senior, or a person with disabilities. And the reason is simple: it is these people that often rely on walking to get around.

Which is why the City of Oakland has hired its first Pedestrian Safety Czar and the woman at the helm will be Nicole Ferrara, who took Walk San Francisco from a two-person operation into the lead organization that brought Vision Zero to San Francisco. (Something, mind you, we fought for long ago and was happy to see Long Beach adopt in 2016.)

Come April, Ferrara will be leaving Walk San Francisco to take on her newly anointed czar-ship at Oakland’s newly formed Oakland Department of Transportation (created by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf that deviated transportation away from the city’s public works and planning departments).

Her main goal? Quite simple: use a data-driven approach to protecting and decreasing the vulnerability of pedestrians across the city.

Long Beach, make no mistake: we need a pedestrian safety czar.


Support our journalism.

Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.

Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.