Concerns about safety at the intersection of Foothill and California boulevards have led to recent heightened awareness of the area from the San Luis Obispo Police Department (SLOPD).
The sheer amount of traffic running through the intersection on a daily basis has given local authorities a reason to keep a close eye on it, and this autumn saw a slightly heightened number of traffic accidents there.
“It’s a chokepoint for lots of traffic,” SLOPD Traffic Safety Unit Sergeant Janice Goodwin said. “California and Foothill is typically an intersection we have concern over due to the high volume of traffic.”
This high traffic volume leads SLOPD to deem the intersection one of the city’s “problem areas,” and it is treated as such by the Traffic Safety Unit.
“As with all our other problem locations, we do some directed enforcement there from time to time,” Goodwin said. “We try to send our officers through there as much as possible.”
Goodwin said that as opposed to incidents between vehicles, the collisions observed in October and November involved pedestrians and bicyclists. She asserted the most common type of accident seen in the area is generally bicycles versus vehicles, as well as right-of-way violations.
However, Goodwin emphasized these incidents were not caused by reckless or inattentive driving. Instead, they were caused by “either right-of-way violations or bicyclists and pedestrians being in a place they were not supposed to be,” she said.
“One of the primary causes for bicycle-related injury collisions is bicyclists riding the wrong way,” Goodwin said. “In the case of the bicyclist versus pedestrian, the pedestrian was in the roadway.”
For these incidents, the main issue was that of students trying to reach Cal Poly’s campus. In addition, Goodwin said an alternate factor which leads to the intersection’s traffic volume is its proximity to the freeway.
The increase in collisions is speculated to be consistent with the increase in students living in the area while school is in session, according to Goodwin.
“We had a reduced number of collisions during the summer months, but this is also consistent with a large portion of the student population being out of town during those months,” Goodwin said.
Although the intersection is close to campus and is commonly used by students, the University Police Department (UPD) does not generally become involved with traffic violations there. UPD Chief George Hughes maintained that the area is “owned and controlled by SLOPD.”
Safety — considering alternative types of transportation common to the intersection — also comes into question, as many students prefer taking the bus to campus. One student recounted the story of being caught in an accident while riding the city bus in November.
“We were just turning onto California and I didn’t even feel it, but a car hit the back of the bus. We had to stop and the other driver asked the bus driver not to do anything about it, but obviously he had to call the police. After that we just had to walk to campus,” mechanical engineering junior Kyra Wells said.
Though no one was harmed in the accident, Wells said it was a shock because she has always seen buses as safer than most vehicles since they generally move at a slower pace than other traffic.
For now, the main focus of SLOPD is to keep a close eye on the area and not allow violations to go unnoticed in order to enforce careful behavior.
“Our goal, as with all of our traffic enforcement effort at high-traffic locations within the city, is to change drivers’ and riders’ behavior through enforcement of hazardous violations,” Goodwin said.