Heads Up program revisited in light of pedestrians, cyclists, hurt

A "Ghost Bike" sits on the side of Railroad Avenue near where a cyclist was killed Sunday night as a reminder to motorists to share the road. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Two years ago, a spike in the number of pedestrian collisions prompted city officials to team up with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station to try and curb the trend.

The partnership produced a campaign directed at educating pedestrians and cyclists about safety, called the Heads Up program.

Now, both partners are dusting off the program in light of another recent spike in pedestrian and cyclist collisions.

As well, deputies are scheduled to carry out an enforcement campaign aimed at bicyclists and pedestrians between 5 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Monday, March 25 — all in response to the recent spike in collisions involving cyclists and bicyclists.

“The city (of Santa Clarita) has been working the Sheriff’s Station on the‘Heads Up’ campaign,” city spokesman Kevin Strauss said Tuesday.

“The program falls under our larger program, Drive Focus Live,” he said. “The educational aspect of safety comes under the Heads Up.”

In a nutshell, civic officials want pedestrians and cyclists to pay attention, specifically wanting them to lift up their heads while they’re in motion and be attentive to their surroundings.

What they don’t want, Strauss said, is pedestrians looking at their cell phones as they make their way across an intersection. They also don’t want cyclists wearing earbuds that prevent them from hearing what’s around them.

Deputies are on the same page.

“The Heads Up campaign never went away,” said Shirley Miller, spokeswoman for the SCV Sheriff’s Station. “But with the recent spike in collisions we will be pushing that message out more.”

City officials noticed a spike in the number of traffic collisions involving pedestrians and cyclists, said city spokesman Jerrid McKenna.

“We do want a call to action,” he said Tuesday, noting a response by city officials to traffic statistics gathered and crunched by city staffers.

“We want drivers to be aware, as well,” McKenna said. “We have our traffic office, which keeps track of the incidents.”

In the last month, eight pedestrians and/or cyclists were injured in traffic collisions, two of whom died from their injuries.

What provoked city officials to open the book on the Heads Up campaign was news pertaining to the two recent fatalities, according to witnesses, that the pedestrian and cyclist in each case  moved into the path of oncoming traffic.

“We want to encourage safe driving behavior, safe cycling behaviour and safe pedestrian behavior,” Strauss said.

“It’s illegal for motorists to use (handheld) cell phones,” he said. “But, it’s also illegal for cyclists.”

“For pedestrians, it’s not smart to be looking down as you’re crossing the road,” he said.

Statistics gathered for the Heads Up campaign of 2017/2018, seven pedestrians were killed on SCV streets between 2013 to 2015. The numbers showed an increase over the three-year period with two pedestrians killed in 2013, one in 2014, and four in 2015.

A look at the recent spike in pedestrian/cyclist collisions reveals that pedestrians were involved in at least four collisions over the span of one week, including two who died as a result of their injuries.

The two fatalities happened in the space of 48 hours, claiming the lives of a 61-year-old male pedestrian and a 62-year-old female cyclist.

Both victims were hit by vehicles on Railroad Avenue in Newhall.

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