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November 24, 2021

Recent Collision Rekindles Pedestrian Concerns

For months they’ve been the most vocal community voices at civic meetings, putting in their two cents about traffic safety at nearly every opportunity. And now, following a pedestrian road incident, and with new faces in key Scotts Valley administrative posts, it seems the message from Bluebonnet Lane safety advocates is getting through.

The group has been relentless in sharing its concerns, and is calling for the narrowing of lanes in the area to 10 feet wide and for bollards to be installed along Bluebonnet.

“We’ve had a lot of near-misses of people who were crossing mid-block and didn’t realize how fast the car was closing in on them,” said Bluebonnet resident David Jones, who is calling for some planned traffic-calming measures to be implemented more quickly. “The reasonable solution is there in the Active Transportation Plan—and the City’s accepted it.”

In late September, a woman and her son were reportedly struck by a vehicle near Skypark at the entrance to the Bluebonnet corridor, sending them to hospital.

The incident reinvigorated neighborhood advocates, leading to emotional public comment at the Oct. 6 Scotts Valley City Council meeting by a Bluebonnet resident, who underscored what the group has been saying all along.

“We continue to ask for some kind of mitigation,” she said. “It continues to be an issue.”

As a multi-family community, Bluebonnet is the very sort of development that Scotts Valley is likely to continue to approve as it grows, the woman said, explaining without backyards, this causes more pedestrians to be on the streets.

“All that high-density housing means more people in a smaller area,” she said. “What I love about being here is we’re near the library and all the other accommodations here, but that means a lot of foot traffic.”

Another woman broke down as she reminded the Council of the times she and her son spoke at community meetings asking for changes along Bluebonnet.

“I’m coming here tonight to ask you to please make some measurable changes,” she said. “We need traffic to be diverted from our residential road.”

Mayor Derek Timm said the City is looking at ways to make Bluebonnet safer.

“I know that was very hard for some of you this evening,” he said. “We do feel that.”

What’s Been Done?

On June 16, as Council was approving its budget for this year, one member of the community’s safety committee spoke to elected leaders about renovations the group believes would cause traffic to transit the area more safely, including class-four bike lanes, a raised crosswalk pavement resurfacing and narrower car lanes.

But City officials noted Scotts Valley has already done some road diet work within the neighborhood and say there are other streets around town that need similar improvements, too.

Former City Manager Tina Friend at that meeting was prepared with statistics that suggested, while important, Bluebonnet just couldn’t make the cut for this year’s financial plan.

“I know the neighbors have been coming to the Council for months and speaking and saying many of the same things—concern about the rate of travel of vehicles, concern about sidewalks, concern about families and seniors traversing the Bluebonnet area,” she said. “So, I wanted to take a step back and reframe the entire conversation around our transportation funding here in Scotts Valley.”

That means making hard decisions about how to spend limited resources, she said, adding the City paid for an expensive Active Transportation Plan (ATP), and now it has to follow it.

“I know the Bluebonnet neighbors were very invested and very involved in that process,” she said. “What the data showed—notwithstanding the passion of the neighborhood—is that the real significant areas of safety concern in Scotts Valley were Scotts Valley Drive and Mount Hermon.”

Those two areas were at the top of the ATP when factors like collisions, bike accidents and pedestrian issues were considered, she said, before moving on to the actual data about Bluebonnet.

“Looking back the past seven-and-a-half years there’s been five accidents on Bluebonnet with no injuries reported,” she said. “I know that there is just a significant perspective and a concern about the lack of safety, but I just want to say that the data don’t show that.”

As Friend, who is now the city manager at Coronado, spoke those words, she knew that wasn’t the message the concerned citizens wanted to hear. And she specifically addressed the concern about ATP project prioritization.

“They looked at safety, they looked at roadway type, connectivity and access, ease of implementation and whether or not it’s a community-identified need,” she said, adding this resulted in high, medium and low priority projects, via a scale that went 1-100.

“There were several that were 95 and 90,” she said, pointing to the Granite Creek Road Overpass (which Council just took action to seek funds for in September), Mount Hermon Road near Kings Village Road, Scotts Valley Drive at Victor Square, and the on and off-ramps near Glenwood, Hacienda, and Scotts Valley drives. “The ones around Bluebonnet … I think the top one was a 60.”

She also said the mid-block crosswalks that the residents want are something the City has been told by Caltrans officials could actually make the situation worse.

“There is a heightened chance of accidents,” she said. “We’re really hitting the brakes on something like that.”

Friend said the City hasn’t left Bluebonnet out—not by a long shot.

“In fact, the City has done more for Bluebonnet than any single residential street in the city,” she said.

These included the radar speed panel sign so downhill traffic has a flashing warning sign. The City also lowered the speed limit on the sign at one point and made it more sensitive so it flashes sooner.

Councilwoman Donna Lind and the Scotts Valley Police Department collaborated to install a speed bump at the Metro parking lot exit, and modified an ordinance to allow for traffic enforcement in the Metro parking lot.

It also installed 430 feet of sidewalk along Bluebonnet.

“We made that happen,” she said, noting that it wasn’t even on the Capital Improvements Project list. “We pushed that forward.”

Jones told the Press Banner that the sidewalks have helped a little bit, and says he’s hopeful they will get the changes they want now that Scotts Valley hired an interim city manager to replace Friend when she resigned, and a new public works director.

Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected]

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