POULSBO — An update on Poulsbo’s continuing plans to increase pedestrian traffic safety was a prominent feature of a recent city council meeting.
The push for safety enhancements comes after two separate incidents of pedestrians in Poulsbo being struck by cars while crossing the street last December. Both incidents occurred within a week of each other and one of the pedestrians hit, a 69 year-old Poulsbo woman, was killed.
Andrzej Kasiniak, Poulsbo’s director of engineering introduced Phil Struck, the safety plan’s project manager. Struck said that the plans necessary for the city to be eligible for certain WSDOT safety grants must be drafted quickly before the city applies for the grants in April.
“Our goal, really is to look at some data, identify locations and risks to help reduce accidents,” Struck said. “We’re thinking about doing the project in two phases, the first phase is really to get the plan done in order to be eligible for the grant. That’ll happen in the next two months,”
The second phase of the plan, Struck said, would build upon the initial draft for the grant.
“The second phase is an expansion to look at issues that maybe we didn’t go into detail in the safety plan for the grant and those might be related to education or enforcement or future non-motorized system development within the city,” Struck explained. “Our planned elements are really around looking at the data we have to help us make some informed decisions. We’re looking at all accident data over the last five years, looking at serious injury accident data over the last 10 years and also looking at the speed data that the city has collected over the last 10 years.”
On Feb. 27 an advisory committee made up of representatives from local groups, businesses and government organizations met to discuss their ideas and concerns for the safety enhancement plan.
At the meeting an assortment of local accident data was presented to the members of the committee. An array color-coded dots on several maps painted a clear picture of Poulsbo’s traffic accidents over the years. David Gesell, a traffic enforcement officer with the Poulsbo Police Department said he didn’t notice anything on the maps which might suggest a pattern of accidents occurring in any particular area of Poulsbo.
“Something to consider is there [isn’t] really a mass cluster of dots in any one spot,” Gesell said.
Struck reminded the committee members that the information presented was by no means a complete picture of traffic issues in Poulsbo.
“We’ve been looking over this for a little over a week, so this is not the end of the analysis, this is just the initial presentation of the information that we got,” Struck said.
Charlie Roberts, the City of Poulsbo’s engineering technician explained that driver distractions have become a major factor in collisions in recent years.
“Looking just at Poulsbo, between 2007 and 2011, distracted driving was a factor in about 18.5 percent of crashes. Between 2012 and 2017 it’s more than doubled, 46.1 percent of crashes were caused by distracted driving,” Roberts explained.
Gesell added that he believes the real number for this figure is actually much higher.
“Those numbers are going to come off of our collision reports and if you’re playing on your phone and you crash into someone, you’re not terribly likely to tell me you were doing that,” the officer explained.
Committee Member Rick Eckert raised the concern that tourists coming to Poulsbo might be contributing to unsafe road conditions in town. Eckert suggested that the Port of Poulsbo could be acting as an ingress point for visitors prone to jaywalking.
“We have the tourist and transient population coming in through the port who then walk, they’re almost entirely pedestrian, they don’t know how Front Street’s laid out. I think they probably contribute to some of the jaywalking,” Eckert said before suggesting collaboration with the port in order to educate visitors on local traffic safety.
To this point, Sandy Kolbeins, proprietor of the downtown Poulsbo restaurant The Loft, said that educating tourists on the finer points of local traffic rules and pedestrian responsibilities seemed like a long shot.
“I don’t want to minimize what you said but we have a tough time just trying to get people to understand that you can’t walk around with cocktails in your hands,” Kolbeins said.
Gesell suggested that the number of pedestrians jaywalking downtown was not the result of a lack of familiarity with conventional traffic regulations
“There’s five crosswalks just in this one little section and I see it all the time: they’re 15 feet from a crosswalk but they’ll jaywalk right across the street and still walk the direction of the crosswalk,” Gesell said. “It’s the laziness of the person and assuming that the car’s going to stop for them and that’s not true.”
Despite the fact that Officer Gesell said he frequently sees people in Poulsbo illegally crossing streets, he conceded that he has never written a ticket to anyone for jaywalking.
“I can tell you in 15 years I have yet to write a jaywalking ticket but I’ve yelled at a whole lot of people. It still doesn’t make it okay to step out into traffic and there’s two people on Front Street alone this year that might agree with that at this point,” the officer said.
The next meeting of the committee is scheduled for Mar. 20.
The Street and Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Plan advisory committee consists of:Kate Collins-Nunes, planning commission;
Rick Eckert, North Kitsap School District Board of Directors;
Chris and Brooke Hammett, Poulsbo Running;
Dianne Iverson, West Sound Cycling;
Sandy Kolbeins, Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association;
Jeff McGinty, Poulsbo City Council;
Jim Schlachter, Rotary Club of Poulsbo.
David Gesell, Poulsbo Police Department;
Mike Lund, City of Poulsbo Public Works;
Charlie Roberts, City of Poulsbo Engineering Department;
Diane Lenius, City of Poulsbo Engineering Department; and
Anthony Burgess, City of Poulsbo Engineering Department.