Only in LA: DOT Wants to Remove Crosswalks to Protect Pedestrians

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(Editor’s Note: Thanks to everyone who wrote in or commented that a "T Intersection" is a legal crosswalk in California regardless of whether it is striped or not.  I knew that, I was going for satire and inadvertently misled people.  Sorry for any confusion.)

Pedestrians in Los Angeles rejoice!  As news reports continue to come in of pedestrians being run down while legally crossing the street, the LADOT is working hard to stem this tragedy by making it illegal to cross the street in locations throughout the city.  Longtime Assistant General Manager John Fisher tells Stephen Box, in reaction to a story published earlier this week in LAist about the LADOT’s "study" of whether or not to remove an unsignalized crosswalk in the NoHo Arts District:

John Fisher, Assistant General Manager of the LADOT explained that they
did a study a several years ago and they reviewed 7 years of data,
determining that the removal of crosswalks resulted in a 61% reduction
in pedestrian collisions. As a result, the department routinely looks
at the crosswalks in Los Angeles and evaluates them for removal. Fisher
adds, "Of course, if this location is an activity center, then this
would be taken into consideration as we evaluate the crosswalk, the
flow of traffic and the volume, the pedestrian activity and the
community response."

(When Fisher was asked if the reduction of
ped collisions might be due to a reduction in pedestrians, he
acknowledged that it might be an explanation but was not part of the
study)

Feeling safer yet?  To find out more about the NoHo Crosswalk and how you can help save it, read on after the jump.

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LAist lays paints the picture in NoHo:

…they are now proposing to take away a crosswalk at a vital
intersection that connects dense housing to commercial businesses. Is
this redevelopment gone backwards?

Just north of Magnolia Avenue at Blakeslee
is the site of three mixed use developments, two of which that recently
opened and are not 100 percent occupied. South of Magnolia lies their
most directly accessible set of local businesses such as the popular
diner EAT, Starbucks and a myriad of other services.

And Soap Box LA has the community response:

Nancy Bianconi of the NoHo Arts District was shocked to find out
that the LADOT was considering the removal of the crosswalk, exclaiming
"If anything we need a smart crosswalk, one complemented by lights and
traffic calming that supports the vibrant streetlife that we are
working to create in the NoHo Arts District."

Linda Fulton,
owner of the Avery Schreiber Theatre, points out that the city has made
a lot of money off that crosswalk, writing tickets to motorists who
don’t yield to the pedestrians. "There are 7 theatres between
Lankershim and Magnolia, there is lots of mixed-use development on
Magnolia, all drawing pedestrians to this community, and we need to
support the pedestrians, not abandon them in favor of improving the
flow of traffic."

So, the stage is set.  The LADOT wants to protect pedestrians by restricting their ability to cross the street while the community is crying out for better accomadations.  The first step is to save this crosswalk, and we’ve had some success in the past by flooding the number LADOT placed for comments with negative reaction.  So grab your phones and let the LADOT know there are better ways to make the streets safe for pedestrians.

Photo of Sign: SoapBoxLA; Photo of Street: LAist

  • Mark

    There’s an implied crosswalk at every intersection whether or not there is any paint on the asphalt, so removing a crosswalk does nothing to make a crossing there illegal (barring a specific sign that says otherwise). A fair amount of research does corroborate that accidents drop at intersections w/out painted crosswalks. Maybe there’s a minor reduction in pedestrian crossing volume, or maybe not: if ya gotta cross, ya gotta cross!

  • Mark

    Maybe I should be explicit: I’m not dissing using traffic calming techniques to improve the pedestrian experience, just addressing the narrow point of the legality of crossing an unmarked intersection.

  • Another LADOT FAIL.

    The conversation ought to be focusing on how best to improve pedestrian crossings so as to make them LESS dangerous…. (scrambles, diagonals, other clever ideas brought up here and there)

    Is it just me, or does this just make your brain hurt?

    WTF LADOT.

    WTF.

  • KateNonymous

    If the intersection is so busy, shouldn’t there be at least a stop sign? Why is removing paint the only solution?

  • How can we keep pedestrians from getting hurt when they cross the street? Don’t let them cross the street at all. Done and done!

    Seriously, the problem is likely money. If the data says that removing crosswalks reduces pedestrian collisions, and it costs very little to remove the paint from the street (compared to putting in a stop sign, which would greatly slow traffic along the corridor, which they probably don’t want to do for other reasons), it makes the most fiscal sense. Everyone is strapped for cash, so there you go.

  • If they want to paint out some lines – why not the lane lines for cars? That’s right, get rid of a travel lane at this intersection. Paint in some diagonal arrows a half block away, and glue some reflective thingies to mark out the approach to the intersection.

    How much more could that cost?

    Regarding lights – I think they are a red herring, and only lead to, “Well … the budget …” responses from city staff.

  • Wow!

    This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. Funny how in two years studying urban planning strictly focusing on bicycle and pedestrian planning, I have never even heard of such a report that says removing crosswalks improves safety. I would love to see that one!

    Sometimes I realize that back here in Jersey we aren’t the most backwards thinking corner of the US it come to bike/ped issues. LA continues to amaze me.

  • Mark

    @ Andy:

    You might want to start with this study published in JAMA. It deals with older persons but references other studies done with an all-ages population.

    http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/288/17/2136

  • Mark,

    Thanks for the link. I read the study in full but didn’t have time to reference the older studies.

    It was probably the most convoluted study report I have ever read. In the comments they even admitted that there was probably a much stronger correlation between the driver’s record and pedestrian crashes (the worst the drivers record the more likely they were to be involved in a crash with a pedestrian) and say that driver education is probably key.

    Finally it seems (I’m not 100% sure, report too convoluted for the time I was will to give it) that painted crosswalks may have been more likely to be present at intersections more dangerous for pedestrians.

    My conclusion from this one report is that while there may be some truth to their conclusions, I certainly wouldn’t be making policy decision from this.

    I’m curious to see what other studies are out there.

    Finally, traffic calmed crosswalks have a well proven record of pedestrian safety. Why not do that at these intersection instead basing decisions on reports that may not have a strong record of peer reviewed similar conclusions.

    Thanks for bring this up! REALLY!

  • Mark

    @Andy:

    I agree: the best way to promote safety AND access is to change the geometry of the roadway, ie, traffic calming in all its various forms.

    And, yes, the study authors do note some inherent problems of an observational study as opposed to a controlled study, but it’s hard to put a crosswalk/no crosswalk in a petri dish under controlled conditions and watch what happens!

    The larger point is to not reflexively condemn actions that don’t square with our preconceptions, but to keep an inquisitive mind that goes where the evidence takes it. I’m gratified you did exactly that.

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