Dangerous by Design: L.A. Metro Lags Behind Nation on Funds to Fix Unsafe Streets

11_9_09_pedestrian_in_la.jpgPedestrian life downtown. Photo by MarcTonySmith/Flickr

A new report on pedestrian safety contains some bad, but not unexpected news for Angelenos and our neighbors in Southern California.  Our streets are amongst the most dangerous ones in the country for pedestrians, yet our governments aren’t taking the issue seriously enough to adequately fund safety improvements.

Los Angeles -Long Beach-Santa Ana Metro Area is among the most dangerous communities in the nation for pedestrians, ranking third in the percentage of crashes involving pedestrians and 27th out of the 52 largest metro areas in total pedestrian safety, a new report shows. Unfortunately, the report also shows that our Metro area shows the least political will to correct the problem, ranking in the bottom 10% when it comes to spending funds to protect the most vulnerable road users. The Greater Los Angeles Metro Region ranked fourth from the bottom when it comes to spending money to fix dangerous roads. You can read the full local press release by LA Walks at their blogsite.

The report, Dangerous by Design: Solving the Epidemic of Preventable Pedestrian Deaths (and Making Great Neighborhoods), ranks America’s major metropolitan areas and states according to a Pedestrian Danger Index that assesses how safe they are for walking. An update of the 2004 Mean Streets report, Dangerous by Design was released by Transportation for America and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership.

The report also examined how states and localities are spending federal money that could be used to make the most dangerous streets safer, and found that Los Angeles -Long Beach-Santa Ana Metro Area ranks 48th, spending (only) $0.45 per person. Yet, 26.99% of traffic deaths in the metro area are pedestrians, making the metro area the 3rd highest rating location in the nation. This percentage is particularly high since only 2.7% of the population walks to work.  In other words, few people commute to work by walking, owing in part to the unsafe nature of our streets, and our governments are not spending nearly enough money to reverse that trend.:

"Los Angeles is where we are in the rankings because we are not investing to protect our citizens from speeding traffic as well as designing and building livable streets in our neighborhoods," said Deborah Murphy, Founder of Los Angeles Walks, "Be it the horrific crash that claimed the lives of two USC students after one was drug for almost 200 yards, or the case of a commuter being slammed by a city-bus in a crosswalk downtown; there are too many crashes every year that point to a dangerous system in need of real investment."

Unfortunately, these types of crashes are all-too frequent. Just last night, a pedestrian was killed by a car while legally crossing the street in a crosswalk in Long Beach.

One small step the City of Los Angeles could make immediately is setting aside a portion of its Measure R Local Return funds for bicycle and pedestrian safety. The City Council Transportation Committee is set to vote on how to spend it’s portion of the county-wide transit tax on November 18.

"As Congress prepares to rewrite the nation’s transportation law, this report is yet another wake-up call showing why it is so urgent to update our policies and spending priorities," said James Corless, director of Transportation for America.

Angelenos could have a great impact on the debate in Washington, D.C. on how transportation dollars are spent. ⁞ After all, L.A. is the largest city in the home state of Barbara Boxer, the Chair of the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

  • Letters to The Times, February 9, 1936

    In your issue of February 5, there is mention of an accident where an auto skidded 300 feet and killed the driver.

    Some suggest stopping slow driving. My experience of more than thirty years driving, never having had an accident, convinces me that the speed maniacs on one side and the indifferent pedestrians cause most of the trouble. Just today, I saw some pedestrians cause most of the trouble. They were quite indifferent to the busy traffic.

    Our speed laws are very liberal, and the slow drivers seldom hurt anyone. On the other hand, the indifferent, slow pedestrians cause trouble, congestion, and are mostly the ones to be injured and killed.

    Anyone who cannot, or will not, step lively, has no business on city streets.

    If more fast drivers and slow, indifferent pedestrians were arrested, it would soon do away with so many accidents on our city streets.

    -J.H. McNEIL

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