In Wake of Infant Death, Are Changes Coming to Art Walk?

At last week’s Art Walk, the monthly event where downtown art galleries open their doors to the public for free, thousands of people gathered to walk through the Downtown.  The event is changing the way people view Downtown Los Angeles, but last week, tragedy struck.

A two-month old infant in a stroller was killed when a Mercedes jumped a curb and struck the stroller and her mother.  It was initially reported that the driver would face no criminal charges, but later it was reported that he might face vehicular manslaughter.  The LAPD believes he was trying to parallel park front first when he hit the gas instead of the brake, careened into a parking meter, and then into a crowd.

Some have responded to the crash by calling for the walk to go carfree.  Others are claiming that Art Walk has become to large an event to be managed efficiently and should be closed.  Streetsblog had a chance to interview Mayor Villaraigosa on the phone today and we asked him about the crash (more on the rest of the interview tomorrow):

First, it’s obviously a terrible tragedy and our hearts go out to the family.  It’s irresponsible to blame Art Walk for this crash, from what I understand it was a freak accident…It’s too soon to talk about what, if any, changes are needed.  I know Art Walk is working with the city to make people as safe as possible when people are crossing the street.

Streetsblog contributor Brigham Yen advances the argument that the City should think of making Art Walk, at least part of it, car-free  on his self-named blog.  Yen points out that New York does the same thing in Times Square on weekends.  Commentors at other blogs are calling for a monthly mini-Ciclavia on Spring and Main Streets between 2nd and 9th, where the Walk regularly takes place.

While we certainly agree with the concept of car-free parties, it seems unlikey to happen in the short-term.  Remember that after each CicLAvia, which covers 7.5 miles, the non-profit group that programs the event is presented with a six figure bill.   While a lower bill would come for Art Walk, both Main and Spring Street host just under a mile of Art Walk.  Over the course of a year, Art Walk closures would cost more than the two CicLAvia closures.

Is anyone willing to bring the money to close Spring and/or Main Streets to car traffic in Art Walk?

If the City won’t pay for the closures, and they probably won’t, then it’s incumbent on Art Walk to figure something out.  The sponsor list for Art Walk doesn’t seem to be able to foot a $500,000 bill so the businesses who benefit from the walk would have to step in to the gap.

There are still five more Art Walks scheduled for 2011: August 11, September 8, October 13, November 10 and December 8.  Whether there are any significant changes to the event remains to be seen.

  • Roadblock

    Vehicular manslaughter is an appropriate charge. If we don’t prosecute people who drive callously, then people will never learn to drive carefully. When people realize that they will be held accountable for their poor driving habits we will have safer streets. People in 4000 lb machines NEED TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE for their actions. I’m so sick of hearing about drivers who kill kids in crosswalks and get off without a charge. DRIVE CAREFUL or face the consequences!!

  • Peeeeceeee

    How is making a mistake while parking a car “driving callously”?

  • Peeeeceeee

    How is making a mistake while parking a car “driving callously”?

  • Robert Lawson

    If a cyclist _some how_ managed to kill a baby, you can bet people would be raising hell.

  • Taylor

    I don’t really know how these things work, but it seems to me that it should cost less to close the street than to keep it open.  Currently there are something like 20 police officers on every block during Art Walk whose only purpose seems to be forcing the over flowing pedestrians to stay on the sidewalk and giving people tickets for jay walking.

  • How is it “too soon” to talk about changes? Come on, Villa-ba-boso!

  • Closing the street would be great. I’d also support closing York Blvd between aves 52-49 for northeast art walks. I agree with Taylor that the cost of closure is exaggerated.

  • Another great way to go about this is to widen the sidewalks for a more permanent solution. LA is notorious for giving plenty of tax breaks to cater to automobiles and “their rights.” Now it’s time we get our break as pedestrians. Why should we have to walk on narrow sidewalks if drivers understand that they don’t like narrow streets? Oh sure, drivers LOVE wide open streets, now they should understand that pedestrians LOVE wide open sidewalks. It us against them.

  • Bob Davis

    Automobiles don’t have rights, any more than bicycles, tractors or horses have rights.  People have rights, and the rights can vary depending on what they are doing.

  • At the time when I helped run Art Walk (2009), many of the police officers on the scene were volunteers. It is a very popular event to “work.”

  • Statsdude

    I agree. Now’s a good time to remind everyone that lawmakers abandoned pushing for criminal cases against negligent drivers in favor of civil cases. While it may have reduced the caseload of prosecuters, it cheapens the value of life.

  • The sidewalks are overflowing with pedestrians during Art Walk with people being pushed into the streets to get around the crush.  I live on Spring Street and I’ve walked into the streets to get around other pedestrians and sidewalk entertainers just to get home.  Wider sidewalks would be amazing.  However, from seeing several Art Walk events from above, is it possible to limit the street closures to only a few blocks?  I could be wrong, but it seems the streets with most pedestrian congestion, for lack of a better term, are on the corners of 4th and Spring (where food trucks are usually parked) and 5th and Spring.  I think  that would be less than half a mile of closure.  Maybe that sticker price is still too much for a monthly event.

  • Ryan Holman

    it’s very easy for you to sit behind a screen and write off someone you don’t know as irresponsible and even callous. Freak accidents happen and people DO need to be held accountable, but don’t presume to be all-knowing just because you can’t relate to somebody else.

    Put aside your social-political agenda for just a moment to recognize that this accident isn’t just a soapbox moment, it’s bigger than you. Everyone on this site wants safer streets.

    People like you act as if causing a terrible accident like this could NEVER happen to you.

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