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.