Zebra Spotting at Fifth and Spring

The Manchester and Sepulveda Zebra Crosswalk in 2009. Photo: Kent Strumpell. To see the new one at Fifth and Spring in DTLA, visit Downtown Rising

If you live, work, shop or play Downtown, you may have already seen it.  Brand new “zebra crosswalks,” known in the planning world as “continental crosswalks,” have been installed at the intersection of 5th and Spring, creating a safer and more visible crossing at one of L.A.’s busiest intersections. This is the first zebra installed since December of 2009, when LADOT initiated a “pilot program” at the intersection of Manchester and Sepulveda on the Westside.

A continental crosswalk is better described by its unofficial “zebra” moniker  Instead of straight lines connecting corners of an intersection, this design has a row of stripes spanning the area between the sidewalks, almost as though one was climbing a ladder and crossing the street. The Federal Highway Administration recommends using this design at intersections because, “Use of the continental design for crosswalk markings also improves crosswalk detection for people with low vision and cognitive impairments. It is recommended that the continental design be used consistently to mark all crosswalks; otherwise the impact of less visible markings may be weakened by comparison.”

For years, LADOT resisted the zebra design in party because they are more expensive to paint and maintain. However, following the aforementioned pilot program at Manchester and Sepulveda, resistance has all but vanished. In fact, the department is hinting that there is more zebra news coming soon.

The change of heart over zebras is the most recent positive development from a department that recently removed crosswalks at non-signalized intersections because they gave pedestrians a false sense of security, showed talent for increasing speed limits but not crosswalk installation or even, accidentally, once banned pedestrians from certain crossings.

Brigham Yen broke the story of the new crosswalk at Downtown Rising, including a picture of the crossing, a map of the location and zebras in other parts of the world.