City Officially Unveils “Continental Crosswalk,” Promises 50 More in Next Three Months

Birds eye view of the Continental Crosswalk at 5th and Spring in Downtown Los Angeles

No pedestrian left behind?

At a just concluded press conference at the newly installed continental crosswalk, commonly known as a zebra crosswalk, at 5th and Spring in Downtown Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a new program to replace traditional pedestrian crossings with the more visible crosswalk pictured above.

The world's most famous continental crosswalk.

Continental crosswalks feature two-foot wide yellow or white painted stripes paired with a limit (stop) line setback from the crosswalk to reduce vehicular encroachment into the crosswalk. The crosswalks alert motorists that they are approaching a pedestrian zone and are widely considered more safe than pedestrian crossings marked by two thin lines connecting two corners of an intersection.

“Los Angeles is in the midst of a transportation renaissance,” said Villaraigosa. “We are doubling the size of our rail network, making improvements to traffic flow and adding new bikeways. But we need to ensure that no one gets left behind. This focus on pedestrian safety is part of our efforts to create a 21st century transportation network that works for everyone.”

The new design is not just for new crosswalks or high-traffic intersections. Villaraigosa wants to see every crosswalk in the city replaced, but for now announced a plan to replace 53 crosswalks by the end of March. The replacement areas were selected based on traffic safety, with the fifty most dangerous intersections getting priority. The other three high-danger crossings are in Council Districts that are fortunate enough to have no crossings on the “top fifty” list.

You can see a list of the crosswalks scheduled for improvement, at this document provided by LADOT.

“We’re excited by today’s announcement,” says Deborah Murphy, the founder of Los Angeles Walks and Chair of the city’s official Pedestrian Advisory Committee. “This is the first of what we hope are many steps forward to make our streets safer for pedestrians.”

As discussed last week, the embracing of zebra crosswalks is the symptom of a larger change at LADOT in recent years. While a recent study shows that pedestrian crashes in intersections with zebra crosswalks is over 25% lower than traditional ones, LADOT citied cost as a reason to not embrace the improved design.

The average cost of installing a zebra crosswalk is $10,000 per intersection. The cost of a regular crosswalk is about $1,000 or $4,000 per intersection. To replace 53 crosswalks will cost over half a million dollars. Too embark on a city-wide effort will cost quite a bit more. There are 19,770 marked crosswalks in the city. The city estimates that to re-paint every crosswalk will cost over $50 million. Villaraigosa promised that a portion of the Measure R local return funds set-aside for bicycle and pedestrian projects will pay for much of the conversion.

Bluntly, LADOT is putting safety over cost for pedestrians by embracing the continental design. Regardless of past actions, advocates are thrilled with the change. Representatives of Los Angeles Walks point out that 84% of the 53 new crosswalks will be within 1/4 mile of a school, transit stop, or both.

Watch the Road, now goes for cyclists and cars. Watch out for pedestrians!

Installing the new crosswalks is just part of the new campaign. In early 2013, the “Watch the Road” campaign will release a new stream of advertisements highlighting the zebra crossings and alerting motorists to watch for pedestrians.

“These new pedestrian features will go a long way toward making our streets even safer, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to bring Continental Crosswalks to some intersections in the 11th District,” said Council Member Bill Rosendahl, who chairs the City Council Transportation Committee. “The crosswalks are just another example of how the City is working to improve mobility for all Angelenos, whether you travel by car, bike, or on foot.”

  • Anonymous

    I’m thrilled about this!

  • Alexcthompson

    Why a promise from this mayor is even print worthy at this point escapes me.  How’s he tracking to his promise on pocket parks?  Not so great.

  • chairs_missing

    Pick that low hanging fruit!

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure which city department is responsible for the pocket parks, but the crosswalks are an LADOT project. LADOT has done well keeping up to date on the bike lane implementation schedule, so I have no reason to be cynical about the crosswalk rollout.

  • Capt

    “The average cost of installing a zebra crosswalk is $10,000 per intersection. The cost of a regular crosswalk is about $1,000 or $4,000 per intersection. To replace 53 crosswalks will cost over half a million dollars.”
    Only $3000 more per crosswalk is a bargain. A trip to the hospital after being hit by a car will easily set a pedestrian back $3,000. A crosswalk will pay for itself after preventing one accident and potentially prevent tens, maybe even thousands of dollars worth of injuries during before it needs to be re-striped. I can’t think of many things that a municipal government can do that provide that much benefit to citizens at such a low cost.

    I would gladly vote to tax myself to pay for the replacement of all the crosswalks in the LA. 

  • Absolutely fantastic.  Ive heard too many times that “theres no study that shows theyre safer”….even though anyone who has ever driven or walked knows how much more visible these are.

    Im glad they actually did a study to prove it, as engineers love to hide behind the lack of study excuse, instead of, you know, commissioning a study…..or using common sense.

  • Erik Griswold

    Funny, I thought Zegeer has a study that proves this.  I’ll have to look it up.

  • Erik Griswold

    Wait, LADOT, aren’t you giving pedestrians a false sense of security?

  • Alex Thompson

    LADOT met that commitment by adding to the network a bunch of tiny “chopped spaghetti” lanes that don’t link up.  The equivalent here will be a bunch of cross walks at 4 way stops in sleepy neighborhoods.

    It’s not cynical to be skeptical of an agency with a 50 year history of stickin it to peds and cyclists – it’s reasonable.  It’s pollyannish to characterize skepticism of LADOT as cynicism.

  • Anonymous

    Alex- If you actually read the list in the attached document, you’d see that it includes major intersections in dense parts of the city where cars and pedestrians are constantly in conflict.  Wilshire/Western, Hollywood/Vine, Sunset/Alvarado, etc. Its a solid list.

  • Alex Thompson

     I’ll believe it when I see it.

  • Dennis Hindman

    There should already be enough money set-aside to install hundreds of continental crosswalks in Los Angeles. The LADOT installed over 55 miles of bike lanes using local funds from Measure R and there was a equal amount set-aside for pedestrian improvements. It cost about an average of $52,000 a mile for these bike lanes and that translates to at least 286 continental crosswalk installations.

  •  @erikgriswold:disqus right, the article mentions a study, but when talking to traffic engineers elsewhere in the state thats the reply i got “theres no study to show its safer”. Of course, these are the same engineers that pretend that crosswalks in general make things dangerous, because of a misunderstanding over a 40 year old study

  • What precisely would cause LADOT to fail to deliver on crosswalk striping? There’s zero opposition to this, and the funding source has already been identified.  The cases where they backed off on immediate implementation of bike lanes/boulevards have been due mainly to NIMBY complaints that spooked the  Council member in the area (see Hancock Park, Porter Ranch). The long, drawn-out EIR process for more continuous/connected bike lanes has been necessitated (until the passage of AB 2245) by myopic, outdated environmental significance thresholds that, with the exception of a couple of cities, are regrettably pretty much the industry standard across the state (and are thankfully now irrelevant when it comes to bike lanes). Neither of those circumstances is a factor with crosswalks. Granted, some irrational opposition could crop up, and I’d be mad as hell if LADOT somehow backed off this plan, but there’s no indication at all of that sort of thing happening.

    And I’ll point out that even in implementing the “chopped spaghetti” bike lanes, City Hall was way less timid than it had been even a few years ago. The DTLA lanes (Spring/Main Sts, 7th St, LA St, etc.) and Venice Main St were all worthy projects that improved connectivity and took road space away from cars. If you told any LA bike advocate in, say, 2008 or 2009 that all that stuff would be striped by the start of FY 2012-13, they’d have jumped for joy.

  • That assumes that the marginal benefit of every other potential use of the remaining Measure R set-aside is less than that of the additional 236 continental crosswalks. Is there a basis for making this judgment? Serious question; I’d really be interested to find out.

  • Dennis Hindman

    Niall, to the best of my knowledge, very little of the 5% local Measure R money that the city council approved for pedestrian improvements has not been used up until this point. My comment was not meant to infer that all of the money should or would be used for continental crosswalks.

  • Davistrain

    I spotted a “continental” or “Abbey Road” crosswalk in San Marino this evening–at San Marino Ave. and Lorain Rd.  Not a place where one would expect to see one.

  • Overall, this is great news, but…
    When Street Services resurfaces a street, the street is repainted according to LADOT’s Street Striping plan.  Does this mean LADOT is going back to redraw all of their striping plans so that these are installed as a routine matter with every street surfacing project? Are we going to routinely design and maintain our streets so they are safe for all users, or are pedestrian and bike infrastructure always going to be “special projects?” If the latter, ped/bikes should get far more than 10% of Measure R local return money.  

    At some of these intersections (e.g., Hollywood/Highland), the high number of ped collisions simply reflects a very high number of pedestrians (rather than a high RATE of collisions). Because we have no systemwide ped counts, I suppose this is unavoidable. 

    At other intersections, the problem is not crosswalk design, but roadway design, and Continental crosswalks don’t address the real problem, which is high-speed right-hand turns.  At Sunset/La Brea, the right lanes on La Brea are so wide that vehicles barely need to slow down to make right turns onto Sunset. At Sunset/Crescent Heights, the sweeping right turn lanes on the south side of the intersection allow cars to make turns at high speedsk at . At Wilshire/Gayley, the double right-turn lanes from Gayley onto Wilshire, allow cars to whip around the corner who cannot see peds at all, and cars making permissive left turns from Wilshire onto Midvale turn whenever there is a gap in traffic on Wilshire and don’t look for peds.   

  • Ubrayj02

    A road planning policy that is based on recorded collisions?

    I am about to faint. We are a long way from where we need to be, but this is the type of data driven policy that we need. The data is there to show, objectively, to critics of projects like this that lives are being saved.

    It is bread and butter local politics to say, “I’ve identified the 10 most dangerous intersections in LA and I’ve dedicated to rapidly making these intersections safer – and here are the numbers to prove it.”

    These “expensive” crosswalks can be bought using all sorts of council district slush funds – parking meter revenue, trash truck mitigation money (see CLARTS in CD14), money from the Northridge earthquake, etc.This is money that is ready to go on day one for the savvy councilmember recently elected. You push these projects then sit back until re-election time and present your safety numbers.

    The real question is how does a politician market these safety improvements for votes? I think that the case needs to be made by advocacy groups, which implies a much closer relationship with advocacy groups, which implies a more cozy relationship which implies that advocates will turn into “Advocates”. So long as the streets get measurably safer and our quality of life returns to a species-typical norm, I am happy.

    100 new neighborhood watches, 1 million trees, pocket parks, tiger teams, greenest city in America, clean port truck traffic – you can throw all the bullshit promises of this administration out the window. Oddly, Villaraigosa will be emerge as a  lion of livable streets history in LA for crosswalk campaigns based on collision data, the bike plan of 2010, and CicLAvia.
    Let’s hope more politicians follow in his footsteps – delivering real changes on the streets. I can put up with more baloney promises of green tech corridors (i.e. tax free zones for big business), etc. so long as they deliver the streets we deserve.

  • Anonymous

    Total waste of money. If it takes a “zebra crosswalk” to alert the Los Angeles motorist that he/she is approaching a pedestrian zone, then I think that all hope for common sense is completely lost. I would like to think that the appearance of, you know, real live PEDESTRIANS would indicate that it was time for said motorists to wise up and pay closer attention behind the wheel. If not, then I’m thinking that anyone who needs a “zebra crosswalk” to get them to pay attention probably shouldn’t be a licensed motorist in the first place.

    This makes about as much sense as blaming the Blue line’s high fatality rate on Metro rather than on idiot motorists who ignore approaching train signals or morons who can’t seem to keep their dumb asses off the tracks!

  • Matt

    In my opinion this is confusing and a waste of money. The US does have a problem with drivers ignoring pedestrian crossings, but this isn’t the way to solve it.

    In many international countries, zebra (“continental”) crossings are provided only at non-signalised pedestrian crossings. They indicate “give way / yield to pedestrians”. This is the case at the pictured Abbey Road crossing in London. Signalised crossings are often marked with simple lines typical of most US crosswalks. They indicate pedestrians cross there, but motorists don’t need give way, just obey the signals. If the traffic signals are green, they don’t give way to peds.

    The problem arises when the motorist continues on to a non-signalised zebra crossing. They have previously effectively ignored the zebra crossing when the signals were green. Now, with exactly the same line marking, you are asking them to give way to peds. I wouldn’t be surprised if a majority of motorists just blow through the crossing, endangering the safety of anyone trying to cross.

    The problem will be compounded if cities take their own approach on pedestrian crossing designs. Driving from one city to another will require drivers to learn multiple types of crossing designs. Not sure this is a step forward in pedestrian safety….

  • No one has mentioned the traffic calming effect these high visibility crosswalks have…

  • auspotts

    I nearly got taken out today in the middle of the afternoon on on a pedestrian zebra striped crosswalk on crescent heights west hollywood….there were 3 of us trying to cross and 3 cars went through as we were on the crosswalk.. , the 3rd blatantly heading for us with road rage..
    In Beverly Hills on Canon there is a zebra crossing with a red light and cars constantly run the red light with pedestrians crossing!! Maybe there needs to be better policing & heftier fines.

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