Transportation Committee Questions LAPD’s 8,000+ Annual Ped Tickets

Don't assume that you actually have 19 seconds to cross this intersection. Pedestrian countdown signal via Systemic Failure
Don’t assume that you actually have 19 seconds to cross this intersection. Pedestrian countdown signal via Systemic Failure

This afternoon the Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee discussed a motion questioning the effectiveness of LAPD’s “jaywalking” enforcement. The pedestrian enforcement motion, 15-0546, was authored by City Councilmember Mike Bonin, who chairs the committee.

LAPD reported that there was no way to provide the analysis requested in the motion, but did provide some pedestrian enforcement statistics. In 2014 LAPD issued 8,068 citations for pedestrians who entered the crosswalk after the walk signal had ended, typically during the countdown. LAPD reported a recent increase in “in-crosswalk” fatalities, which numbered 27, 26, 34, and 35 in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, respectively. When questioned by Councilmember Bonin, the police representative did not have information regarding who was determined to be at fault for these fatalities.

Councilmember Bonin pursued a number of lines of inquiry about LAPD’s pedestrian safety priorities, strategies, and effectiveness, but repeatedly came up against limited LAPD data.

Fellow committee members Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian expressed support for pedestrian safety, but generally focused their comments and questions on drivers’ ability to make turns at intersections.

Department of Transportation (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds also testified, stating that there is a near-universal lack of understanding on crosswalk laws, which have not kept pace with the recent technology, especially countdown signals. Reynolds reported on recent timing changes at the federal level, dangers to seniors and other slower moving people, and stressed that LADOT and LAPD were partnering on a city Vision Zero steering committee, which is in the process of crunching data to inform enforcement strategies.

Committee chair Bonin concluded the hearing directing LAPD and LADOT to return to the Transportation Committee in 60 days. LAPD was directed to return with additional data on fatality causes, areas targeted, and impacts of current practices. LADOT was directed to report back on possible legislative changes and adjustments to signal timing.

With change needed in state law, and no clear consensus yet on an effective enforcement strategy, it doesn’t look like there’s any quick fix to, as Bonin characterized, L.A.’s countdown signals “literally giving a mixed signal.”

  • calwatch

    One thing that could be done fairly easily is to call Salt Lake City and see how their change in enforcing countdown signals is working. This has been the case there for 13 years and they should have plenty of data by now. SLC is unique in this regard but another city modifying their ordinances to be similar would be great.

    http://www.slcdocs.com/transportation/Pedestrian/pdf/PedestrianSignalsBrochure11_05.pdf

    A COUNTDOWN CLOCK (displaying time in seconds remaining in the pedestrian crossing phase) in conjunction with the flashing orange UPRAISED HAND means that a pedestrian facing the signal indication may start to cross the roadway in the direction of the signal indication, but only if such pedestrian is able to safely walk completely across the street or to a safety island before the COUNTDOWN CLOCK shows no remaining time.

  • Derek Hofmann

    So pedestrians must clear the intersection before the timer counts down, but cars do not need to clear the intersection before the light turns red.

    And cars have a yellow phase but pedestrians have two red phases (don’t walk flashing and don’t walk solid).

    It’s all so confusing. No wonder the LAPD was able to issue so many jaywalking tickets.

  • ClipperFan

    Bonin is a complete moron. He’s listens to the radicals and can’t figure out solutions but all he does is complain. Bonin allowed the Venice homeless to get out of control now blaming everyone instead of taking responsibility for his lack of doing his job

  • LAifer

    Sadly, with the comments from Transportation Committee members Koretz and Krekorian, who both lamented pedestrians zipping into intersections and blocking said councilmembers from making turns, Los Angeles appears to be a long way from something as sensible as what SLC figured out years ago.

  • senorroboto

    The difference being that humans can “brake” perfectly and take 10-20 seconds to cross the intersection and cars need 30-200 feet to brake at surface street speeds and only 1-2 seconds to cross the intersection.

  • User_1

    Man I feel for the slow moving peds that have to get through these intersections. I was out of the hospital after spending almost a month there once and wasn’t moving all that well at the time. It was so terrifying to see thing going to zero and I was still in the street!

    Hope the LAPD gets with the times and see that the countdown is a countdown till it needs to be clear. Not simply a waste of resources and revenue generator.

  • Derek Hofmann

    “humans can ‘brake’ perfectly”

    That depends on your center of gravity and momentum at the time you wish to brake. People in their cars get 1 second to react (to decide whether to brake or proceed, then take action), but people walking would have to see about half a second into the future, or wait for the next cycle if they didn’t step into the crosswalk the moment the light turned green, in order to obey the law 100% of the time.

    A law that cannot feasibly be obeyed 100% of the time begs to be rewritten.

  • Matt R

    Here’s an idea: drivers are automatically at fault. If there were x incidents then there were that number of driver caused incidents.

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    No – Pedestrians must not ENTER the crosswalk when the timer starts…

    We have two issues here:

    1) People are not properly educated. When I was in elementary school, I was taught the difference between the green “Walk” sign, the flashing red “Don’t Walk” sign, and the solid red “Don’t Walk” sign. It is simple, green meant you could enter the intersection, flashing red (similar to an amber light) meant you could not enter the intersection, but could finish crossing the street, solid red meant you could not enter the intersection. Simple.

    2) Replacing the words with international icons (the green walking person and the red hand), plus the countdown timer has created ambiguity. Many people feel the countdown timer simply means if I can make it, I can cross… Having the countdown timer start during the green phase would be more beneficial and end the ambiguity. (Of course many automobile and bicycle drivers now use the timer to determine if they have time to clear the intersection.)

    As a Pedestrian, I get upset when an automobile runs the red when making a right turn.

    As an Automobile Driver, I get upset when a pedestrian enters the crosswalk when the red Don’t Walk sign is flashing.

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    I made a “Reply” to Derek Hoffman above:

    We have two issues here:

    1) People are not properly educated. When I was in elementary school, I was taught the difference between the green “Walk” sign, the flashing red “Don’t Walk” sign, and the solid red “Don’t Walk” sign. It is simple, green meant you could enter the intersection, flashing red (similar to an amber light) meant you could not enter the intersection, but could finish crossing the street, solid red meant you could not enter the intersection. Simple.

    2) Replacing the words with international icons (the green walking person and the red hand), plus the countdown timer has created ambiguity. Many people feel the countdown timer simply means if I can make it, I can cross… Having the countdown timer start during the green phase would be more beneficial and end the ambiguity. (Of course many automobile and bicycle drivers now use the timer to determine if they have time to clear the intersection.)

    As a Pedestrian, I get upset when an automobile runs the red when making a right turn.

    As an Automobile Driver, I get upset when a pedestrian enters the crosswalk when the red Don’t Walk sign is flashing.

    I believe the laws should remain as they are, the countdown timer should be during the green phase, and children should be properly educated. If all three are in place, then ticket the lawbreakers.

  • Prinzrob

    Add to that the fact that all cars can move at basically the same legal speeds, but pedestrians have many different mobility considerations. It is great to set up pedestrian crossings to provide enough time for the slowest users to get across safely, but to then also expect faster or even average speed pedestrians to abide by the same timing system is nonsensical.

  • Derek Hofmann

    “Pedestrians must not ENTER the crosswalk when the timer starts…”

    And they must clear the intersection before the timer goes to 0, according to the LAPD.

    “flashing red…meant you could not enter the intersection…solid red meant you could not enter the intersection.”

    Exactly. Two red phases that mean the same thing.

  • Prinzrob

    Expecting pedestrians to yield and not start crossing during a flashing “don’t walk” or countdown signal is more like expecting drivers to stop at a yellow light, except with the way pedestrian signals are timed it would be more like, say, a several second green followed by a fifteen second yellow.

    A better system that would just have a red “don’t walk” signal, and then a timer that counted down from however many seconds are given to cross. This way individual pedestrians could determine whether they have enough time to cross based on their individual speed. Expecting all pedestrians to abide by a system timed to accommodate the slowest users will only result in nonobservance, and for good reason.

  • Prinzrob

    I agree that most people do not know that a flashing red hand means don’t start crossing, but I do know that and I still think it’s ridiculous. If there’s enough time for an individual pedestrian to cross during the green phase then they should be allowed to cross, as opposed to waiting through another entire signal phase.

    If traffic engineers implement systems that makes sense and are convenient to pedestrians then people will use it correctly. By not providing reasonable traffic control systems we are basically training people to ignore them.

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    The issue is turning automobiles. There needs to be a time window when automobiles can make turns. Pedestrians may be physically able to cross, but they put themselves in danger. I am an avid walker, runner, and cyclist. I am also an automobile driver. As an automobile or bicycle driver, I will not enter a crosswalk when pedestrians are present; but as a pedestrian, I also will not enter a crosswalk when the red hand is flashing.

    Have you ever noticed in high pedestrian and automobile traffic areas, that a solid red hand is signaled after the countdown while automobile traffic still has a green signal? This is to clear the pedestrians out of the crosswalk in order to prevent gridlock.

    If I can follow the rules, so can everybody else. Ticket the drivers who run the red when turning and ticket the jaywalkers.

  • Prinzrob

    Yeah, I know that’s the reason given by traffic engineers, but it’s BS that simply puts car throughput over pedestrian accommodation and safety. It’s all part of the same car-centric traffic design hole that we’ve been digging ourselves out of for the past many decades. Very sad to see LAPD using it as an excuse the punish people for daring to walk in LA.

    If a break in cross pedestrian traffic is really needed in order for drivers to turn then they should either install a turn phase with no ped crossings allowed, or program in enough signal time after the countdown phase for drivers to turn with the solid “don’t walk” showing. Anything else is confusing, inconvenient, and a double standard for pedestrian versus car accommodation.

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    The flashing “Don’t Walk” is the pedestrians’ equivalent to a yellow light. You have X amount of time to clear the intersection.

    As an automobile driver, when I approach an amber light, I check for turning automobile traffic. If there are cars waiting to turn left, I will stop at the amber. If the intersection is clear I may decide to proceed. If I cannot clear the intersection, then I should get a ticket.

    Have I run across a street during the flashing “Don’t Walk” phase – Yes. Would I do it if automobiles are lined up to turn – NO. Do I believe in jaywalking tickets – Yes.

    I used to work downtown on upper Grand Avenue. About once a month, LADP did a jaywalking sting. Pedestrians would mid-block cross between California Plaza and the Wells Fargo Court. Everybody knew the game, played the game, and many got caught. (Funny, there is now a signalized crosswalk between the centers.)

  • Derek Hofmann

    A yellow means that the light is about to change to red but you may still enter the intersection (CVC 21452). The flashing “don’t walk” means you may not enter the intersection (CVC 21456). So the the flashing “don’t walk” sign is not analogous to the yellow light.

    Confusing, isn’t it? This is why the LAPD writes so many tickets.

  • Prinzrob

    I’ll also add that in high pedestrian volume areas, a pedestrian-only scramble phase with no right turns on red works well as an alternative that doesn’t conflict with car turning movements. However, even in these situations our current, absurd pedestrian law makes it illegal to enter the intersection safely during the countdown phase.

  • Prinzrob

    Ticketing pedestrians for violating another road user’s right-of-way while jaywalking can potentially be justified, but ticketing them when they are crossing illegally but safely with no right-of-way violation is a waste of police time and taxpayer money. With the distracted driving and hit-run epidemic as bad as it is in LA, I am very skeptical about any resources being diverted to ticketing pedestrians at this time.

  • Alex Brideau III

    Extending the solid-hand phase might be worth a try, and I’d be interested to see how it might pan out, but I also worry that a longer solid-hand phase would have the unintended side effect of encouraging drivers to speed around corners on “stale greens” (indeed they already do). Also, I frequently see pedestrians violating both the solid-hand phase as well as the flashing-hand phase. To me, speeding drivers coupled with crossing on the solid hand just seems like a recipe for disaster. But I hope I’m wrong. Maybe implementing longer solid-hand phases would be a worthy pilot program.

    As for expecting pedestrians to stop during the flashing-hand phase being “BS that simply puts car throughput over pedestrian accommodation and safety”, I agree that many of our electeds and city staff are still beholden to the almighty automobile. But remember, not only cars need to make right turns. As a daily transit rider, I can tell you it gets very frustrating to have my bus miss its opportunity to turn right because folks were unwilling to wait their turn to cross.

  • Alex Brideau III

    “Two red phases that mean the same thing.”

    Pretty much. That’s why I’ve always felt there’s more value in having the countdown timer count down the amount of time a pedestrian has to legally enter the crosswalk (i.e. during the walk phase).

    Right now the timer counts down between one don’t-walk phase to another don’t-walk phase. Not very helpful for the vast majority of us, and pretty misleading as it’s just human nature to interpret a red countdown as meaning one has XX seconds left to take a certain action, not XX seconds between two almost-arbitrary don’t-walk phases.

  • Alex Brideau III

    And if I’m understanding your proposal correctly, this would have the added benefit of letting me know hald a block away whether or not it’s worth my time/effort to rush to the intersection to make the light.

    With no timer counting down the time to legally cross, I frequently speed up to make the walk signal, then get disappointed as it changes to the flashing hand just before I begin to cross. Tease!

  • Prinzrob

    Another bonus of this system is that if the cross street walk signal is counting down that also encourages bicyclists not to run the red because 1) they know the traffic signal has detected them and 2) they know exactly how long the wait will be.

  • calwatch

    The flashing red walk signal is really more of an assurance to people that they can still cross. If the red walk signal is solid red and you started on the green you have the legal right to occupy the intersection as long as you move at all deliberate speed to the other side. In other words a flashing don’t walk and the red don’t walk have the same legal meaning. This would also address the concerns of vehicle drivers that complain that there is no time to make right turns at the end of a cycle.

    CVC 21456. Whenever a pedestrian control signal showing the words “WALK”
    or “WAIT” or “DONT WALK” or other approved symbol is in place, the
    signal shall indicate as follows:
    (a) “WALK” or approved “Walking Person” symbol. A pedestrian
    facing the signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of
    the signal, but shall yield the right-of-way to vehicles lawfully
    within the intersection at the time that signal is first shown.
    (b) Flashing or steady “DONT WALK” or “WAIT” or approved “Upraised
    Hand” symbol. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the
    direction of the signal, but any pedestrian who has partially
    completed crossing shall proceed to a sidewalk or safety zone or
    otherwise leave the roadway while the “WAIT” or “DONT WALK” or
    approved “Upraised Hand” symbol is showing.

  • calwatch

    If LAPD is ticketing people in the roadway after a don’t walk, who crossed on a green walk indication that would be a violation of CVC 21456, posted above. The MUTCD also provides no difference between a flashing don’t walk and steady don’t walk signal. The flashing don’t walk is only a courtesy to pedestrians to get out of the way. http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/htm/2009r1r2/part4/part4e.htmThere is no “anti-gridlock” law (CVC 22526) for pedestrians that requires them to clear the intersection by the time the red turns on.

  • Prinzrob

    Yes, I understand what the current law is regarding solid and flashing don’t walk signals. What I’m saying is that the current law is counterintuitive and inconvenient, which is why so many people don’t obey or understand it.

    A system that works FOR pedestrians will get better compliance. For instance, the only intersections in Downtown Oakland that get near 100% compliance are the ones with pedestrian scramble phases in Chinatown.

  • They could always just cut back on tickets and limit them to just folks who have actually and purposefully delayed a vehicle.