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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.”

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Interview with Luke Klipp of Jaydancing

Come Jaydance in DTLA this Saturday. Image via Luke Klipp

Come Jaydance in DTLA this Saturday. Image via Luke Klipp

For as long as I can remember, Streetsblog Los Angeles has been lamenting the L.A. Police Department’s targeted ticketing of pedestrians. LAPD “jaywalking” enforcement occurs mostly in downtown Los Angeles, but also outside various central Los Angeles Metro rail stations. I am excited that Los Angeles City Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Jose Huizar recently introduced a motion to begin to examine these stings, but it looks like the archaic walking law will probably need to changed at the state level.

If the LAPD’s misguided pedestrian enforcement bugs you, too, then you’ll probably like Luke Klipp. I met Klipp at a meeting where he testified in favor of full sidewalks on the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. This Saturday, he is organizing “Jaydancing L.A.” a fun demonstration using artistic flair to protest the LAPD’s jaywalking stings. I interviewed Klipp over email late last week.

Tell us a little about yourself. What’s your background? What led you to get involved in livability issues?
I grew up in Detroit, which probably doesn’t explain why I care so much about livability, except perhaps that Detroit was the antithesis of that, because it was both the Murder Capital and the Motor City. After college, I moved to California and to L.A. a few years later for love. And a few years ago, when my husband and I bought a home in Los Feliz, we found a place that was walkable, close to lots of amenities, neighborly, and still plugged in to the city.

I’ve always cared not only about livability but sustainability. When I see how we’re building our transportation network and developing our city, I think about the implications for me as I age, for our generation’s kids as they start to create their own families, and for our city’s ability to be a good steward of the environment that makes Los Angeles so livable to begin with. I was raised with the core value of leaving the world a better place, even if only in some small measure, for my having been a part of it. That’s at the heart of my passion around livability and livable cities.

What is Jaydancing? What can people expect to see? What do you hope to accomplish?
#jaydancingLA is an art protest in response to the LAPD’s ongoing targeting of people walking in Los Angeles. When the Mayor recently attempted to increase parking tickets as a revenue-generating measure, Angelenos were up in arms. And that’s for $70 tickets. In marked contrast, for at least the past four years, LAPD has been issuing jaywalking tickets at a rate of 12 per day, every single day, in downtown alone. That’s not a public safety measure, that’s a public gouging. I see an LAPD officer on average once a week posted right outside the Metro station at 7th St and Figueroa, waiting on the corner for unsuspecting pedestrians who make the mistake of stepping out into the crosswalk after the ticker has started its countdown. That’ll be $200.

So, on Saturday, June 20, from 2-3 p.m., people are invited to dance their way across, over, and through the crosswalks (legally, mind you) at some intersections in downtown LA along 7th Street. We’ll have music, signs, and a gathering afterward to celebrate. People are encouraged to post to social media using the #jaydancingLA hashtag with messages that continue to draw attention to the LAPD’s tactics.

Why dancing? This is downtown transportation – shouldn’t we be taking this very seriously?
Seeing stories of people who can barely afford the rent getting slapped with $200 tickets is maddening. I’ve wanted to scream at the folks at City Hall for their slow take-up of this issue. But it doesn’t matter how loud you are; it matters how effective you are.

We’ll be dancing BECAUSE it’s fun. Because it’s unusual. Because people will take notice. It’s not another protest with people marching and holding signs and chanting slogans; it’s tapping into Angelenos’ creative energies and having fun because you can only get so mad at the way things are. At some point you just have to channel that frustration and that anger into something beautiful, that makes people smile, and that gives people hope about what could be.

How can people get involved?
Go sign up on the Facebook event page and also on Eventbrite. Invite your friends, and show up on June 20 at 2 p.m.  Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Law Enforcement Takes the Lane

Signs, signs everywhere signs...are ignored. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Signs, signs everywhere signs…are ignored. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Usually when I’m writing about the questionable behavior of law enforcement, I’m looking at how racial profiling and the harassment of people of color — in either its more traditional or more blatant forms — can negatively impact those folks’ mobility.

But sometimes the hampering of mobility comes in more basic forms.

Yesterday, it came in the form of a fleet of vehicles parked in the buffered bike lane on Los Angeles St. in front of the Parker Center Police Dept. building in Downtown L.A.

Police cars parked in the bike lanes for much of the length of Los Angeles Street, just north of 1st. Sahra Sulaiman's terrible cellphone/Streetsblog L.A.

Police cars parked in the bike lanes for much of the length of Los Angeles Street, just north of 1st. Sahra Sulaiman’s terrible cellphone/Streetsblog L.A.

In the event you are wondering if perhaps it was just that the lane was not that well marked, behold the clearly buffered lane as it runs in front of the police buildings in a Google Maps view from March of 2015.

Google Maps screen shot of the buffered bike lane that runs in front of the Parker Center police building.

Google Maps screen shot of the buffered bike lane that runs in front of the Parker Center police building.

And lest you think perhaps there was a major emergency and the vehicles had been parked there in haste, behold the Google Maps shot from a little farther up indicating that, no, this is just common practice.

Nope, not a fluke. Thanks, Google Maps.

Nope, not a fluke. Thanks, Google Maps.

And not only is it not a fluke, some officers apparently give little thought to the protection of the good people of Los Angeles from fires during this terrible drought, as evidenced by the vehicle below, blocking the fire hydrant like a boss.

Nope, still not a fluke.

Nope, still not a fluke. #parklikeaboss

And just because Homeland Security is not one to be outdone, three of their vehicles parked in the bike lane on the same street one block up (just north of Temple). Read more…

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LA City Council Gets Tough on Hit-and-Run Crimes: New Rewards and Alerts

L.A. City Councilmember Mitch Englander (center, at podium) touts the city's efforts to stem hit-and-run crimes at this morning's press conference. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

L.A. City Councilmember Mitch Englander (at podium) touts the city’s efforts to stem hit-and-run crimes at this morning’s press conference. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Today, the Los Angeles City Council voted to approve two new city programs that aim to stem the tide of hit-and-run crimes. According to Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch Englander, hit-and-run crashes killed 27 people in Los Angeles in 2014, and 80 percent of recent hit-and-run crimes remain unsolved.

The city’s hit-and-run efforts were previewed at a press event this morning hosted by Councilmembers Englander and Joe Buscaino, with representatives of the police (LAPD) and transportation (LADOT) departments, and Finish the Ride’s Damian Kevitt.

Jose Vasquez leaves a candle at the ghost bike memorial for Andy Garcia, killed in a vicious hit-and-run last year.  Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Jose Vazquez leaves a candle at the ghost bike memorial for Andy Garcia, killed in a vicious hit-and-run in 2013. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The two new programs approved today include:

1 – New Public Alert System “Yellow Alerts” for Hit-and-Run Crimes

Established via council motion 14-0444, the LAPD will now publicize hit-and-run crimes via a new alert system. The alerts will be distributed via LAPD social media, including Nixle, Twitter, and Facebook, to enlist the public’s help in apprehending suspects who flee the scene of hit-and-run crimes.

Alerts will be dependent on the severity of the crime, and will be targeted to areas in and near the LAPD division where the crime took place. They will, of course, be limited by the information available, such as the license plate, vehicle, and description of perpetrator.

A similar alert system in Denver, Colorado, has improved conviction rates for hit-and-run crimes there. From the text of the motion [PDF]:

Medina [Hit-and-Run] Alerts have been in place in the City of Denver for two years and in the City of Aurora for one, and are issued in severe or fatal hit-and-run collisions when a description of the vehicle involved is available. Medina Alerts enable authorities to quickly broadcast information about a hit-and-run collision to the public on highway signs and through the media. In Denver, the city has also partnered with cab drivers and others who spend their working hours on the road, and alerts them when a collision occurs. Denver has issued 17 Medina Alerts since enacting their program; 13 of these cases have been solved.

2 – Standing Rewards for Information Leading to Hit-and-Run Convictions

Established via council motion 13-0025-S1, the city will now offer rewards to individuals who come forward with information that leads to the conviction of hit-and-run crimes. Councilmember Buscaino describes this as an attempt to “change the culture of driving away” from a crash.  Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Cars Running the Red at Venice and Robertson

Expo super-fan Gökhan Esirgen sends along the above video of cars running the red light at the newly-reconstructed intersection of Venice Blvd. and Robertson Blvd. Esirgen writes, “Note that this is not a seldom event — it happens for about five seconds in almost every cycle during rush hour and it’s typical of this intersection now. A pedestrian who looks at the signal but not the cars would be hit.”

Streetsblog editorial board member Jonathan Weiss forwarded the message to staff at LADOT. Before the afternoon was out, Jay Greenstein with Councilmember Paul Koretz’s office responded that engineers with LADOT are re-examining the intersection and LAPD’s enforcement division was notified.

We’ll keep an eye of our own on the intersection to see if there are any new, more positive, changes in the coming weeks and months.

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Are You Supposed to be Here?: Officer Harasses Black Cyclists during MLK Day Parade

Members of the Black Kids on Bikes and their supporters gather for a photo during the MLK Day Parade along King Blvd. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Members of the Black Kids on Bikes and their supporters gather for a photo during the MLK Day Parade along King Blvd. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“Are you supposed to be in the parade?”

Arms outstretched to halt the glacially-paced forward movement of the group, the LAPD officer stepped in front of long-time South L.A. Real Ryda and one of the area’s best-known cycling elders, William Holloway.

Stunned, we all looked at each other.

Is this man serious?

The Real Rydaz and some of the other low-rider clubs they teamed up with for South L.A.’s King Day parade yesterday specialize in parades. The great energy they bring by performing tricks with their intricately detailed bikes makes them crowd favorites around the city, but especially along King Blvd., where they have a long history with the community. It’s not unusual to hear people chant “Real Rydaz!” from the sidelines as they see the bikes approaching. Or to hear the entire crowd break into song, as they did yesterday, when Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday!” (written to celebrate Dr. King) blared from one of the Rydaz’ speakers.

“Sir, they ride in the parade every year,” I interjected. “Everybody knows them.”

Henry, Helen Myers, a Lady Rider, Shuntain Thomas, and others wait patiently for the parade to move forward. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Henry III, Helen Myers, a Lady Rider, Shuntain Thomas, and others wait patiently for the parade to move forward. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Holloway then began to speak up, as did some of the others, asking what the problem was and declaring that they had been participants in the parade for years.

Now a little less sure of himself, the officer kept looking back and forth between me (the non-African-American) and the Rydaz, as if he wasn’t sure he could take their word for it and I might be the one to provide the real story of what was going on. Read more…

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Days of Dialogue Opens Conversation on Police-Community Relations in South L.A., Gets an Earful

"Hands Up, Don't Shoot" Friends and family members of Ezell Ford shoot a music video decrying police brutality. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

“Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” Friends and family members of Ezell Ford shoot a music video decrying police brutality. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Dialogue was great, said a young man from Youth Justice Coalition as we left the Days of Dialogue on Police-Community Relations in the Aftermath of Ezell Ford and Michael Brown event held at Dr. Maya Angelou High School in South L.A. last night, but what he cared about was action.

It seemed to be a sentiment shared by many of the approximately 200 people that participated in the conversation hosted by 9th District City Councilmember Curren Price and Days of Dialogue, an organization founded in 1995, in the wake of the O.J. Simpson verdict.

The sentiment was particularly strong among the youth. They see themselves reflected in the cases of Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Omar Abrego (a graphic video of Abrego on the ground can be seen here) and, most recently, Clifford Alford, the young man mistakenly identified as a potential robbery suspect and brutally beaten by police while handcuffed on October 16, just two blocks from the school where the event was held. And they are tired of fearing that they could be next.

But these frustrations with law enforcement and fears of being victimized by those who feel at liberty to abuse their authority are nothing new.

When Patricia, the facilitator at the table where I sat with a dozen community members, asked us to give voice some of these concerns, she didn’t have to ask twice.

Helen, an African-American woman in her 70s and a life-long resident of South L.A., related a story about having stopped to ask the police for directions because she was lost only to have them run her plates instead.

“I didn’t ask them for that,” she said wryly.

She then went on to describe how her mother had sat her and her siblings down while they were still little kids to tell them that, because of the color of their skin, they would always have to make sure to move slowly and keep their hands visible at all times when interacting with the police.

For another young African-American mother at the table, those lessons still resonate today. During a recent routine traffic stop, she said, she had panicked and stepped out of the car with her hands up, announcing that there were babies inside.

“Kids move so fast and they’re not good at keeping still,” she explained. She had been afraid that any sudden movements the kids made might have prompted officers to open fire first and ask questions later (as happened recently in South Carolina, when a trooper shot a man after instructing him to retrieve his license).

To someone who has never experienced profiling or had a negative encounter with law enforcement, those sorts of reactions might seem like paranoia or even bias on the part of the speakers. For the participants in the dialogue, however, it was clear their apprehension and distrust might be better described as a trained response to years’ and years’ worth of, as participants put it, being “terrorized,” “pre-judged,” “abused,” “disrespected,” “harassed,” and “left unprotected” by officers. Read more…

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Law Enforcement and Bike Safety: Top Cops Must Innovate, not Prevaricate

LAPD protects the bike lane in front of headquarters from sun and rain elements that could damage the paint job. Police cars parked in the bike lane, First Street between Spring and Main in downtown L.A.

LAPD protects the then-buffered bike lane in front of headquarters from sun and rain elements that could damage the paint job. LAPD cars parked in the bike lane on First Street between Spring and Main in downtown L.A.

If you approach LAPD headquarters from First Street, City Hall is reflected in the windows. This was designed into the building intentionally, to remind cops that they’re not there to serve the police department itself; they’re to serve the people of Los Angeles.

When I first moved to downtown from Los Feliz in 2009, I was thrilled to find a new bike lane on First Street between the Civic Center subway station and my new home in the Arts District. The portion between Spring and Main Street, in front of LAPD, was curbside with a wide buffer on the left to put space between moving cars and cyclists.

But it was always blocked by parked police cars.

It seemed outrageous to me that cops, out of laziness or contempt, could get away with sabotaging the bike lane on a stretch of street that runs between LAPD headquarters and City Hall, right in front of their bosses. So I started taking pictures of the cars. I went to an LAPD bike meeting. I met some sympathetic cops who suggested, among other things, that LADOT should put in bollards to keep all cars, including police cruisers, off the lane. One had warning notes put on the police cars. My photos were bounced up the chain of command. And we started a real, bona fide internal-affairs complaint. And, after many months, it seems I succeeded in embarrassing the police brass.

The result.

Instead of letting officers know that parking on bike lanes would not be tolerated, police leadership worked quietly with then LADOT chief Jaime de la Vega to remove the buffered lane. I knew about this in advance, because a city official leaked it to me with the hope that Streetsblog and other bike-advocacy groups could shame the LAPD.

It didn’t work. Read more…

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LAPD: No Public Record Evidence That Bike Lanes Delay Emergency Response

Los Angeles Police Department Captain Jeff Bert testifies against North Figueroa bicycle lanes at Councilmember Cedillo's Bike Lane Community Meeting on May 8, 2014

Los Angeles Police Department Captain Jeff Bert testifies against North Figueroa bicycle lanes at a May 8, 2014, community meeting. Based on LAPD’s response to a public records request, Captain Bert’s anti-bike lane assertions were not based on any LAPD analysis regarding bike lanes. Photo via Fig4All Flickr

There is new evidence that the testimony given by a Los Angeles Police Department captain against a road diet on North Figueroa Street was, similar to Metro and LAFD testimony: not based on any actual LAPD evidence.

LAPD Captain Jeff Bert appeared in uniform at the May 8th public meeting hosted by Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo. Captain Bert stated that the planned North Figueroa road diet bike lanes would impair police emergency response times. Recently the L.A. Times reported that Cedillo had stated that “local fire and police officials told him it [N. Figueroa bike lanes] could pose a safety problem for emergency response vehicles.”

Los Angeles City Bicycle Advisory Committee Chair Jeff Jacobberger submitted a public records request letter [pdf] asking the LAPD for any documentation Captain Bert had referred to and, indeed, “[a]ll documents referring or relating to any analysis or evaluation by LAPD of whether bike lanes impair emergency response times.”

It will come as no surprise that LAPD’s response [pdf, and embedded after the jump below], similar to LAFD’s, cites no documents that make any connections between emergency response times and bike facilities.

While the LAFD response was a one-page letter basically saying “no records found,” the LAPD response was five pages. LAPD included past data backing up Captain Bert’s statement that LAPD’s Northeast Division already has longer emergency response times when compared to other divisions throughout Los Angeles. For April-May 2014, Northeast Division averaged 8.2 minutes, slightly higher than West Los Angeles Division’s average of 8.1 minutes, and just over a minute worse than the citywide average of 6.9 minutes.

LAPD’s letter further stated that “no other information was located” pertinent to Jacobberger’s records request.

Now that Gil Cedillo has made his full North Figueroa flip-flop official, the latest emergency response time revelations are perhaps not so timely. Maybe by showing agency representatives’ anti-bike-lane testimonies as unfounded, uninformed, and misleading, these representatives might show some reluctance to get in the way of public safety projects in the future. Time will tell. Read more…

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Gatto and Englander Stump State Legislation for Hit-and-Run Alert System

Assemblymember Mike Gatto speaking on the importance of reducing hit-and-run crimes.

Assemblymember Mike Gatto speaking on the importance of reducing hit-and-run crimes. Behind Gatto are, left to right, LACBC’s Eric Bruins, two LAPD representatives, L.A. Councilmember Mitch Englander, and Finish the Ride’s Damian Kevitt. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At a press conference on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall yesterday, state and local legislators joined forces with local non-profits to draw attention to efforts to stem the tide of hit-and-run crimes. The press conference focused on A.B. 47 – a proposal to create a new emergency alert system to notify the public to help apprehend hit-and-run suspects. The alert system would use existing state-controlled sign boards on state-controlled freeways, so it will require state legislation.

Assemblymember Mike Gatto enumerated the gruesome hit-and-run statistics: 20,000 hit-and-run collisions take place in L.A. County each year; 4,000 of these result in death or serious bodily injury; only 20 percent of fatal hit-and-run perpetrators are arrested. Gatto relayed the story of a similar alert system in Colorado which resulted in the city of Denver increasing their apprehension rate from 20 percent to 75 percent.

Gatto is the author of A.B. 47 and also A.B. 1532 which would suspend drivers licenses of perpetrators of hit-and-runs. Both of these bills passed the State Assembly in June, and now await State Senate approval. If A.B. 47 passes the Senate by the end of August, and is approved by the Governor, then hit-and-run alerts could begin in January 2015.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch Englander called L.A. hit-and-run crimes “an epidemic of biblical proportions.” Englander emphasized that fleeing a crash scene should never be called an “accident.”  Englander was one of the proponents of official L.A. City support for hit-and-run alerts in concept (approved), and for A.B. 47 specifically (introduced, pending council approval.)

Hit-and-run survivor Damian Kevitt emphasized that Gatto’s bills may not end these crimes, but fear of apprehension and penalties could create “a moment of thought where drivers think about what they’re doing.” Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s Eric Bruins emphasized that these hit-and-run proposals key to creating a culture of greater street safety for everyone.

With gruesome hit-and-runs taking lives daily on L.A. streets and sidewalks, passage of these proposals is urgently needed.