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Posts from the Pedestrian Safety Category

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Street Beats Inspires Spontaneous Episodes of Dance, Music, Joy, and Safety on Crenshaw Corner

Dancing to Street Beats on the corner of Florence and Crenshaw. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Dancing to Street Beats on the corner of Florence and Crenshaw. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Last week, the Street Beats team converted the extremely busy and often dangerous intersection of Crenshaw and Florence into a play zone.

No, really.

With the help of a grant from the Mayor’s Great Streets program and countless extra hours over several months dedicated to pounding the pavement, knocking on doors, and building relationships with local artists, community advocates, neighborhood block clubs, churches, and other stakeholders, the folks at Studio MMD, Ride On! Bike Co-op, Community Health Councils, and TRUST South L.A. managed to bring the neighborhood out to spend the day at a corner most of us would rather hurry through.

The idea was to engage Hyde Park neighbors on the kinds of street interventions that could help improve the safety of those that move through the intersection — be it on foot, by bike, by bus, or in a car. Using do-it-yourself bump-outs and a scramble crosswalk, they hoped to demonstrate just how much a simple design intervention could positively impact the way traffic flowed through a crossing, making it safer for all users.

A woman eyes up the scramble crosswalk that could take her through the intersection much more efficiently than she could normally go--something that is appealing when you are carrying a lot of stuff with you. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A woman eyes up the temporary scramble crosswalk that could help her navigate the intersection much more efficiently than she normally would be able to–something that is particularly appealing when you are carrying a lot of stuff with you or have young kids in tow. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

But, as Studio MMD’s Michael MacDonald told me back when they first took on the project — people are not all that likely to come out to an inhospitable street corner on a Saturday just to talk street engineering and bump-outs.

Even ones as bright and fun as they envisioned (below).

The rendering of the transformed intersection by Studio MMD.

The rendering of the transformed intersection by Studio MMD.

And really, why would you want to put so much effort into bringing people together just to talk bump-outs? Read more…

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Whittier Boulevard to See Up to $1 Million in Streetscape Improvements

Trash accumulates under an underpass along Whittier Blvd. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Trash and debris accumulates under the 60 Freeway along Whittier Blvd. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Complaints about the condition of Whittier Boulevard are common among youth that regularly walk from the southern end of Boyle Heights to Roosevelt High School and back. And they’re only one of several groups of schoolkids that must cross and/or move along Whittier on a daily basis — a handful of schools and recreational centers straddle the three-quarters of a mile between Lorena and Soto Streets.

The section of Whittier slated for improvements is in gray. (Google maps)

The section of Whittier slated for improvements is in gray. (Google maps)

The fast-moving and heavily trafficked boulevard serves as a cut-through connection for those commuting or transporting goods between East L.A., downtown, and beyond. So, crossing it on two feet can be hazardous. Drivers tend not to slow down for folks trying to use the crosswalk at Orme, for example, and can take corners quickly in their eagerness to get to the freeways.

The way in which the street alternates almost randomly between industrial, residential, commercial, and school zones can make things even more uncomfortable for pedestrians. Some sections of sidewalk are pleasant and active, while others are in poor condition, are poorly lit, and are strewn with debris and trash. Students who must walk the lengthy underpass where the 60 Freeway stretches diagonally over Whittier have reported being disconcerted by feeling so isolated, especially when they have been hassled by homeless folks struggling with mental health and/or substance abuse issues.

The street could use some help, in other words. And help appears to be on the way.

On January 20, the City Council approved Councilmember Jose Huizar’s motion to use up to $1 million in bond monies to launch a redesign of the corridor between Boyle Avenue and Indiana Street.

It’s an investment that is long overdue. Read more…

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Hit-and-Run Claims Life of Beloved Nun. We Must Do Better, Los Angeles.

The success of Vision Zero hinges on us, as a society, pledging not to be the equivalent of this lady: someone who is too focused on her own needs (eating pizza) to care about the safety of others. Screenshot of video found at DNAinfo.com

The success of Vision Zero, while requiring better design and enforcement, also hinges on us, as a society, pledging not to be the equivalent of this pizza-eating New Yorker: too focused on our own needs to be concerned about the woman we saw crushed under an SUV (seen parked on the sidewalk at the top of the image). (Screenshot of video found at DNAinfo.com)

On Sunday, Raquel Diaz, a sister with the Los Angeles Archdiocese, succumbed to her injuries. She was seventy years old.

The beloved Boyle Heights nun was crossing Evergreen Avenue at Winter Street at 5:20 p.m. on December 13 when she was run down by a driver in a white, four-door Nissan or Toyota.

The loss of someone who had been such an integral member of the community for more than 30 years has devastated those who knew her.

But residents are angry, too.

The intersection where she was struck is one they have complained about for years. Drivers have long sped through that intersection, seemingly unconcerned that the street’s incline limits visibility precisely at Winter Street — a key crossing for families moving back and forth between the church and the school.

The road diet the street has had for some time (north of Cesar Chavez) seems to have done little to slow it down. Evergreen is one of the few streets that offers drivers a straight shot between Wabash and 4th Street, allowing them to connect more easily with City Terrace or the southern end of Boyle Heights. So, drivers of delivery trucks and private vehicles alike tend to run it like it is a gauntlet, doing their best to avoid having to stop for the lone stoplight at Malabar (halfway between Wabash and Cesar Chavez).

As one of the few connective streets on the eastern side of Boyle Heights, traffic along Evergreen can move quite fast. (Google maps)

As one of the few connective streets on the eastern side of Boyle Heights, traffic along Evergreen can move quite fast despite being rather narrow. (Google maps)

Potential fixes?

Street design and other amenities surely have a role to play in making this street safer. Pedestrian lighting would do much to improve visibility at night. Stop signs interspersed between Wabash and 4th would help slow the street down. So would flashing lights at Winter, Blanchard, and Boulder — three intersections with crosswalks linking pedestrians to a school, a church, and a local market. Flashing lights would be especially helpful at Winter, as the yellow crosswalk there is both awkwardly located (thanks to the hill) and harder to see at night than a white crosswalk.

Councilmember Jose Huizar issued a statement Monday afternoon that also suggested more lighting and better visibility could improve conditions at Winter, and stated that he would “advocate that those improvements be implemented as soon as possible.”

His support for such fixes is vital; without it, the likelihood of improvements coming to the street any time soon is probably not great. Read more…

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Eyes On the Street: Scramble Crosswalks Debut At Hollywood And Highland

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A big X marks the spot: pedestrians scramble yesterday at the newly revamped intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

It may be one of those made-up statistics, but there is a repeated truism that millions of people visit Hollywood Boulevard every year, and they spend an average of about fifteen minutes there. Sure, there are the Walk of Fame, some beautiful historic theaters and other noble buildings, Metro Red Line subway stops, costumed performers, street musicians… but Hollywood Boulevard is mostly tacky souvenir shops, museums in name only, and sad restaurants one would never return to, all along a massive car-choked stroad.

Despite millions of tourists milling around on foot, there is no place to sit, or to hang out. There are hardly even places to shoot respectable selfies.

All that has not changed overnight, but the city implemented a pedestrian upgrade yesterday at Hollywood’s most prominent intersection: Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, Department of Transportation (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds, a marching band, and tens of thousands of pedestrians (most of whom just happened to be passing through) opened the city’s latest pedestrian scramble crosswalks.

Similar to intersections in downtown Pasadena, fronting USC and UCLA, and elsewhere, Hollywood pedestrians can now cross diagonally during a phase when all cars are stopped. The upgrade is part of the city’s inter-departmental Vision Zero improvements program, in which L.A. has committed to ending all traffic fatalities over the next ten years.

Hollywood and Highland

Lights. Camera. Scramble.

Read more…

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Umbrellas Tallied during Boyle Heights Pedestrian Count Suggest Street Trees Important to Mobility

New trees will take years to offer a fraction of the shade and other benefits that the ficus trees slated for removal do. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

New trees will take years to offer a fraction of the shade and other benefits that the ficus trees slated for removal did. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

While counting pedestrians and cyclists in the transit-dependent and heavily-pedestrian community of Boyle Heights for the Bike and Pedestrian Count this past Saturday, I got to thinking about street trees.

As part of the Eastside Access Project, the section of 1st Street between the Aliso/Pico and the Soto Gold Line Stations in Boyle Heights saw a bevy of new trees put in (above, at left) last year. The 90-plus old ficus trees that previously lined the street had given it much-needed shade, but destroyed its sidewalks in a number of spots. The new trees are unfortunately still several years off from providing any relief from the sun, but they are better than nothing.

Well, that’s actually not true in a lot of cases (below). But it will be. Eventually.

The arrival of bike racks mimicking elements of the natural world served to point out the lack of nature along the street. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The shadow cast by a new tree on 1st is too scrawny to shade much more than the parking meter. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

There are still many more to be planted, as I understand it, given that the city is required to plant two trees for every one tree removed.

Which is fantastic, because Boyle Heights is in desperate need of trees.

Trees would not only offer much-needed shade but also help to clean the air polluted by the many freeways that surround the community.

Boyle Heights needs more trees, both to provide shade and help clean the air. (Google maps)

Boyle Heights needs more trees, both to provide shade and help clean the air. Except for Cesar Chavez and some of the side streets, most streets are devoid of greenery. (Google maps)

Really, judging by the map above, you could pick any corridor (minus Cesar Chavez) and knock yourself out planting street trees. Read more…

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Scramble Crosswalks Ready for Their Star Turn in Hollywood

Chicago's first pedestrian scramble, or "Barnes Dance", at the downtown intersection of Jackson Blvd. and State St. Pedestrians are allowed to cross all directions, including diagonally, every three light cycles. All vehicular turns have been prohibited to improve traffic flow. Photo: Chicago's first pedestrian scramble, or "Barnes Dance", at the downtown intersection of Jackson Blvd. and State St. Pedestrians are allowed to cross all directions, including diagonally, every three light cycles. All vehicular turns have been prohibited to improve traffic flow. KEVIN ZOLKIEWICZ/FLICKR via ##http://www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/2014/11/03/40143/los-angeles-ponders-diagonal-crosswalks-what-are-t/##Airtalk/KPCC##

Chicago’s first pedestrian scramble, or “Barnes Dance”, at the downtown intersection of Jackson Blvd. and State St. Pedestrians are allowed to cross all directions, including diagonally, every three light cycles. All vehicular turns have been prohibited to improve traffic flow. Photo: KEVIN ZOLKIEWICZ/FLICKR via Airtalk/KPCC

Responding to community concerns that the high volume of pedestrian traffic at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue was creating an unsafe crossing, City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and the Department of Transportation recently announced that a “pedestrian scramble” will be installed by the end of the year.

The pedestrian scramble, aka The Barnes Dance, is basically an intersection which has a “pedestrian only” phase in its signal timing. During this time, pedestrians are not just limited to crossing east-west or north-south, but can actually cross to the opposite corner by cutting straight through the middle of the street.

Los Angeles already has a few pedestrian scramble intersections near the college campuses of USC and UCLA. In addition, Pasadena and Beverly Hills have installed scrambles at high-volume intersections. If you’re not familiar with the scrambles, check out the below video by Streetfilms celebrating Los Angeles’ scrambles that was filmed in 2008.

“Hollywood and Highland is our red carpet entrance for people from around the world who come to experience Los Angeles’ center stage,” said Seleta Reynolds, LADOT General Manager. “The new intersection design will prioritize the safety and comfort of people walking. We plan to implement this change in consultation with the community and will evaluate the before and after effects.”

In addition to residents, workers, and tourists who may arrive by car or are staying in one of the local hotels, Hollywood and Highland is also home to a busy Red Line Metro rail station and a handful of local bus routes.  Read more…

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At-Grade Crossings along Metro Blue Line Will See $30 Mil in Pedestrian Safety Improvements

The Blue Line slices its way through South L.A. toward Long Beach. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The Blue Line slices its way through South L.A. toward Long Beach. For much of that trajectory, the Blue Line shares a ROW with Union Pacific Railroad. The fact that pedestrians must cross four sets of tracks at many intersections makes the crossings more dangerous. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“In the interest of time,” Greg Kildare, Executive Director of Metro’s Enterprise Risk, Safety, and Asset Management team, began his address to the Board on July 23, “I will just say that staff believes that the [Metro Blue Line] pedestrian gating project is an extremely important safety improvement to our oldest rail line and consistent with [Metro CEO] Mr. Washington’s vision of reinvestment in our aging infrastructure, the state of good repair, and a safety-first orientation. That concludes my presentation.”

Agreeing that the upgrades were “long overdue,” the Board approved the installation of $30,175,000 worth of Pedestrian Active Grade Crossing Improvements at the 27 intersections the Blue Line shares a right-of-way (ROW) with Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) without hesitation or discussion.

The improvements are indeed long overdue.

Between 2002 and 2012, 13 of the 18 non-suicide* fatalities along the Blue Line happened between Vernon Ave. and Imperial Hwy. in South Los Angeles. [*Suicide is a significant issue along the Blue Line — at least 30 of the nearly 80 pedestrian fatalities along the line over the last two decades were confirmed suicides.]

The wide openness of the at-grade crossings through that stretch, inadequate pedestrian infrastructure, and lack of barriers at a number of the intersections — particularly on the UPRR side — create dangerous conditions for pedestrians. None of which is helped by the fact that the tracks run adjacent to several major parks and through the middle of a housing development, meaning that families and kids might make the long trek across the tracks several times a day.

Youth leaving the park cross the sets of tracks at 48th and Long Beach Ave. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Youth leaving the park cross the sets of tracks at 48th and Long Beach Ave. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Because the freight trains that use the UPRR tracks run infrequently and move so slowly — often inching forward, backing up, stopping, and inching forward again — a train can appear to be more of a nuisance than a hazard.

Multiple trains on the tracks can throw off a pedestrian’s calculations of which side a train is coming from, how fast it is moving, or how quickly the pedestrian feels they can get across the tracks. Or, as in the case of middle-schooler Gilberto Reynaga, killed in 1999 when he clambered over a freight train stopped at the intersection only to be hit by a passing Blue Line train at 55th and Long Beach Ave., there is a potential for people to be confused by the train the signals apply to and believe they are safe when they are not.

A family with small children moves across the tracks at 55th and Long Beach Ave. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A family with small children first zigs to the right to access the curb cut, get around the signals, and cross the tracks at 55th and Long Beach Ave. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Even when people obey the signals, their journey from narrow pedestrian island to narrow pedestrian island can be lengthened by having to zig-zag their way across the tracks (above and below). Read more…

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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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City Unveils First Serious Draft Plan to Address Sidewalk Repair. Public Is Split.

Following a legal settlement in the summer of 2014, Angelenos have been waiting on the city to finally announce its plan to bring the city’s sidewalks into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Over three quarters of a year later, the city has released its draft plan, and the City Council is planning a series of public meetings to bring this plan to the public. The plan is available on the City Clerk’s website and here at Scribd.

Even if the city fixed the cracks, this sidewalk on Alameda is not ADA compliant. No wheelchair could fit past this obstacle course. Photo: Roger Rudick

Even if the city fixed the cracks, this sidewalk on Alameda is not ADA compliant. No wheelchair could fit past this obstacle course. Photo: Roger Rudick

The first of these meetings is a traditional City Council Committee hearing, albeit with two committees in attendance. However, the chairs of the Budget and Finance Committee (Paul Krekorian) and Gangs and Public Works Committee (Joe Buscaino) are already planning a series of public workshops on the plan to be held throughout the city.

“This is a critically important issue for all Angelenos,” said Krekorian in a press statement. “We have an opportunity and obligation to move beyond piecemeal legislation and create a complete program to fix our broken sidewalks. This new report won’t be the final program, but it’s a good way to begin what will be a long, very public discussion. We want to hear from all residents and stakeholders so that we can come up with the best and fairest policy possible.”

As part of its legal settlement last year, the City pledged to spend $1.4 billion over the next three decades to retrofit the city’s sidewalks to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Estimates vary over how many miles of city sidewalks need reconstruction, but there is little doubt that the decrepit and crumbling sidewalk infrastructure, along with a noticeable lack of curb cuts in many parts of the city, are the largest barriers to creating walkable communities.

The plan itself is proving somewhat controversial for what some see as a double standard between how businesses and homeowners are treated.*** Read more…

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At the Crossroads: In Order to Create a More Walkable L.A., Start with the Basics.

(Max Podemski is the Planning Director of Pacoima Beauftiful…but you already knew that, right? – DN)

In recent years, the media has been filled with stories about Los Angeles transformation into a more livable and walkable city. This has been spurred by recent developments such as CicLAvia, the expanding transit and bike network, and revitalized older neighborhoods.

To see Max's full presentation, click ##https://www.scribd.com/doc/264258343/Crosswalk-Comparison-LA-V-SF##here. ##(PDF)

To see Max’s full presentation, click here. (PDF)

In many ways, this is not so much the emergence of a “new city” but rather Los Angeles returning to its roots.  Los Angeles did not develop around the automobile but around a massive intra-urban rail network the legacy of which still influences development. The city also has a rich history of walkable, commercial business districts along major boulevards as described in Richard Longstreth’s book “City Center to Regional Mall.

The “good bones” are evident in neighborhoods across Los Angeles.

Many Los Angeles neighborhoods  are laid out on a grid, have a mix of relatively dense housing types, and thoroughfares lined with vintage commercial storefronts. These qualities combined with the city’s Mediterranean climate should make it one of the finest places to walk in the country. So why in so many respects is Los Angeles such a terrible place to be a pedestrian?

The simple answer is that we have engineered our streets to be highways.

Over the decades, they have been widened to the point that the sidewalks are so anemic in some places that telephone poles and other utilities block them. What has made it easy for a person to drive on Sepulveda or Sunset as an alternate to the 405 or 101 has resulted in streets that are incredibly dangerous to pedestrians.

In no area is our streets lack of regard for pedestrians more apparent than in one of the most fundamental features of a walkable street: crosswalks. Read more…