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Posts from the "Pedestrian Safety" Category

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If Cleanliness is Next to Godliness, Surely it Should Also be a Component of “Complete”-ness, No?

Bus stop, bus goes, she stays, trash grows... Olympic Blvd., Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Bus stop, bus goes, trash stays, trash grows on Olympic Blvd.  Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

As folks were preparing to cut the cake in honor of the Complete Streets Day motion put forth by Councilmember Jose Huizar at City Hall last week, I was getting geared up to volunteer at a high school located in his district, around which many of the streets are decidedly incomplete.

I had run into Roosevelt High School teacher extraordinaire Jorge Lopez a couple of weeks prior; students from his food justice class were helping give a tour of two corner markets that had received healthy makeovers courtesy of Public Matters. When he heard I was interested in interviewing the students involved in the project, he suggested I stop in his classroom instead and assist the students in reworking their own interviews with food activists and workers in the area into articles.

Hell, yes! I thought.

Teens — besides being inspiring to work with — are often incredible, unfiltered informants about the unique dynamics of their communities and how those dynamics impact mobility, health, and access to opportunity.

When I first worked with his English class two years ago, students were writing speeches about things they would like to see improved in their neighborhood. Given the myriad challenging circumstances that the youth came from, immigrant rights, living wages, affordable housing, protection from gang activity, and access to healthy food and other health resources unsurprisingly figured prominently into their discussions.

But, I was also struck that one of the recurring themes was an inferiority complex many expressed with regard to East L.A.

It was so much cleaner, they complained.

Complete Streets should also encompass clean streets. Couch on Rivera St. (just off 1st), a frequent dumping site. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Complete Streets should also encompass clean streets. Couch on Rivera St. (just off 1st), a frequent dumping site. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

When we think of “Complete Streets,” we tend to focus on ways to facilitate mobility by “design[ing] and operat[ing streets] to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities.”

But, for these students, it was clear that having streets that looked clean, inviting, and safe was important for mobility and access, too.

In comparing their neighborhoods to East L.A., many voiced a belief that people in East L.A. took more pride in their community because the sidewalks and streets there were well taken care of. Boyle Heights streets’, they said, felt run down and forgotten.

It was something that bothered them a lot. Read more…

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LAPD Crackdowns and Complete Streets: City’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee Puts its Foot Down

The city' pedestrian advisory committee has had trouble attracting crowds, but even this medium-sized attendence is an improvement and a sign that Livable Streets advocacy is starting to include pedestrian safety as a major issue. Photo: Roger Rudick. Caption: Damien Newton

The city’ pedestrian advisory committee has had trouble attracting crowds, but even this medium-sized attendance is an improvement and a sign that Livable Streets advocacy is starting to include pedestrian safety as a major issue. Photo: Roger Rudick. Caption: Damien Newton

Thursday afternoon, in a fluorescent-lit conference room on the third floor of the east building of City Hall, Sean Karmody, a police sergeant, addressed over 20 people at the Los Angeles City Pedestrian Advisory Committee about jaywalking tickets. He stressed that police traffic enforcement’s “biggest priority is to reduce hit and runs.” He also said of the 500,000 or so tickets issued each year, only five percent are given to pedestrians.

PAC- and just outside--LAPD car parks on bike lane--of course

As LAPD representatives talked the importance of safety for all transportation modes, an LAPD car blocked the bike lane outside of the meeting. Photo: Roger Rudick

But Brigham Yen, pedestrian advocate and editor of “DTLA Rising,” wasn’t having it. “Cops in LA grew up driving. They look at crowds of people crossing the street in downtown and all they think is: `they’re stopping those cars from making a right turn!’” he said. “Instead, they should be celebrating the rebirth of a pedestrian environment.” Miguel Luna, representative for CD #13, complained that pedestrian tickets target minorities.

Another attendee remarked that LAPD isn’t part of the solution to better pedestrian and cycling access; it’s part of the problem. Just outside the conference room, there were police and LADOT cars on the bike lane on Los Angeles street. Karmody said its good to make the department aware of such infractions.

Jennifer Charles, a 43-year-old architect from Sherman Oaks, represents CD-4, which includes parts of Hollywood and the Valley. Originally from Virginia, she lived in New York City for five years. “I loved not having a car,” she said. In 1997, she came to LA to study architecture. “LA doesn’t have to be New York, but there’s no excuse for it not being more walkable and bikeable.

Despite their advocacy, half of the attendees drove to the meeting; City Hall is only a few hundred feet from the Civic Center subway station. City Planner Claire Bowin gave a presentation on the mobility plan and the “Complete Streets” initiative. She said some streets will be re-designed to promote pedestrians, bikes or buses, but many will remain primarily for “vehicles.” Read more…

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Jaywalking and Parking Tickets: The Livable Streets Litmus Test of 2014

Over our end-of-the-year break, there were two stories related to how the city thinks about its transportation needs which kept popping up in the news: the LAPD’s “Jaywalking Crackdown”** and the movement to restructure the city’s parking fees. The two stories were both treated as stories of regular people being harassed by a money hungry government.

While much of the mainstream narrative was the same, in truth the two couldn’t be more different. The stories are really about how Los Angeles residents see public space.

The parking reform movement in speared by a pair of advocates, one of whom happens to be the force behind getting the city to end its red light camera program, creating an advocacy machine to push against the city’s parking policies. They call the fees for illegal parking exorbitant, despite the fees being on par or lower than that in New York or Chicago and other major American cities.

The cheapest parking ticket in L.A. is a $58. In Chicago the cheapest fee is $50. In New York, it’s $65. The most common ticket in L.A. is $73 for “parking in a prohibitive zone.” In New York that costs scofflaw parkers $65. In Chicago it’s $75.

Some of their proposed reforms make sense, others are thinly veiled attempts to overthrow parking norms.

But the bedrock of this movement is a simple belief that making space for cars, and giving up a public resource to car owners at below market costs, is a primary function for cities in general and Los Angeles in particular.

Naturally, L.A. Weekly is very excited about all of this. As is the local television news.

The LAPD’s “Jaywalking Crackdown” in Downtown Los Angeles supports the notion that the public resource known as “city streets” are really just private space for automobiles. The LAPD cites safety for “cracking down” on people who step off a curb moments after a traffic signal goes from white to flashing red and make it across the street with time to spare. Even a precursory look at what’s causing crashes downtown shows that pedestrians crossing at crosswalks isn’t really a major safety issue, it’s cars turning either “right on red” or left after the signal has changed  without looking. Read more…

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Win Your Holiday Arguments: Jaywalking

(Stealing an idea from Salon, Streetsblog Los Angeles is here to help you win arguments with the beloved Car Culture Warriors in your life this holiday season. We’ll have at least two more parts in this series. – DN)

Recently, the Los Angeles Times reported on a “jaywalking crackdown” underway in Downtown Los Angeles. Pedestrians are being fined $250 for infractions as serious as starting to cross the street after the signal has become a flashing red hand. Response has been uniformly negative. Brigham Yen slammed it on DTLA Rising and KCRW. Ever restrained, Curbed called the crackdown “total bullshit.” The DTLA News comment section is similarly outraged. Even the L.A. Times weighed in with a negative editorial this morning.

I was actually standing next to an LAPD officer pointing at the infraction while he ticketed a pedestrian. He was neither amused nor enlightened.

I was actually standing next to an LAPD officer pointing at the infraction while he ticketed a pedestrian. He was neither amused nor enlightened.

While I agree with the sentiment of all the articles and outrage, the LAPD’s most recent “crackdown” is hardly new news. The Department’s love of what it calls jaywalking tickets earned it national outrage in 2006 when it ticketed 82 year-old Mayvis Coyle for not being able to cross the street during the walk signal. In 2008, there was the hilarious time that the LAPD was ticketing outside of Metro Center, handing out many tickets to employees of the Southern California Association of Governments…many of whom were planners or transportation engineers.

In 2009, I noticed LAPD officers aggressively handing out tickets to pedestrians while buses and cars ran red lights with impunity right in front of them. In 2010, the L.A. Times wrote almost the same story on a $191 dollar ticket “crackdown.”

So “jaywalking crackdowns” are nothing new. Because they’ve been in the news recently, it’s possible a car-culture warrior could bring up the topic in an attempt to trap you this holiday season. For that reason, we present these counter arguments:

Argument 1: Jaywalking crackdowns make everyone safer

There is actually little data to suggest that this is true. Read more…

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Wendy in a Wheelchair: Awakening to the State of LA’s Sidewalks

Wendy in her wheelchair. All pictures by Roger Rudick

Wendy, my girlfriend, is a skilled rock climber with eight years experience. Unfortunately, sometimes rocks just break.

On July 6, she was climbing Mount Emerson, near Bishop, when an anchor ripped free–she fell nearly 100 feet onto a granite ledge. She’s spent much of her recuperation at my home in downtown Los Angeles. And that’s meant months of pushing Wendy in a wheelchair.

I love living in the Arts District. And Wendy, who resides in Orange County, enjoys visiting. Every time we turn around, there’s a new cafe or art gallery. The people here are friendly, smart and eclectic. It’s one of LA’s pedestrian meccas.

That said, the broken sidewalks near my home were always an eyesore and an inconvenience, but, until her fall, I didn’t fully appreciate to what extent the elderly and the disabled are just cut off by them. To add insult to injury, around the time of Wendy’s accident, I received a newsletter from the Bureau of Street Services, boasting about repaving Alameda, the thoroughfare on which I live. No bike lanes were added and, for the most part, its sidewalks are still in shambles.

Sidewalk on Alameda–impassable for wheelchairs

““You can’t fix the street and ignore the sidewalks. Sidewalk access is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act,” said Paula Pearlman, Executive Director of the Disability Rights Legal Center, based at Loyola Law School. “The city is not doing what it’s supposed to do.” Last year the City of Los Angeles settled lawsuits worth some $85 million to force it to add wheelchair ramps in various locations. LA’s Bureau of Street Services refused to comment, citing “ongoing litigation,” but reports are that 42 percent of LA’s 10,750 miles of walkways need repairs, to the tune of over $1 billion. Read more…

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Blumenauer, Bipartisan Co-Sponsors Set Out to Improve Street Safety Metrics

After a long period of inaction on Capitol Hill, the wheels are beginning to turn again. Lawmakers introduced not one but two good transportation-related bills yesterday: one that aims to improve the safety of walking and biking and one that would establish a national infrastructure bank.

A new bill could mean fewer ghost bikes. Photo: ##http://photoblog.statesman.com/a-ghost-bike-and-a-memorial-bike-ride-for-andrew-runciman-hit-and-run-victim##Collective Vision##

Better performance measures could mean fewer ghost bikes. Photo: Collective Vision

We’ll get into the infrastructure bank bill in a separate post. First, let’s look at the bill Rep. Earl Blumenauer introduced last night. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act (HR 3494) would establish performance measures for pedestrian and cyclist safety.

Specifically, it would direct U.S. DOT to create metrics for states to assess and address “serious injuries and fatalities per vehicle mile traveled” and “the number of serious injuries and fatalities” for “non-motorized transportation” — a.k.a. walking and biking. Current law has no such emphasis on active transportation.

Reps. Howard Coble of North Carolina and Mike McCaul of Texas — both Republicans — co-sponsored the bill, along with Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat. They are all members of the Congressional Bike Caucus, which Blumenauer founded.

In his statement on the bill, Blumenauer noted that the number of bike commuters has increased by more than 60 percent over the last decade. “As transportation systems adjust to handle different types of road users, the federal government must encourage appropriate standards to ensure road user safety,” he said.

Pedestrians and bicyclists accounted for 17 percent of traffic fatalities last year — a proportion that’s on the rise. But less than 1 percent of transportation safety funds support infrastructure for walking and biking.

“While overall traffic deaths are down, the number of bicyclists dying on our roadways has increased by nine percent and pedestrian deaths have gone up by three percent recently,” said Coble in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation strives to reduce the number of bicyclists and pedestrians killed and injured on our roadways. It will help protect all users of our transportation system, while giving states flexibility to enact measures that make sense for them.”

Indeed, the legislation preserves state control by allowing states to set their own safety targets, with “the flexibility to choose the best methods to meet them,” according to the press release.

Read more…

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The Movement Against the Highway Friendly Redesign of Hyperion Grows


Garcetti,  LaBonge and O’Farrell promote the  redesign and ask for public comment.

It started as a note from contacts at the Bicycle Coalition (LACBC), turned into a mini-series on Streetsblog and now the movement to stop the redesign of the Hyperion-Glendale Complex of Bridges that would turn one of the region’s most iconic structures into one of its prettiest freeways has gone viral so to speak.

The new design excludes bicycle lanes and wider sidewalks, the city’s Bicycle Plan be damned, and increases the size of the four mixed-use travel lanes to accommodate traffic driving over 55 miles per hour. Space that could be used for sidewalks and bicycle lanes and sidewalks is being used for creating stronger crash barriers. The $50 million project’s stated purpose is a retrofit to better handle seismic events and is expected begin construction in 2016 and should take three years to complete.

Since Streetsblog last covered the bridges ten days ago, things have been moving quickly. In response to letters demanding a public hearing of the proposal, outreach meetings with city staff were cancelled so a hearing can be scheduled (details TBD.) Two neighborhood Councils, in Atwater and Silverlake at the west end of the complex are hearing motions to oppose the redesign as it exists. The Silver Lake motion was heard by their Transportation Committee last night and moved near-unanimously to the full Council. Assembly Member Mike Gatto, who also represents part of the project area, promised on Twitter to write a letter opposing the current design.

While there are certainly some who are worried about the lack of bicycle lanes in the project, there is a greater concern that increasing the vehicle speeds on a major entryway into their communities will lead to more dangerous conditions, more traffic, more air pollution and lower home values.

Meanwhile, bicycle advocacy is working on two connected but somewhat coordinated tracks. The LACBC submitted formal comments that outline the problems with the current planned design and other advocates are organizing on Facebook to maintain a steady flow of public pressure. To stop the redesign, rethink the project plans, and design a project that works for all vehicle users and the surrounding communities.

But while the absence of bicycle lanes is what angered cyclists and created resistance to the redesign plan, its the idea of designing the bridge to freeway standards that really upset the community groups.

“This is the same video that was presented at the meeting,” writes Don “Roadblock” Ward, one of the leaders of the movement to stop the current redesign of the video at the top of the post which now appears on Council Member Mitch O’Farrell’s blog. “..and the whole time I kept thinking of the 110 parkway bridge a few miles south with the 110 bike path and freeway crash barriers. This bridge will one day look that crappy.” Read more…

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The Looming Disaster of the Hyperion-Glendale Bridges Re-Design

The Glendale Hyperion Bridge, circa 1928. Image via WikiMedia

Earlier this week, Streetsblog published an article about how the Hyperion-Glendale Complex of Bridges Rehabilitation Project was giving short shrift to bicyclists and pedestrians and everyone that lived in the area. At the time, based on information provided to us by the Bureau of Engineering, I assumed that the issue could be resolved by arguing for a complete streets approach to the right people.

L.A. Eastsider has a full rundown on all of the proposed changes in the redesign. After reading the article, and hearing from people that attended Wednesday’s meeting, I’m a lot more concerned about the bridge project than I was on Tuesday.

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition explains what makes the new design for one of L.A.’s most iconic structures so scary:

Caltrans and BOE are designing Hyperion Ave. to freeway standards with a design speed of 55 miles per hour. Based on that design speed, they are pursuing a median crash barrier, banked turns, and supersized car lanes. Those decisions leave no room for bike lanes and just a narrow sidewalk on only one side of the street.  Simply designing the street to normal city street standards would leave enough room for everyone.

Why in the world would anyone design a bridge that connects two smaller communities in Los Angeles to be a freeway in today’s world is beyond me. Fortunately, Streetsblog contributor Don “Roadblock” Ward was at this week’s community meeting on the bridge and he left the answer in the Streetsblog comments section: Read more…

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New Plans for Hyperion-Glendale Crossing Don’t Include Bike Lanes, Wide Sidewalks

The Glendale Hyperion Bridge, circa 1928. Image via WikiMedia

The City of Los Angeles is moving plans to replace the Glendale Boulevard-Hyperion Avenue Complex of Bridges over the Los Angeles River near Hollywood and Atwater Village. You can read the full EIR, here.

The Glendale-Hyperion Viaduct complex consists of the following structures:  Hyperion Avenue Bridge over the Los Angeles River, Hyperion Avenue Bridge over Riverside Drive, Hyperion Avenue Bridge over I-5, Southbound Glendale Boulevard Bridge over the Los Angeles River, Northbound Glendale Boulevard Bridge over the Los Angeles River, and Waverly Drive Bridge.

Despite bike lanes on the bridge appearing in the 2010 Bicycle Plan approved by the city, the bridge contains no bike lanes and has less than standard width sidewalks. A public meeting will be held on the project tomorrow night, and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) is urging cyclist and safety advocates to turn out.

“The existing viaduct is currently the greatest barrier for bicycle travel between Hollywood and Atwater Village,” writes Eric Bruins with the LACBC.

“Hyperion is basically the flattest route across the LA River north of downtown, which is why it was identified in the L.A. Bicycle Plan for bike lanes, yet the project does absolutely nothing to accommodate bicyclists accessing the area from the west.  There are some really great local improvements connecting the L.A. River to Atwater Village, including a new ramp and pedestrian bridge, but the project does not apply a complete streets approach to regional mobility, as required by both Caltrans policy and the City’s bike plan.”

The largest issue that cyclists have with the environmental documents isn’t just that it dismisses bike lanes without doing any real analysis, but that it does so and then says that it’s in accordance with the Bicycle Plan with no further explanation.

Adhering to the 2010 City of Los Angeles Bicycle Plan (refer to Section 2.4.2.1), the new shoulder on Glendale Boulevard can be used as a bicycle route. Though the proposed project will not include a bicycle lane on Hyperion Avenue, the project is consistent with the plan.  Read more…

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By the Numbers: Counting Bikes and Pedestrians in Watts

A boy walks in front of the Watts Obelisk. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

As the cloud of sarin gas descended on the scene, party-goers once happily doing the Carlton dance were suddenly writhing on the ground in agony.

Huh?

I rolled over and looked at the clock. It was 4 a.m.

Thanks, NPR, for invading my weird retro dream.

I rubbed my eyes and stumbled toward my coffee maker.

Why did I agree to count bicyclists and pedestrians so early in the morning, so far away from my bed?

Early as the start to the day was, it made for a nice ride to Watts. The streets were practically empty and the air was fresh as I struck out around 5:45 a.m. I could almost feel the city yawning, stretching, and scratching its head.

As I parked myself along the train tracks near the intersection of Grandee and 103rd (the 103rd St. stop on the Blue Line), I looked around for my fellow counters. I didn’t see any. The busy site was all mine.

Even so, it turned out not to be too hard to keep track of the flow of people.

Foot traffic moved completely in tandem with public transport.

As soon as a bus pulled up at the stop in front of the Watts Station house, 10 uniformed kids would come walking in my direction. A train arriving would bring older students and people on their way to work.

Very few people passing through the intersection had walked or ridden their bikes from somewhere else in the neighborhood. Which turned out to be a good thing because, about 45 minutes into the count, I realized that there were two other counters kitty-corner to me, hidden behind a telephone pole about 1000 ft away.

Shit.

How did that happen?

I contemplated just staying where I was because it seemed clear that there would be little overlap. People heading to or from the Metro or bus stops that passed in front of them would reach their destinations without ever crossing my screenline.

In the end, I went over to check in with them. From there I went to a couple of other sites to see if they were in need of partners (they weren’t). Then I spoke with Martin from the LACBC and went back at my original post.

“Who are you?” demanded a woman wrapped from head to toe in a black hijab as I settled back in. “Who sent you here? Do you have permission from the MTA?”

Ah, hello, Wyjeah. Read more…